At about 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 12, 1980, a Caltrans worker picking up trash along the Ventura Freeway embankments came across the nearly nude body of a teenaged girl. The young brunette lay facedown on a bush-covered embankment on the Forest Lawn Drive ramp that spilled onto the freeway. According to the Los Angeles Times, she had been shot in the head with a small caliber weapon.
Not far away, another girl around the same age lay dead. She was blond and she had been shot as well–in the head and chest–but her pink jumpsuit had not been removed. Nevertheless, it was slit up the leg as if whoever had killed her had been interested in some post-mortem activity. Louise Farr wrote in The Sunset Murders (the definitive account of these crimes) that there was fresh blood on this girl’s face.
Apparently the girls had been killed elsewhere and then dumped down the sloping embankment. Possibly they had been hitch-hiking. They had no ID on them and their bodies were bloated from spending several hours that day in the sun. Even for Los Angeles, it had been an unusually hot summer. The police realized that unless someone reported them missing, it would not be easy to make an identification.
Kenneth Bianchi & Angelo Buono
The investigators did note that this discovery was near the spot where murder victim Laura Collins had been dumped in 1977—a killing that had not yet been solved. Also, Yolanda Washington, victim of the Hillside Stranglers, had been killed and dumped on the opposite side of the road, closer to the famous Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Cemetery. Her killers, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, had been caught the year before and were in prison awaiting trial, but such murders often inspire copycats. It was clear that the two bodies had been placed there only a short time before and were in plain view, as if the killer did not care if they were found—a behavior similar to the Hillside Stranglers.
The next day, as the Dow hit 876 on the New York Stock Exchange—on Friday the 13th–Angelo Marano of Huntington Beach entered the city morgue to look at the bodies. He was distraught to discover that his worst fears had happened: the dead girls were his missing daughter, Gina, and stepdaughter, Cynthia Chandler. Gina was 15, Cynthia 16. He and his wife had been looking for them for more than a day, and when he’d seen the news report, he’d gone straight to the police.
Despite the family’s request to be left alone, there were people who would talk about the girls to reporters, and it turned out that they were drug abusers, truants and frequent runaways. It was not clear when they’d last been seen. Newspaper accounts made it sound as if they had indulged in risky behavior.
Map of LA County with Sunset Strip area marked
The autopsies indicated that when she was found, Cynthia had been dead for more than twelve hours, placing time of death around midnight. She clearly had been dragged across a rough place after she was killed. Gina had been shot twice in the head, and there was no obvious sign on either girl of sexual assault, although semen was located inside the vagina of one of them. There was some discussion among the police of possible necrophilic activity.
Soon a call came into the station from a woman who implicated her boyfriend in the killings but who refused to offer details that could help to locate him. She could have been just a crank caller—always an accompaniment to such crimes—but she was correct about how the murders had been done. She knew details that had not been released to the media. Her report that she and her boyfriend had recently washed the car, inside and out, was consistent with the way a killer would act who wished to remove evidence. But the switchboard cut her off and she did not call back. If she had, some lives could have been saved and she might not have taken the path she did.
It was no crank call.
A Long, Hot Summer
Karen Jones, victim
Eleven days passed and two more females were found shot in a similar fashion. First, according to some accounts, just before dawn on June 23, someone discovered the body of prostitute Karen Jones, 24, on Franklin Avenue. She had been shot in the head with a small caliber pistol, according to Michael Newton, and dumped behind a Burbank steakhouse (other accounts say the Burbank studios).
Exxie Wilson, victim
Not long after, around 7:15 A.M., the headless body of a woman believed to be in her twenties was discovered nude beside a steel trash bin, as reported in the Los Angeles Times on June 23, 1980 (the story also indicated that Karen Jones was found after this woman, not before). The bin was at the rear of a Studio City Sizzler restaurant in Los Angeles, California. Sergeant Al Gastaldo made a brief comment for the paper and the incident took up one paragraph just below notices of a bomb threat that had evacuated a British plane and of an earthquake in the Riverside area of California. The victim was soon identified as twenty-year-old Exxie Wilson, also a prostitute—and a friend of Karen Jones. A thorough search of the area failed to turn up her missing head. They had no leads as to who the killer was.
