We’ve assembled everything you need to know about the team that captured Ted Bundy and the girlfriend who confirmed her worst fears when she reported the notorious serial killer to the police.
1) Robert D. Keppel, The Detective Bundy Couldn’t Fool
Robert David Keppel began his career as a homicide detective on the Ted Bundy case. Since then, Keppel has worked on over 50 serial killer cases during his career, including the infamous Gary Ridgway investigation.
Just one week on the job at the King County Sheriff’s Office, Keppel was assigned to the “Ted” case. Initially, he was focused on two missing women from Lake Samammish. The women turned out to be two of Ted’s victims and marked the beginning of Keppel and Bundy’s life-long relationship.
Although Bundy was a master manipulator, Keppel was one of the few people who Bundy couldn’t outwit. Only someone with Keppel’s calm demeanor and extreme professionalism could have sat through Bundy’s cold and callous description of how he murdered, raped, and dismembered dozens of women. In the end, Keppel was able to get Bundy to confess to additional murders just prior to his execution.
In another surprising move, Bundy contacted Keppel from Death Row, offering to help the well-respected detective understand the mind of a serial killer. Keppel used Bundy’s insight on his work as part of the Green River Killer Task Force, and in 1995 authored The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer.
Keppel’s cool-under-pressure attitude is evident when he recounts how he never got emotional about Bundy’s eventual execution:
“I was in the business of dealing with killers. That’s all it was. No more.”
After the Bundy case, Keppel went on to earn two masters degrees and a Ph. D. in criminal justice. Adding to his impressive resume, Keppel co-authored several groundbreaking articles, including a breakdown of four sub-types of serial killers. Helping investigators solve countless more crimes, Keppel also developed the Homicide Investigation Tracking System or HITS, a violent criminal database that extends from Oregon and Washington up to Canada.
2) Elizabeth Kloepfer, The Woman Who Reported Bundy To The Police Three Times
Elizabeth “Liz” Kloepfer and Bundy met in 1969. The couple’s seven-year relationship was often turbulent, and in 1974, Liz unsuccessfully tried to report Bundy to the police.
When the pair first met, Liz was a divorcée from Ogden, Utah, working as a secretary in the University of Washington Medical School. She was known to be insecure and was desperately seeking a father figure for her young daughter. The pair were separated on and off throughout their relationship, with Ted engaging in affairs on the side.
In addition to two-timing Liz, Ted was also busy raping and killing young women across several states, including Washington, Utah, and Florida. Liz eventually picked up on Ted’s bizarre behavior, and told police:
“Ted went out a lot in the middle of the night. And I didn’t know where he went. Then he napped during the day. And I found things, things I couldn’t understand.”
Liz shared a list of unsettling items Ted carried:
- A lug wrench under his car seat, which he claimed was for protection
- Plaster of Paris in his room
- A pair of crutches
- An Oriental knife in a wood case that was also in his car
- A meat cleaver with him when he moved to Utah
Liz wasn’t the only one who picked up on Ted’s strange habits. In 1974, Liz, along with several of Ted’s friends and coworkers noticed the resemblance between him and a police composite sketch. Sadly, police were receiving as many as 500 tips a day and didn’t think Liz’s information was substantial enough to apprehend Ted.
Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of their relationship was that the couple remained “together” even after Ted was arrested for the kidnapping of Carole DaRonche, and Liz had reported him to the police. It wasn’t until 1975 that police were able to substantiate Liz’s claims and deemed Ted a prime suspect in the disappearance of two girls near Lake Sammamish.
As if their relationship could be any more dysfunctional, Bundy admitted to burning one of his victim’s heads in Liz’s fireplace. His claims were never proven, but the allegations speak to Bundy’s sick nature. It’s heartbreaking to imagine how many lives would have been saved had Liz been able to convince police in 1974.
3) Kathleen McChesney, The Detective Who Could Have Been A Bundy Victim
It was up to three rookie investigators at King County’s Sheriff’s Office to find Ted Bundy. Working with Robert Keppel and Roger Dunn, Kathleen McChesney joined the investigation at only 24 years old. Adding to the uniqueness of the group, McChesney was one of only four female detectives in King County at the time.
When McChesney joined the team, Dunn and Keppel had over 3,000 suspects and were searching for someone who could possibly go by the name “Ted.” McChesney had been closely following the case and felt a unique attachment to the victims given they she was only a few years older than Bundy’s characteristic targets.
The initial task force had been disbanded by 1975, but Dunn and Keppel were allowed to bring in one additional detective to help them find “Ted.” The duo made a bold move for the time by selecting McChesney. She had been working the checks and frauds division — a role many considered to be a career dead end.
McChesney proved to be an invaluable asset as she was able to give insights into the female perspective on how the killer targeted his victims. She immediately knew that the suspect must have been very smart and charismatic to be able to convince young, educated women to go with him. She also knew he must have pursued higher education since he was so comfortable hunting for victims on college campuses.
Together Dunn, Keppel, and McChesney were able to narrow down the suspects to Ted Bundy. The serial murderer was eventually convicted and given the death penalty for crimes committed in Florida. McChesney was relieved that Bundy was off the streets, but still haunted that there was no closure for the Seattle-area victims. Several years after the Florida trial and while waiting for his execution, Bundy finally confessed to the Washington crimes. McChesney was no longer working as a homicide detective, but Keppel’s skillful interrogation helped bring closure to desperate families.
McChesney went on to an extensive career in law enforcement, spending 24 years in the FBI and rising to be the Executive Assistant Director. Ever humble, McChesney still credits Keppel and Dunn for taking a chance on a young investigator despite widespread gender biases in the 1970’s.
For more on Ted Bundy, watch Investigation Discovery’s miniseries Angel of Decay on ID GO now!
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