Ted Bundy’s First Victim? The Vanishing of Ann Marie Burr



When did serial killer Ted Bundy began killing women, at age 27…or much earlier?

(This article was previously published in Snitch Magazine and the Clews historic true crime website.)

She was an innocent blond child who got into the wind, snatched from her home in the dead of night and carried off into oblivion.

He was a handsome stranger spinning a web, hiding a wicked serial killer who raped and murdered more than 30 women.

Did Ann Marie Burr and Ted Bundy cross paths in the same Tacoma, Washington neighborhood?

Like the recent Elizabeth Smart saga, the kidnapping of 8-year-old Ann Marie was a national fixation back in 1961. Below the radar of suspicion was 14-year-old paper boy Ted Bundy, the kid from the next block.

Ever since Bundy died in Florida’s electric chair, detectives, writers, and armchair sleuths have debated his involvement in the Burr case. Was the proximity of the future monster to the missing angel an eerie coincidence become urban legend? Or a spicy twist to a cold case?

And does the key lurk in Bundy’s childhood, a gothic tale of secrecy, denial, and possible incest…


“I had a feeling right then that I’d never see her again,” sighed Beverly Burr, talking about the daughter who vanished over 40 years ago.

Magazine Story

The disappearance of Ann Marie from her Tacoma home would become a national news story.

Her nightmare began on August 30, 1961, after the Burrs bedded down four children in their North Tacoma home. Around midnight Ann Marie brought baby sister Mary to her parent’s bedroom – Mary was crying about the cast on her broken arm. At 5 AM Beverly awoke to attend her youngest child again but found Ann Marie gone.

The normally locked front door and the living room window were both wide open – no blood or signs of a struggle, just a lone sneaker print outside the window.

A thousand National Guardsmen and police officers combed the city. Choppers droned overhead as divers scoured sewers and creeks leading out to the bay. Yet despite the largest search and reward in Tacoma history, the little girl was lost.

Beverly and husband Donald requested and passed their polygraphs. As months unraveled into years, the Burr’s would endure unconfirmed sightings, bogus ransom demands, and an imposter claiming to be Ann Marie.

Burr House

The only sign of an intruder was the open living room window (left of front door) and the footprint of someone wearing a sneaker…

But the true outrage was the unknown fate of their firstborn daughter. “We were always looking or always doing something. We never forgot.” says Beverly. They stayed in their tainted home for six years in case Ann showed up, keeping their old phone number after they moved.

Four decades later closure is elusive. “I used to pray for an answer.” Beverly said at a recent memorial service for Ann Marie. “And then I wondered – do I want to know if she had a horrible death?


In February 1989, Ted Bundy’s life was draining away. With Florida ’s electric chair looming the next day, the killer was playing for time by giving up the bones of his ancient victims.

Who was Theodore Robert Bundy? After ten years of scrutiny on death row, he emerged as a chilling enigma, a charming and depraved killer who lured countless women to gruesome deaths.

Born in Philadelphia in 1946 to an unwed mother, Bundy’s father was a shadowy figure. Four years later Louise Cowell took her bastard child to Tacoma , where she married Johnny Bundy.


Ted Bundy at age 15 in the summer of 1962. Did this smiling teenager abduct and kill Ann Marie Burr the previous year?

Ted’s formative years revealed a shy yet crafty adolescent who attended church but resented his stepfather. He also began nocturnal jaunts of voyeurism and vandalism; a sliding spiral that lasted throughout high school.

In college he fashioned an urbane and polished persona, what Bundy would later call his “mask of sanity”. After graduation he became a rising star in Republican state politics as the protégé of Governor Dan Evans.

In 1974, while Bundy attended law school in Seattle, young women began disappearing from the area. Some were taken from houses while others were plucked from the nearby university. Several co-eds recalled encounters with a handsome man on crutches; the stranger would solicit help carrying his books to his car.

Because the missing women were all “good girls” (not prostitutes or delinquents), local cops worked the cases hard. But with scant evidence and no bodies the trail withered away.


Ted Bundy the year before Ann Marie went missing. Contrary to rumors, the Bundy’s lived three miles away from the Burr house…NOT on the next block.

When Ted Bundy transferred to a law school in Salt Lake City, co-eds and young women began vanishing from Utah and Colorado.

Bundy’s All–American veneer cracked in 1975 when he was arrested while cruising a suburb at 4 AM . Within weeks a student fingered him as the “undercover cop” who abducted her from a mall – she had barely escaped with her life.

