Trump Steals from Ted Bundy’s PlayBook

In some ways, Ted Bundy is an icon of the ’70s. He mixed show biz and violence in a way that had never been done before. – Stephen Michaud

Ann Rule and I used to talk about certain murder cases. We met when I was a reporter and I once had to interview her about a book she wrote that had a local connection. She and I became professional friends during that time. We would email and chat by phone from time to time.

I read nearly every book she had written and was a fan. She advised me on my research and writing of the Karly Sheehan story. When the book was being published, she gave it a glowing endorsement. Sometimes we talked about some of her old cases – Diane Downs and Ted Bundy being two in particular we spoke of.

Anyone who is a fan of Rule knows that she knew Ted Bundy personally.

I had moved to Oregon in late 1974 and began attending Oregon State University in 1975. My mother warned me that there was a serial killer targeting college girls along Interstate I-5.  I didn’t pay much attention to her warnings other than I kept my promise to not stop at rest stops between her home in Portland and the OSU campus.

But serial killers being what they are, the more Ted Bundy got away with killing the more he needed to kill. In July of 1975, he abducted two girls in broad daylight at Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah, just outside of Seattle. He didn’t abduct them both at the same time. Instead he enticed Janice Ott, 23, to his car and abducted her. Then four hours later drove back to the very same park and abducted 19-year old Denise Naslund. He claimed that he made one girl watch while he killed the other, then killed her. He later recanted this, but no one knows for sure what torture he put these girls through. He murdered them both.

We don’t know for sure how many girls Bundy murdered. He confessed to killing 30.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bundy lately as I’ve witnessed Donald Trump’s actions on the pandemic.

Trump and Bundy share a lot of common personality traits: a love for being in front of the camera, a deep craving to be in the headlines, a total lack of empathy for the suffering of others, a bloodthirsty competitiveness, an insatiable desire for adulation, a deep-rooted insecurity of their lack of intellectual capabilities masked poorly by an inflated sense of self-importance.

I could go on but these are the most obvious traits Bundy and Trump share.

Here’s the thing anyone who has studied Bundy knows – the more he got away with murdering, the more his desire to murder increased. The more women he killed, the more emboldened he became in his pursuit of capturing the headlines.

Obviously, Bundy was a sick man. He craved killing. He craved being in the headlines. But by the time he was executed, it became apparent that his need for driving the headline news was as deeply rooted of a disorder as was his deranged need to kill. Bundy even played James Dobson for the fool during his last interviews, claiming that pornography led him to kill. It’s apparent now that what Bundy was doing was simply ensuring that he would claim one more news cycle with these interviews, buy a few more days of life.

It’s no different with Trump.

Thousands upon thousands of people have died from this pandemic. Thousands more will. And make no mistake about it – their deaths are horrific. They are dying in isolation, without the comfort of family or loved ones during their last days, last hours. There is no one there to hold their hands, to wipe the sweat from their brows. They gasp for breath. They drown in their own body fluids. It’s a horrible, awful death.

Not once, not a single time has Trump issued a word of sympathy for those dying. Or for their loved ones left to suffer the horror of knowing they could not be with their mothers, their fathers, their sons or daughters as they died.

Trump has no more empathy for those who suffer and die than Bundy had for those he choked the life out of.

He is emotionally and mentally and spiritually incapable of caring about those who suffer. He, in fact, delights in the headlines such suffering brings him. Just today he posted the following to his Twitter feed:

“President Trump is a ratings hit. Since reviving the daily White House briefing Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘The Bachelor.’ Numbers are continuing to rise. On Monday, nearly 12.2 million people watched Mr. Trump’s briefing on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, according to Nielsen — ‘Monday Night Football’ numbers. Millions more are watching on ABC, CBS, NBC and online streaming sites, and the audience is expanding. On Monday, Fox News alone attracted 6.2 million viewers for the president’s briefing — an astounding number for a 6 p.m. cable broadcast, more akin to the viewership for a popular prime-time sitcom. The CBS News poll said 13 percent of Republicans trusted the news media for information about the virus.” Michael M. Grynbaum, The New York Times.

As I type this the US has 140,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 2,438 deaths, and the US president is talking about his television ratings. He purposely schedules his “news” briefings during a time when most people would be watching real news.

He can’t help himself.

He’s like Bundy that way.

The more press coverage he gets, the more he craves it. The more he craves it, the more outrageous his behavior becomes in order to capture those headlines. So he claims he’ll open the country by Easter, knowing full well he can’t do that, but Media chases after him the way they chased after Bundy when he announced he would act as his own lawyer in the murder trial.

We used to have a saying in the newsroom: People will clamor to watch a chicken with his head cut off dance.

Trump claims he’s going to quarantine three-states. That captures the headlines. Then he says it isn’t necessary. He captures the headlines again.

A couple of weeks after he murdered Ott and Naslund, Bundy moved to Utah, enrolled in law school there. In Utah, he begins murdering other girls – a hitchiker, a 16-year old, then the 17-year old daughter of a police chief. Then he took a girl who broke free. He was arrested, but charmed the news reporters and police alike before making an escape and heading to Florida where he killed more girls.

It’s like Trump has borrowed a page right out of Bundy’s playbook, mixing showbiz with the horrors of the violent deaths of thousands of Americans.

And Media around the world clamors after his every utterance.


Karen Spears Zacharias is the author of Karly Sheehan: The True Crime Story behind Karly’s Law.

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.



about 3 years ago

This is a fascinating comparison of two of the most famous narcissist we have seen in the past 50 years. I was angered at Trump's lake of empathy or gratitude recently when during a "press conference" Dr. Birx spoke how , as a doctor, she was unable to go check on her 8 month old granddaughter who spiked a high fever. The child's mom was worried it was Covid 19 and called her mom about what was going on. Dr. Birx stated that she hadto make the decision to stay home and talk her daughter through checking out her grandchild. Dr. Brix did report that is was a case of Rosella. Her reason giving for not going was she knew that she would be near the President and Vice President and she did not want to chance getting them sick. Trump stood there and grinned and Pence stood there like a corpse, per usual. Neither one of these narcissist showed any gratitude in word or actions. Just stood there feeling self important.


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

I missed that press conference, Bland. I don't usually watch them but I do read about them. I had not heard this story about Dr. Brix. I wonder how her daughter feels about her placing the interests of politicians above that of her family. And that's odd given that she in a previous briefing mentioned that she had a slight fever over the weekend. She didn't feel the need to distance herself from Trump then. He moved across the podium from her when she said it. I have seen time and again how many people have thrown themselves on the sword for Trump. I don't get it.


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