Guest Post by Kevin M. Sullivan
(Many true crime junkies remember Snitch, the great but short-lived crime rag. I've already pinched one piece from the pages of Snitch for Clews. Now Kentucky true crime writer Kevin Sullivan has kindly agreed to share a piece he first wrote for Snitch after he met Retired Det. Jerry Thompson, the famous homicide investigator from Utah who first connected Bundy and his VW to several murders. Kevin is also working on a book about Ted Bundy; there's more to say about him, he says. In this essay, Kevin details an interesting item he came across in his research.)
At approximately 9:30, on the evening of May 30, 2005, in what were the waning hours of Memorial Day night, I phoned my wife from my car, and excitedly asked her to move any and all items from our dining room table. I then informed her that I was “bringing the gym bag home with me and I’ll have it for at least an hour”.
My wife, of course, already knew about the bag from my conversation the previous night, when I first laid eyes upon it, handled its contents, and entered into what you might call a mild, but shocked sense of exhilaration that was to stay with me for the next several days.
For you see, what I was gazing upon was not some ordinary gym bag belonging to any ordinary person. No, the bag in question-and all of its contents-were once the property of Ted Bundy, perhaps the most infamous and prolific serial killer to ever roam the cities, highways, and woods of North America.
And so as I stared at this old, and somewhat dry rotted leather bag lying next to me in the passenger seat, I was struck by how unusual a situation this was I was now finding myself in. After all, here I was driving through the darkened streets of the Hikes Point area of eastern Louisville, heading for my home, with the very bag Ted Bundy carried during his murder spree.
Indeed, by the time he was arrested in August of 1975, he had murdered at least 19 women in various states. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
This story actually began several weeks earlier when my friend Jim Massie, a probation and parole officer for the state of Kentucky, telephoned me with the news that Jerry Thompson was coming to town for several days, and would I like to have dinner with them. I immediately said yes, of course, for I had known for many years that Jerry Thompson was not just a homicide detective with the Salt Lake County Sheriffs department, but was instrumental in linking Ted Bundy with serial murder after he had been arrested on suspicion of burglary in his August 1975 arrest in Granger, Utah.
It was at this time that Bundy forever lost his gym bag, which in actuality was his murder kit. Yet neither I nor Jim had any idea what Detective Thompson would be bringing to Louisville. However, we would soon find out. On late Sunday afternoon, May 29th, Jim called my cell phone to let me know that the Thompsons had arrived at the Breckinridge Inn, and wanted just a little time to freshen-up for dinner.
Then he said to me, “He brought the bag.”
“What bag?” I said.
“The bag Bundy carried…I have it with me now in my truck.”
And then it hit me: I remembered Jim telling me years earlier how Detective Thompson had Bundy’s personal items that were in his car when he was arrested; items such as a ski mask, an ice pick, rope, a flash light and other things as well.
Astonished, I asked he if he would mind meeting me a few minutes before the Thompsons were due to arrive at the restaurant. Jim agreed, and within 10 minutes we were standing in the parking lot of the Golden Corral.
While Jim gingerly removed the brown, musty smelling gym bag from the clear plastic bag just large enough to cover it, I stood there like a child waiting to see what was inside. Slowly, we begin to remove each item: a ski mask, a white rope, an ice pick, a woman’s belt (no doubt belonging to one of the murdered girls), individual white strips of cloth Bundy had pre-cut for binding the hands and feet of his victims. There were also two right-handed mismatched gloves, one the “puffy” ski type (blue/black) and the other woolen, and beige in color. There was also an opened box of Glad trash bags.
Jim, who has done extensive research into the Bundy case, and has provided important information which was used in Dr. Ronald Holmes’ excellent book, Serial Murder, looked surprised when he saw the trash bags, and immediately launched into how Bundy would use the bags to hold the women’s clothing only, while the nude bodies were discarded in another location.
The trash bags containing the clothes were always dumped at another site far from where the victims were placed. After dinner, we returned to the Breckinridge Inn, were for almost two hours, Jim, Jerry and myself discussed the Bundy case in detail. When I mentioned having seen the bag, I asked him to tell me the story behind it.
Of course, as lead homicide investigator, he has had possession of the bag for almost 30 years now. However, at some point in time, probably in the late 1970’s, he signed an affidavit stating that he would use the bag and its contents strictly for the purposes of teaching. The only two items the courts refused to release were the crowbar and the handcuffs. Bundy’s VW bug was sold at auction sometime in the 1980’s. The individual who purchased Bundy’s car apparently had plans to capitalize on its infamous history.
As I stated earlier, Jim was allowed to keep the gym bag for about 48 hours, and so, he allowed me to bring it to my house on Memorial Day night.
Now, let us return to that most surreal experience. As I entered the house, I walked briskly and directly to the dining room. As I passed through the house I asked my son if his mom had told him that I was bringing Ted Bundy’s stuff into the house? He said no, and looked at me like I had three heads.
I quickly enlisted my daughter Sarah as my helper for arranging the items to be photographed; and in fact, she would be responsible for taking the pictures. One by one, we laid out the items; the ski mask, ice pick, rope, flashlight, the FBI tagged strips of cloth Bundy had pre-cut, a women’s belt, the Glad box with the trash bags, and the two right-handed gloves. We also found six or seven small evidence tins with clear tops and evidence tape sealing them. Each contained either pubic hair or hair from the head of several of the murdered women, as well as the head hair of Carol DaRonch, the only known Bundy victim who was able to escape from one of his savage attacks. These hair samples had been obtained from the VW bug.
As we walked around the dining room table, Sarah snapping pictures as I pointed out various things, I remember thinking how very few people in this nation have ever seen these things, much less handled them. And here I was, in my own home, without a detective or museum curator standing over my shoulder giving instructions on what I can and cannot do.
After packing everything into the gym bag, I noticed several small pieces of the dry rotted bag had fallen off onto the table, as did a tiny section of the Glad box. Feeling it would be stupid to just throw these insignificant bits back into the bag, I scooped them up and placed them in a sandwich bag for safe keeping. Little did I know that I had something even better coming the next day.
On Tuesday evening, Jim and I met at the Breckinridge Inn, to say good bye to the Thompsons, as they would be leaving early the next day. As we stood around our cars in the front parking lot, snapping pictures, and discussing Retired Detective Thompson’s most famous case, he offered to give us each one of the green trash bags that had been sitting in Bundy’s gym bag since the night of his arrest. When I heard this I was speechless.
True, it is a macabre reminder of what this evil man did, but it is also a part of history. After thanking him profusely, I asked him if he would mind writing a letter of authentication and this he did willingly. Once again, I was feeling a sense of shock to have such an item come into my possession. It had been a very interesting three days, three days that I will never forget. And I consider it an honor to have met Detective Jerry Thompson. And for those readers who might be wondering whether or not I tried on the ski mask, well, I did!