Thrust into the spotlight of a task force investigating missing women from 4 states, detectives poked into every aspect of Bundy’s existence. And as word of his legal problems drifted back to the Seattle area, friends and former co-workers expressed shock and disbelief – Ted had cloaked his dark side, even from his fiancée.

After Bundy was convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to prison, skeletal remains of the Washington victims began to turn up at a remote dumpsite. Soon Colorado prosecutors extradited and charged him for the abduction/murder of a woman at a ski lodge. An eyewitness and Bundy’s gas card receipts placed him at the scene.

But before trial Bundy staged a spectacular escape from a county lockup; he was in Chicago by the time jailers realized he was missing. From there he fled south to Tallahassee, where he tried to blend in at Florida State University.

Two weeks later he rampaged through a sorority in the middle of the night, killing two co-eds and bludgeoning three others while they slept. His final victim was 12 year old Kimberly Leach, grabbed from her elementary school in nearby Lake City.

Captured and convicted of the Florida killings in 1979, Bundy went to death row for the Leach murder. He maintained his innocence, and jousted with detectives from the West who came to question him about unsolved cases.


Bundy confessed to killing 30 women in the week before his execution…but he emphatically denied that Ann Marie Burr was one of his victims…

Florida spun Bundy on the fast track to their electric chair. And ten years later Ted began to spill his guts as death closed in.


Author Ann Rule first linked Bundy and Ann Marie Burr in her 1980 best seller “The Stranger Beside Me.” A casual remark during a jailhouse interview had resonated; while speaking “hypothetically” about a serial killer, Ted suggested that “when he’s 15 (describing the moment of murder) it’d be a much more mystical, exciting, intense, overwhelming experience…than when he’s 50.”

Just before his 1989 execution, Bundy met with Robert Keppel, a Seattle detective working the missing girl’s file. Ted had been confessing for days, hoping to postpone the inevitable. Pale, haggard, and stinking of fear, he lowered his guard and said something that glimmered of Ann Marie.

Keppel pounced on it and got abrupt denials – “very un-Bundy like answers” that “showed a consciousness of guilt”. But why would a dead man walking disown one murder after copping out to 30 others?

Final Bundy

In the shadow of the electric chair, Bundy admitted that a serial killer would probably not confess to a murder he committed at a young age against a child victim…

Ted confided to Keppel there were crimes a serial killer would never admit to: murder committed at a young age – against a child victim – and close to his own home. The Burr case fit all three stipulations.

Ann Rule didn’t buy her ex-friend’s denial either: “Even for a serial killer there’s a stigma to killing a helpless young girl.”

Rule has collected hearsay tips and anecdotal evidence that tie Bundy to Ann Marie. A former Burr neighbor wrote that “Ted was the morning paper boy…That little girl used to follow him around like a puppy…She would have gone with him if he asked her to crawl out that window.”

Another woman emailed Rule remembering that her ninth grade classmate Bundy had asked if she wanted to see “where he had hidden a body”.

And Donald Burr is convinced he saw young Ted Bundy in a construction ditch on a nearby street the morning his daughter disappeared. Bob Keppel today insists “the story gets better and better over the years with him and Ann Marie.”

But to others the facts have blurred with time, leaving an impression the case against Bundy is stronger than it really is.

Retired detective Tony Zatkovich, the original investigating officer in 1961, states that “Bundy absolutely had nothing to do with this.” He believes the killer knew the family and was familiar with the layout of the house. Tacoma detectives currently assigned to the case are divided between Bundy and another teenage suspect.


Bundy died in the Florida electric chair for the 1978 murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach…his last victim was also his youngest. But was his FIRST victim even younger?

Louise Bundy can’t accept that her son started his killing spree while living under her roof. She was pregnant that summer and frequently up at night. “There’s no way he’d have gotten out of this house with us knowing it.” Louise contends that at 14 Ted was too small to have abducted an 8-year-old girl. She says the Burr house “was in another part of town”, and denies her brother lived next door to Ann Marie’s piano teacher.

Bundy himself wrote to the Burr’s in 1986, telling them “you have been misled by rumors about me…I had nothing to do with her disappearance…At the time I was a normal 14 year old boy…I had absolutely no desire to harm anyone.”


To judge Ted Bundy as a suspect in the murder of Ann Marie Burr, there are three points to deliberate:

  • *How far away did he live from the Burr’s in 1961?
  • *When did he start killing?
  • *Was he really a “normal 14 year old boy”?

Bundy’s death house disclaimer argued that “the Burrs lived all the way across town from where I hung out as a kid and had my paper route…It was a different part of the world with different schools.”