Then on the morning of June 27, Jonathan Caravello went down the alley near his apartment around 1:00 A.M. He tried to park his car, encountered resistance, and spotted an ornate wooden box that looked like some kind of treasure chest. It had an oversized lid. Hopeful that he had found something valuable, he went over to it. Part of the wood was shattered on the outside, as if someone had hit it or thrown it. Leaning over, he unlatched the metal clasp and lifted the lid. Inside was some coarse material, but it smelled of something odd. Rummaging past the material, he got the surprise of his life. Cradled in some discarded blue jeans and a T-shirt was a human head. He could see that this person was female and brunette, and that her mouth was slightly open, but he didn’t pause for a closer look. It wasn’t hard to see that this was no Hollywood prop. Caravello ran from the open box into his apartment to call the police.
The head, which was considerably colder than the outside air, apparently had been frozen and then washed. It was soon connected via the cut marks with Exxie Wilson.
Raven Automatic gun, police evidence
“We have examined the body and the neck,” assistant chief of investigation James Kono told the Associated Press, “and the wounds all match up.”
The head and body had been placed approximately eight blocks apart. Inside the skull was a .25 caliber copper-jacketed bullet. Ballistics analysis determined that it was likely from an automatic known as a Raven, and the bullet that had killed Exxie was from the same gun that had killed the stepsisters. So was the bullet that had killed Karen Jones. They had a serial killer, one who apparently did two murders at a time.
The police held a news conference in the Parker Center Los Angeles Police Department, where Lt. Ron Lewis was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying that Wilson and Jones had come to the city only two weeks earlier with their pimp, and both were from Little Rock, Arkansas. Jones had been found about three miles from where Wilson was dumped, and two miles from where the stepsisters were found. The pimp, who went by the name “Albright,” was questioned but was not considered a suspect.
In fact, they had no suspects for these four murders and would not even make a public statement that they were linked. Jones said that he did not wish to compromise the investigation with speculations. He did say that it was likely that Wilson’s head had been placed in the alley only a few hours before it had been found, which the press took to mean that her killer had kept the head with him for a few days. Jones insisted that the purpose of the conference was not to discuss evidence but to solicit help from the public. In particular, he wanted to urge some anonymous callers who had contacted police early in the investigation to call again. He asked reporters to print that their names and information would be kept confidential.
Lawrence Bittaker, Ray Norris and William Bonin
The murder rate in the City of Angels that year reached an all-time high, as had the number of serial killers at large over the past several years, and people were calling the city the World’s Murder Capital. The intense heat wave only exacerbated the violence. The Hillside Stranglers, killing cousins, had been arrested for a string of murders from 1977-78; team killers Lawrence Bittaker and Ray Norris had tortured and murdered at least five young women in 1979; an unknown killer was targeting hapless men on Skid Row; and since 1972, someone had killed and dumped over forty young men along the freeways south of the city. The primary suspect was William Bonin. There were several other killers who remained unidentified and at large, and now the police apparently had someone new to consider. The area homicide resources were stretched to the limit.
Jennifer Furio’s Team Killers
It wasn’t long before snake hunters roaming around a ravine in the San Fernando Valley on June 30, north of the Golden State Freeway, found the mummified remains of a fifth victim. She was hidden under an old mattress and was quickly linked to the series, which had acquired a name in the news, the “Sunset Strip Murders.” Only her reddish-blond hair was visible to those who found her. The medical examiner believed her to be between the ages of 17 and 25, adding that she was about five-foot-seven. Her stomach appeared to have been slit open, according to Jennifer Furio in Team Killers, and she’d been shot three times with a small caliber pistol. She had been dead at least three weeks, placing her first in line in the series of five. There was now fear that there could be more victims in wilderness areas that had not yet been found.
