1990: Horror hits home
VAIL – Julie Cunningham just wanted to help the man struggling with his crutches in Vail back in 1975.
She looked like many of Ted Bundy’s 36 known murder victims – young, slender, pretty, and white with long brown hair.
Bundy was driving a Volkswagen Beetle and stopped in Vail. He was pretending to have an injured knee and was using crutches, but poorly.
It was spring and Cunningham, 26, worked in a Vail ski shop. She was walking to a local restaurant to meet a friend when she saw him.
She walked over to Bundy’s car to offer to help, and he asked her to carry his ski boots. She had no idea who he was, how evil he was, or that she was about to die. No one did. It was still early in Bundy’s five-year string of murders.
Bundy was charming, as the evil often are. As they exchanged pleasantries, Cunningham, her guard completely down, moved closer to help Bundy, who appeared to be struggling with his crutches.
This was Vail, after all. Nothing bad ever happens in the Happy Valley.
When she was within reach, Bundy snatched her to him, knocked her unconscious, handcuffed her and stuffed her in the trunk in the front of his Volkswagen.
He got back on Interstate 70 and drove west to the desert, where he yanked her out of the trunk and strangled her to death.
He dumped her body in the desert on March 15, 1975, but she was never found.
A month after he killed her, he said he went back and buried her remains.
“I don’t know why. I just sometimes do that,” Bundy told Vail police detective Matt Lindvall.
During a three-hour hour session with Lindvall on Jan. 25, 1990, Bundy confessed to all that and more. Bundy was executed that night in a Florida electric chair.
Bundy described Cunningham’s death in excruciating detail to Lindvall, who had traveled to Florida to question Bundy about three murders.
Lindvall later said Bundy’s 11th-hour confessions were an attempt to prolong his life.
Bundy said he wanted a “deal” before he’d confess to Cunningham’s murder. He wanted Lindvall to approach the governor on his behalf, asking him to postpone the execution.
Lindvall wanted to talk to Bundy about three different cases, but Bundy insisted on starting with Cunningham because her body had not been found.
Bundy was originally brought to trial in Garfield County for murdering a Snowmass woman, whom he had killed in January, before he killed Cunningham in March.
On Jan. 12, 1975, a 23-year-old registered nurse named Caryn Campbell decided to retrieve a magazine from her room in the Wildwood Inn at Snowmass.
Campbell and Cunningham could have been sisters, they looked so much alike.
Campbell’s fiancee watched her enter the elevator in the hotel’s lobby; friends saw her emerge from it upstairs.
She vanished somewhere along a well-lit hallway between the elevator and her room. Her nude body was found a month later next to a dirt road just outside Snowmass. Bundy had beaten her to death.
Bundy escaped from the Garfield County jail before the trial concluded. He stole a car in Glenwood Springs, and when it broke down in Edwards he hitched a ride into Vail were he spent the night in a hotel lobby. The next day he got on a bus that eventually took him to Jacksonville, Fla. He committed several more murders in Florida before his final arrest in 1978.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.