Scan0176 (3)

Even while he was dating attractive women that he knew, Bundy was the “deliberate stranger”, killing college co-eds and other trophy victims from 1974-1975…

A map quest today confirms it. Bundy’s house on Sky Line Drive was 3 miles away from the Burr home on 14th Street – yet legend wants him on the next block. This distance supports Ted’s denial; Bundy had chided Kepple for “not really taking a serious look at it.”

Some investigators agree with Ted’s own contention that he began killing women in January 1974. Yet others “like him” (as a suspect) in the 1966 murder and assault on two stewardesses in their Seattle apartment – Bundy was a 19 year old college student working part time at a nearby grocery store.

It’s rare for a serial killer to get his first notch before age 15, even though his sexual and violent impulses fuse in early childhood. Bundy denied murdering before age 27, but his night raids as a young peeping tom (a classic early route for rapists) suggest the opportunity for an earlier kill.

Many Faces

Bundy was a true changeling. But contrary to the media coverage, he was NEVER the All-American boy…his pathology began at an early age.

So how does a “normal 14 year old boy” morph into a psychopath? Is the answer buried in Bundy’s paternity?

The obscure “salesman” who stole into prudish Louise Cowell’s life just long enough to seduce, impregnate and abandon her was never identified. Some relatives doubt her vague and conflicting stories about Ted’s father.

Unwed mothers in 1946 were cloistered. 22 year old Louise gave birth in seclusion, returning home to raise the child as her “adopted brother.” Yes – little Ted Bundy believed his mother was his sister, and his grandparents were his parents.

Louise’s mother was a reclusive semi-invalid, while her father was vigorous man who relatives describe as “an extremely violent and frightening individual”. Louise and her two younger sisters lived in fear of him.


Ted Bundy’s father was never identified, but several family members felt that Louise Cowell’s father Sam would have been capable of raping his eldest daughter…

Writers and Criminologists who have pored over Bundy’s history to explain his brutal acts wonder: perhaps his grandfather really was, as Ted once claimed, his father.

When a journalist confronted her with that recently, Louise Bundy “demurred in a matter of fact voice, with none of the indignation that one might expect.”

Yet her younger sister (Ted’s Aunt) remembers waking up one morning as a teenager to find her grinning 3 year old nephew lifting her covers and placing three butcher knives beside her.

A psychiatrist who studied Bundy labeled this “extraordinarily bizarre behavior in a toddler”, indicative of “a traumatized child who was not only unwanted but was punished for having been born.”

In an email to this writer, Ann Rule declares “my personal opinion is that Ted Bundy killed Ann Marie Burr.” And though she’s written about hundreds of murder cases, “Every time I give a talk in the Northwest, someone asks about Ann Marie.”

A recent TV adaptation of her book ends with an erroneous flashback of young Ted approaching Ann Marie on her front porch in broad daylight. The final shot shows them walking off hand in hand as neighbors bustled about.

Ted is a serious suspect until you do the logistics. How could a boy not yet 15 roam a neighborhood 3 miles away, casing a house so well that he could steal a child in the night and evaporate her? It doesn’t seem plausible – but with Bundy nothing ever does.

Scan0058He haunts by slithering gracefully among us – he might have been a friend of your son or dated your daughter. He was our worst nightmare – perfect evil living just around the corner.

If he could be the bad seed of an incestuous grandfather, then perhaps his virgin venture into murder became his most perfect crime.


Ann Marie Burr in her first communion dress. This picture was taken just two weeks before she vanished forever…

The night before his execution, Ted Bundy’s last words to his mother were “a part of me was hidden all the time.”

And more than 42 years later, Ann Marie Burr is still in the wind…

***Author’s Note: Ted Bundy was the “godfather” of serial killers – a creature too complex to fully explore in this article. Contact this writer with questions about Bundy and for more information on the Ann Marie Burr Case. 



Here’s some updated information I’ve gleaned from conversations with Beverly Burr (Ann Marie’s mother) since I wrote this article.  On a sad note, Beverly died several years ago, never learning the truth about what happened to Ann Marie.