In another press conference, homicide detectives displayed the box in which Exxie Wilson’s head had been found, offering reporters a chance to photograph it in the hope that someone might recognize its distinctive style. It was described in one article as a stained pine box, crudely made, ten inches wide, twelve inches high, and eight inches deep , with a brass clasp in front, brass ring decorations, and a metal border. Again, the police would not reveal their evidence, but they did admit that they had physical evidence linking all of the murders. That was interpreted to mean ballistics evidence.
“We believe the killer is someone from this area,” said Detective Sergeant John Helvin. “But we don’t know for sure.”
Many people called in to the police to say that boxes like the one displayed could be purchased at K-Mart and Newberry stores throughout the area. Detectives checked on this but found no other boxes like the one in their possession. The clothing inside—jeans with the crotch cut out and a pink T-shirt that said “Daddy’s Girl”—had drawn no additional leads.
Marnette Comer, victim
Then the first victim was identified. She turned out to be seventeen-year-old Marnette Comer (a.k.a. Annette Ann Davis) from Sacramento, who had a history of running away from home, was a suspected prostitute, and apparently had met the wrong person. She had last been seen on June 1. The bullet that had killed her was linked to the four other murders.
In the meantime, the box that had held Wilson’s head was traced to a Texas manufacturer, Chicago Arts, which imported and distributed the Mexican-made boxes to Newberry stores in the L.A. area. They had narrowed down the possibilities to a few stores and were working on customer leads.
Then the pattern changed. Another corpse was found, but this one was male. The police would not have thought to link it to the series of female murders if not for a fortuitous incident.
Turning the Tide
The male victim was found on August 9, five days after he had been killed, according to the Los Angeles Times. He’d been left in a van that turned out to belong to him. But he was in bad shape from being locked inside during the heat wave. He was blistered, blackened, and decomposing, and his head had been severed from his body and was missing. He had been viciously stabbed nine separate times and also slashed across the buttocks, from which pieces had been removed.
Jack Robert Murray, victim
Despite not locating his head, police soon identified him as country singer John “Jack” Robert Murray, 45, of Van Nuys. The man sang part-time at Little Nashville, a bar located two blocks from where he was found. While the killer had removed this man’s head, that same person had overlooked something crucial: spent shell casings which suggested that the victim had been shot.
Aside from the beheading, it did not appear to anyone that his murder bore any association with the string of killings that the police were investigating. But it wasn’t long before they discovered that Murray had not been murdered by the Sunset Slayer. His demise had come at the hands of a woman who claimed on the phone to be the Slayer’s girlfriend.
She had broken down on August 11 where she worked at the Valley Medical Center in Van Nuys, telling some coworkers that she had taken lives, and those who heard her say this had called the police. This woman’s name was Carol Bundy, and she was an overweight, 37-year-old vocational nurse who was apparently involved with a man named Douglas Clark.
The police went to Bundy’s home, arrested her, and confiscated what she handed them. It turned out to be three pairs of panties that she said had been taken from the victims, as well as a photo album of Clark in compromising positions with an 11-year-old neighbor girl. She also admitted that she had killed Jack Murray herself.
Another team had already arrested Clark in Burbank where he worked as a boiler engineer for the Jergens Corporation. He went to jail charged with “lewd and lascivious conduct” with a minor and with aiding and abetting a murder suspect (Bundy apparently needed his assistance with Jack’s head). While awaiting Clark’s hearing, police had time to search for evidence of the more serious crimes of which Bundy was accusing him. His bail was set at $500,000 and he was assigned a public defender. It was an unusually high figure for bail, but the police feared that if Clark were freed, he would destroy evidence needed for a murder investigation.
At Clark’s workplace, a coworker stumbled across the place in the boiler room where Clark had stashed the two .25-calibre Raven automatics. The worker turned them in and the police lab linked one of them via ballistics tests to the five known victims. Clark was charged with those five murders.
A pathologist got to work to determine if the same person had beheaded both Murray and Exxie Wilson, but he determined that two different people had used two different knives. Just as Bundy was telling them.
Commander William Booth would not speculate for the press on the motives for the murders or how the two suspects were related, but he was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, “It is believed in several of the killings that sexual activity was involved.” He also indicated that media coverage had brought forward leads that were credited with helping to make the arrests.