1. She does not believe Ted Bundy kidnapped and murdered her daughter.
2. Ann Marie did not take piano lessons next tore to Ted’s Uncle.
3. She does not recall seeing Ted Bundy delivering their paper.
4. She likes the same suspect that investingating officer Tony Zatkovich liked in 1961: a 17 year old neighbor boy who lived three doors away.
5. She described the family as “very religious” and their teenage son as “strange” but with an “unusual interest” in Ann Marie.
6. She admitted to me (with embarrassment) that 3 days after Ann went missing, she went to their house on some pretext. Finding them not home and the door open, she went through their first floor looking for any sign of Ann Marie, specifically her cross pendant received a month earlier at her first communion. She became frightened and left without searching the 2nd floor or finding any trace of her daughter.
7. This suspect was eventually questioned and given a polygraph (results inconclusive) before the family’s lawyer pressured the cops to charge him or release him.
8. She says the suspect is still alive (age 63) and still living in Tacoma.
9. She keeps tabs on him – says he has been completely estranged from his family for more than 40 years.
10. She told me she sees Louise Bundy in the grocery store from time to time. Ted’s mother knows who Beverly is but avoids her and does not speak.

Beverly Burr is an amazingly courageous woman who has never gotten the closure she deserves – I wish I could give it to her. I know if my child had disappeared I would never stop looking…

Ted Bundy is a suspect in the Burr case – nothing more. Like may Bundy mavens, I wanted to link him to Ann Marie when I first read about it. My heart had him guilty, but my head isn’t buying it. Like Beverly Burr, I believe it’s just a macabre coincidence.

I’m much more willing to accept Ted’s involvement in the murder/assault of the two stewardesses in 1966 Seattle – but even that case had a better suspect (landlord’s son).

If you would like more information about the Bundy/Burr conundrum, there is a recent book out called “Ted and Ann” by Rebecca Morris that explores the connection between the serial killer and the missing child.  I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this book…but it IS the only book length treatment of this fascinating case…  JT

True Crime Detective Fall Program Schedule


FINAL QCN COVER HIGH RES 2The fall docket of the JT Townsend True Crime Detective Series is called to order! The author of the newly released Queen City Notorious (the eagerly awaited sequel to local cult classic Queen City Gothic) will be holding court at the following PUBLIC venues in the greater Cincinnati area and administering a scintillating slice of murder most foul on these selected dates.  So extradite yourself to one of my chilling power point presentations.  Plead Guilty.  Come over to the dark side of our history…

09/19/2015: North Dearborn, IN library…11AM…QCN program.
09/22/2015: Erlanger, KY library…7PM…QCN
09/24/2015: Mt. Healthy branch library…6PM…QCN program.
09/29/2015: Milford Township library…6PM…QCN program
10/05/2015: Miami Township branch library…6PM…Lizzie Borden
10/06/2015: West Chester library…7PM…Cincinnati Stranger
10/14/2015: Westwood Historical Society…7PM…Cincy Strangler.
10/15/2015: Monfort Heights branch library…6PM…BRICCA.
10/20/2015: Florence KY library…7PM…QCN program.
10/21/2015: Green Twp branch library…7PM…Jack the Ripper.
10/22/2015: Cheviot branch library…6PM…Lizzie Borden
10/24/2015: Fairfield library…11AM…QCN program.
10/26/2015: Union Township library…6PM…QCN program.
10/28/2015: Anderson branch library…7PM…QCN program.
11/05/2015: Independence KY library…7PM…Lincoln Assassination.1- Final Cover

PL-01Remember this, my friends and minions. Justice may be blind…but SHE can see in the dark.  And when it comes to murder, there are no secrets…only hidden truths…

The Bricca Mystery… And Nobody Is Talking

No One is Talking...49 years ago this month, the Gerald Bricca family was murdered in what would become the most notorious and obsessive cold case in Queen City history.

Jerry Bricca, wife Linda, and daughter Debbie were found stabbed to death on Greenway Avenue in the Bridgetown neighborhood of Cincinnati. Going down between the 4th and 5th murders of the “Cincinnati Strangler”, this grisly triple homicide pushed a city already on edge to the breaking point.

The young family was slain on Sunday night September 25 1966, sometime between 9-11PM.  Two nights later, concerned neighbors discovered their bodies after noticing the lack of activity at the house.  Detectives were already 48 hours behind the killer.

Scan0168Several factors indicated the assassin knew the victims.  There was no forced entry, a carving knife matching the wounds was missing, and the house was ransacked yet nothing taken.  There were no defensive wounds or signs of a struggle.  The Briccas’ two dogs, known to be aggressive, were found locked in the basement.  Investigators theorized that 4-year-old Debbie was murdered because she could identify her parent’s killer…or killers.

Over 300 people were interviewed in connection with the case.  Eventually, the focus narrowed to a married man known to be romantically involved with Linda Bricca.  This man hired a lawyer after his second interview and refused any further cooperation.  By early 1967, Bricca investigators and their prime suspect retreated into a lingering psychological stalemate that was never broken.

Scan0010Five decades later, this unsolved crime still haunts anyone who dares to remember it. Because there is something sinister at the heart of these murders – a motive so twisted that the line between passion and insanity was obliterated.

Consider an investigation that became an ominous impasse when detectives were engulfed by a case beyond belief…
Or a prominent prime suspect who lawyer-ed up and lived the rest of his life under a cloud of dreadful suspicion…
And a community so passionate about this grim and terrible crime that the rumor mill is still spinning after almost 50 years…

The murder house

Even after almost half a century, the house where the Bricca family was murdered has yet to give up its secrets.

Armchair detectives know that every good mystery has a wild card. So is there a clue, motive, or secret ready to drop in from left field? Because the key to understanding a crime is to expose the skeletons that spawned it.

Today, the Bricca mystery lingers in cobwebs and survives on whispers… a terminal case with a fading pulse.

But for those who have kept this slaughtered family in their memories, it will never be too late to learn the truth…


JT’s True Crime Awards

Best Unsolved:
Jack the Ripper… There are more books about the unknown fiend with the killer sobriquet than every United States president except Lincoln.

Best Getting Away With Murder:
Lizzie Borden and OJ Simpson… Both of their juries were biased in favor of the defendants and were not emotionally capable of convicting.

Most Wrongly Convicted:
Sam Sheppard… Evidence that Marilyn Sheppard was raped and the blood trail from a 3rd person at the murder scene clinches it for the doctor.

Best Non-Mystery:
Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold… Our first thrill killers spewed dramatic confessions and were defended by Clarence Darrow in a riveting trial.

Most Enigmatic Character:
Bruno Richard Hauptmann… Wrongly convicted of killing Lindbergh’s baby, this shadowy figure was innocent of murder but guilty of something.

Best Serial Killer:
Ted Bundy… From his alleged incestuous birth to his electrocution in Florida, a fascinating deviant – the most charismatic serial killer in history.

Most Overrated Serial Killers:
Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy… They were just two creepy, disgusting losers who should have been apprehended much earlier.

Most Bogus Serial Killer:

The Boston Strangler… DNA has proven that Albert DeSalvo did NOT kill two of the victims. These murders were the work of several different stranglers.

Most Bogus Conspiracy Theory:

JFK… Despite many suspicious circumstances, all the evidence comes back to Oswald, who tried to assassinate General Edmund Walker in April 1963.


JT’s Top Ten Murder Cases

In chronological order:

  1. Jack the Ripper – 1888:  First psycho-sexual serial killer came replete with the most evocative nickname ever and an unsolvable identity…
  2. Lizzie Borden – 1892:  America’s first feminist eschewed poison and hacked her way to personal liberation via financial independence…
  3. Hall/Mills – 1922:  The “Minister and the Choir Singer” was a juicy story of adultery and murder which remains unsolved despite clear suspects…
  4. Loeb/Leopold – 1924:  America’s first thrill killers murdered not for passion or greed but rather as a sociological experiment…
  5. Lindbergh Baby – 1932:  For decades investigators of the “Crime of the Century” have looked for a kidnapper instead of a baby killer…
  6. Black Dahlia – 1947:  The dismemberment of the pathetic butterfly may have been related to other similar LA crimes in the 1940’s…
  7. Marilyn Sheppard – 1954:  A classic murder mystery that spawned intricate forensic evidence and a cadre of five solid suspects…
  8. Kennedy Assassination – 1963:  A Tsunami of conspiracy theories overwhelms solid evidence that Oswald acted alone…
  9. Manson Murders – 1969:  The end of the “Love Generation” when a criminal guru manipulated young followers into savage murders…
  10. OJ Simpson – 1994:  A modern day Othello collides with the media circus in  a fascinating tale of murder, race, and sex…

Honorable Mention:

  • Lincoln Assassination
  • Speck & Whitman
  • Boston Strangler
  • Sacco & Vanzetti
  • Ted Bundy
  • Starkweather & Fugate
  • Son of Sam
  • St. Valentines Day Massacre
  • Joe Ewell
  • Jon Benet Ramsey

JT’S Top 10 Lizzie Borden Case Mysteries

Even when you know Lizzie was the killer, plenty of mystery remains in the Borden case.  I speculate about each item below – but the answers remain elusive.

thumbnailCATNSKUVthumbnailCA06LJEK1.  What were John Morse and Andrew talking about Wednesday night? Morse didn’t coincidentally stumble into a double homicide – his presence and Emma’s absence set the stage for murder. Did the mysterious negotiation between Borden and his brother-in-law provide the motive?

2.  How did Lizzie avoid leaving a blood trail after Abby’s murder? She didn’t have to go far, but blood drops are hard to staunch. The lack of blood trail from the guest room eliminates anyone else from suspicion – Lizzie only had to walk 20 feet to the safety of her own room.

3.  Was a note delivered to the Borden house on murder morning? There is nothing in the record about a messenger, yet the legend of the young man getting the front door slammed in his face persists. Was the intercepted note an irretrievable mistake that sparked the rage killing of Abby Borden?

thumbnailCA4DJ9QI4.  What were the real contents of the note that Dr. Bowen burned? The good Doctor’s furtive reading and overt burning of the note about his “daughter” just doesn’t fly. Was this the note from #3? Too bad Fall River’s finest didn’t do a better job of protecting the crime scene.

5.  Did Andrew have a will or was he having one made? Another persistent rumor that’s more than just a red herring – this is the most logical topic of discussion from #1. Why would John Morse not volunteer this information if he was assisting Andrew in dividing up his estate?

thumbnailCAMCOILO6.  Was the handle-less hatchet the murder weapon? Robinson did a superb job of rendering it irrelevant at trial – when you consider that expert witnesses all agreed it fit the wounds, the wood break was new, and the coating of ash did not match the dust on the other items.

7.  What did Alice Russell know about missing evidence? Her cryptic comments about the house search resonate – she told both Mrs. Churchill and Mrs. Kelly that police didn’t look thoroughly enough. She could have done her own search during the funeral – did she examine that “bundle” in Emma’s closet?

thumbnailCAKU3YGS8.  Did Lizzie act alone or did someone help her commit murder? A conspiracy is unlikely but can’t be ruled out – especially during Andrew’s murder. Bridget, Emma, Morse, Bowen all had either motive or opportunity. Lizzie certainly killed Abby – did someone else knock off the old man?

9.  Why did Detective Shaw privately interview Lizzie in May? Conventional wisdom says he warned her about shoplifting, but could this meeting have a more sinister undertone? The daylight robbery? Something Lizzie did or said that was a harbinger of murder?

Scan016110.  Why did Lizzie stay in a boarding house just before the murders? This was bizarre and scandalous behavior. Instead of going home from Marion she bunked at a New Bedford flop house for several days. She eventually was restless enough to return to Fall River on July 30th.


Every Good Mystery Has A Wild Card

Armchair detectives are always looking for what I call “prime constraint circumstance”…a fact that everything else must be filtered through…an immovable object and/or irresistible force that assumes priority over all others.  And it’s usually something that you never see coming…a blindside hit to your carefully constructed scenario.

I like to excavate these tingling minutiae that keep true crime mavens awake at night….those little details that destroy reasonable doubt and close a case – or throw it wide open!

Such as….

Rear View 2013How could Bruno Richard Hauptmann have kidnapped that baby if only a few servants knew the Lindbergh’s would be staying in Hopewell New Jersey on a Tuesday night?  Any normal week puts them back in New York – but because the baby had a cold they stayed past Monday.  Hauptmann, three hours away in the Bronx, could never have anticipated this schedule change, or even arrived there in time after getting off work.

Jack RubyHow could Jack Ruby have been part of a conspiracy to kill Lee Harvey Oswald if he was telegraphing money to a stripper 5 minutes before the shooting?  His transaction might have caused him to miss Oswald’s transfer from the jail down the street.  Throw in the tiny fact that his beloved poodle Sasha was with him – those who knew Ruby swore he never would have left the dog in the car knowing he would be arrested after killing JFK’s alleged assassin.

images[3]How could Sam Shepard have beaten his pregnant wife to death when a third blood type was found at the crime scene?  In 1954 the coroner ruled the blood trail was dripping from the murder weapon, yet modern forensics proved it wasn’t Marilyn’s or Sam’s blood – the killer was bleeding because she bit him while fighting for her life.  Her husband had no open wounds, but suspected serial killer and former Sheppard window washer Richard Eberling had motive and opportunity – plus an unexplained scar on his hand years later.

DeSalvoHow could Albert DeSalvo have murdered 13 women and then gone back to being a casual rapist?  The Boston Strangler crimes were committed by multiple killers – the age and race of the victims were too diverse, and the cases of the younger women all had solid suspects who knew the victims.  And no serial killer would savagely slaughter that many women and be satisfied with returning to the “Green Man” crimes DeSalvo was arrested for – stealthy, non-violent rapes where he apologized to his victims and even gave them money.


Abby Borden’s Wedding Picture

Abby Borden, as she was found

Abby Borden, as she was found

Sometime after moving into Maplecroft, Lizzie Borden sent her murdered stepmother’s personal effects to her half-sister Sara Whitehead, including Abby’s wedding picture.  Author Robert Sullivan found the picture in 1972 in the Providence apartment of Abby Potter, Sara’s daughter and Abby’s niece.  It showed a smiling and slender Abby Borden in her wedding gown – no harbinger of the obese woman she would become after 28 years of marriage to Andrew.

Why did Lizzie return this picture to the Whitehead’s?  Was it common courtesy, or did she need to dispose of an unpleasant memento?  Perhaps it was a final salvo of hostility and rejection – both Lizzie and Emma felt that Abby was “unsuitable” to be Andrew’s wife.  Or just maybe it was a small gesture of atonement.

Whatever Lizzie’s motive, the image of her rummaging through the personal property of a woman she had butchered and then mailing it back to the victim’s dearest relatives is chilling…

And what of Miss Abby Gray, the blushing bride of Andrew Borden.  I’ll leave it to the poignant pen of Edmund Pearson as he contemplates her brutal end.

Between bed and dressing table lay the body of Andrew Borden’s wife.  To this hideous and grotesque death she had come; this was the end of the road that had begun on that Sunday morning so long ago, when she looked up and saw her suitor waiting for her.  That far-off spring day, at the close of the Civil War, was the spring of her romance.

Dull, dull years had followed, and now everything had come to this pitiful moment, and she was an undignified heap of shabby workaday clothes, her feet in clumsy shoes sprawled behind her, their soles turned up, her head savagely hacked to bits; locks of her hair chopped off; her poor, plain old face lying in a puddle of blood.”


The Myth of the Boston Strangler

Albert DeSalvo, 35, is surrounded by police after his capture in Lynn, Ma. on Feb. 25, 1967. DeSalvo was nabbed in a store a day after he escaped from Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane. (AP Photo)

Albert DeSalvo, 35, is surrounded by police after his capture in Lynn, Ma. on Feb. 25, 1967. DeSalvo was nabbed in a store a day after he escaped from Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane. (AP Photo)

Albert DeSalvo, the alleged Boston Strangler, was never arrested, charged, tried, or convicted for murdering any of the 14 victims attributed to the killer.  The only evidence against DeSalvo was his own confession, a confession spawned by greed and rife with errors…the same errors that were erroneously reported in press coverage that was scrutinized by DeSalvo, who had a photographic memory.  There is not a single piece of forensic evidence linking him to the murders, and three witnesses who saw the strangler failed to identify DeSalvo.  And ten months after the last strangling, Albert DeSalvo was arrested for the “Green Man” crimes, a series of non-violent rapes where he even apologized to the victims afterwards…hardly the textbook progression for a violent, sadistic serial killer like the Boston Strangler.

Moreover, the strangler victims did not reconcile with a victimology profile.  They were young and old, white and black, city and suburban.  The methodology varied greatly:  Ida Irga was left spread-eagled in a grotesque position, while Patricia Bissette was tucked in bed with the covers pulled up to her chin.

And in 2003, DNA evidence eliminated Albert DeSalvo as the killer of Mary Sullivan, considered the last victim of the Boston Strangler.

So who murdered these women during 1962-1964?  And how many killers were there? Here is a chronological list of the accepted strangler victims, along with primary suspects other than Albert DeSalvo.

  • Anna E. Slesers, 55, sexually molested with unknown object and strangled with her bathrobe cord; found on June 14 1962
  • Mary Mullen, 85, died from a heart attack, but believed to have collapsed as the strangler grabbed her; found on June 28 1962:
  • Nina Nichols, 68, sexually molested and strangled with her nylon stockings; found on June 30 1962
  • Paula Lepro, 57, sexually molested and strangled with her nylon stockings; found on June 22 1962:
  • Helen Blake, 65, sexually molested and strangled with her nylon stockings; found on June 30 1962:
  • Ida Irga, 75, sexually molested, bludgeoned, and strangled with a scarf; found      on August 2 1962:
  • Jane Sullivan, 67, sexually assaulted and strangled with her nylon stockings; found on August 30 1962:

SUSPECTS in all 6 murders:   George Nasser, Barry Schereschewsky, William Lindahl, Peter Denton, Arthur Harrold,

  • Sophie Clark, 20, sexually assaulted and strangled with her nylon stockings; found on December 5 1962:

SUSPECTS:  William Keany, Albert Williams

  • Patricia Bissette, 23, sexually assaulted and strangled with her nylon stockings; found on December 31 1962:

SUSPECTS:  Jules Rothman, James Tuohey,

  • Mary Brown, 69, sexually assaulted, stabbed, strangled and beaten, found on      March 9 1963:

SUSPECTS:  Unknown

  • Beverly Samans, 23, stabbed to death, but not sexually assaulted, on May 8 1963:

SUSPECTS:  Gene Graff, Daniel Pennacchio,

  • Evelyn Corbin, 58, sexually assaulted and strangled with her nylon stockings; found on September 6 1963:

SUSPECTS:  Robert Campbell

  • Joann Graff, 23, sexually assaulted and strangled with her leotard on November 23 1963:

SUSPECTS:  unknown subject seen by her neighbor just before the crime

  • Mary Sullivan, 19, sexually assaulted and strangled with dark stockings, found on January 4 1964

SUSPECTS:  William Ivey, Nathan Ward,

The Greatest Crime Scene Photo of All Time



Submission for your approval:  Andrew Borden as he was found the morning of August 4th, 1892, in his Fall River Massachusetts home, after being hacked to death with a hatchet. His wife Abby also lay similarly slain in an upstairs bedroom…

Why is this picture the greatest crime scene photo of all time?  For starters, it was one of the first ever taken in this country, a spontaneous decision to record the tableau of an unfathomable double homicide for later use as an investigative tool.

Also, the compelling composition is pure American Gothic, evocative of an Edward Hopper painting, like a curious interior view of a New England parlor.  There’s a disturbing serenity to this murder, far removed from Jack the Ripper’s shocking butchery of Mary Kelly that we see in that infamous 1888 crime scene photo.

THIS crime scene photo is sedate yet chilling.  But here’s what makes it THE masterpiece…a crucial clue to the murderer’s identity is clearly visible in the photograph!  Something that is so out of place, so askew, that the finger of guilt can be effortlessly pointed in the right direction.

That black shape behind Andrew’s smashed head and bloody pillow is his Prince Albert Jacket, the coat he donned that morning to carry out his business rounds in downtown Fall River in the sweltering heat, the coat he wore when he came trudging home to die, and the coat he wearily hung in the hall closet upon returning.

Look at that Prince Albert wadded under his head!  Would Andrew do that?  Fastidious Andrew, who would have abhorred a dry cleaning bill if ANY member of his family treated a garment with such carelessness?  No, he would have hung it up like he did every other morning of his life.

So what is that jacket doing in our picture?  And why is it there on the day of Andrew Borden’s murder, of all days?

A killer always leaves something at the scene and takes something from the scene.  But every so often, they also employ something close at hand and then abandon it.

Slipped on backwards and worn like an apron, the Prince Albert would easily fit a shorter person (Andrew was 6’2”), and could serve as a covering to shield a stealthy killer from flying blood when leaning around the door jamb to strike the blows.

Because compared to the frenzied slaughter of Abby Borden 90 minutes earlier, this 2nd killing looks like a furtive, peek around the corner affair.  The overkill of Abby was pure orgasmic rage, yet this same UNSUB murdered Andrew out of fear…

This wadded up jacket fits only one crime scenario.  No maniacal OR cunning intruder, intent on rapid flight after the second killing, would have bothered with it.  And if the motiveless maid Bridget did the whacking, she would have used her own apron and then disposed of it.

But Lizzie Borden, at only 5’4”, would have recognized the jacket’s value immediately.   Having leaned around that corner into the sitting room myself, it’s easy to see how Lizzie could have remained free of blood.  The trajectory was away from the door jamb.  The Prince Albert jacket would fit her like a pair of coveralls.  And by leaning into the room, she wouldn’t have to face her father as she hacked him.

We already know that Andrew would NEVER have wadded the jacket under his pillow to prop up his head.  That touch is pure Lizzie.  Yet she believed that others would accept the jacket under her father’s ruined head without comment.  And she was wickedly perceptive, because neither the contemporary detectives nor future armchair sleuths (except Victoria Lincoln) have ever seriously considered what this significant clue really meant.

That Prince Albert wadded under Andrew’s head SCREAMS OUT that Lizzie Borden was the killer of her father and stepmother.  Case Closed!


PS – Just because the killer is revealed, that doesn’t mean America’s most notorious murder is bereft of mystery.  Please help yourself to my previous blog post on the Top Ten Lizzie Borden Case Mysteries, and have a whack at solving those little gems…