Carol Bundy was arraigned on August 13, 1980 in the murder of John Murray, and ordered held without bail until her preliminary hearing in two weeks. The complaint noted that Murray had been killed because he was a witness to a crime and Bundy wanted to prevent him from offering testimony.
Reporters asked police if Murray had been the anonymous caller who had offered important information, but they declined to say. In fact, the media would eventually learn that it was Carol Bundy herself who had called after the murders of the stepsisters.
The Twisted Tale Unfolds
As often happens, these two killers turned on each other, attempting to place blame for the murders on anyone but themselves. Eventually, their sordid story unfolded, at least according to Carol, who willingly confessed in detail to police, authors, and journalists, and also in court. Clark had his own story, but it wasn’t supported by the facts.
As with all self-serving self-reports, Carol Bundy’s must be received with some skepticism. By 1980, killers had learned that child abuse was a good excuse, and Carol was no different. She claimed that after her mother died, her father had committed repeated incest on her and her sister, as reported by Corey Mitchell. Farr says that her sister agreed with this and added that before her death their mother had often been out of control as well. After her father remarried, Carol was sent through a series of foster homes. She quickly became promiscuous to get attention from boys. Marrying young, she went through three marriages by the time she was 35, including one to a 56-year-old man when she was only 17. She went between men and women, seemingly unable to decide which gender she preferred, and was often unfaithful to whomever she was with.
At age 36 in 1979, Carol moved into a Los Angeles-area apartment complex. Divorced from an abusive husband (she did have records that indicated she’d been in a domestic abuse safe-house), she had two young sons, 5 and 9, in tow. She had health problems, wore thick glasses, and struggled with her weight, so whenever a man paid attention, she was eager to please.
John “Jack” Murray, her landlord, often helped her out with money and even helped her to get disability payments and found her a job as a nurse. Apparently, her openness and appreciation eventually led to them becoming lovers, although Murray was married and had children. Carol proved to be sexually voracious and was so certain about his love for her that she tried to bribe and then threaten Murray’s wife to leave him. This move backfired, however, when Jack left Carol. She was just a bit too much for him. But that failed to terminate her obsession. She became like a stalker, certain that Jack loved her no matter what he said, and promising to wait for him to eventually admit his love to her.
Carol always knew how to find him, because he worked part-time as a singer at Little Nashville, a country music bar on Sherman Way in North Hollywood. He liked to drink there as well. She hung out at the club, waiting for Jack to pay attention, but he continued to ignore her.
However, her persistence paid off in another way. Just after Christmas in 1979, Carol did manage to attract the eye of another man at the bar, Douglas Clark, 31. He was blond and handsome, and seemed to take a liking to her. What she did not realize was that in her he spotted a free ride. He knew that lonely, obese women in bars often responded to sexual attention with money, housing, and other benefits. Clark had learned this during his nomadic lifestyle as a mechanic, and Carol was his new target. While he had grown up in a privileged home and had been given a good education, he remained unmotivated and dependent on others. Yet he had a polished, charming manner, with a slightly European tint to his speech. He liked to utilize French phrases and to quote from literature. Former girlfriends from prep school, it turned out later at his trial, were still very much in love with him.
Another trait he developed and honed was an exhibitionistic response to sex. He liked to record women with whom he was having sex, or take their photograph, and then pass these around among his friends, whether they wanted to see them or not. He married once, but that did not last.
Soon after meeting, Clark and Bundy became lovers and he eventually moved in. To Carol, he was an amazing adventure, unlike any man she had ever known. Yet this new relationship did not dim her ardor for Jack, and eventually she became so oppressive to Murray and his wife that they forced her to move. Jack wanted her away from him, but she claimed that he still came to her every week for regular sex. In fact, they still shared a bank account into which she put money and from which he took money.
Doug Clark mugshot
But in many ways, Doug was more interesting. His love-making was sensitive, but eventually he blended in his fantasies of torture, captivity, necrophilia, and murder, and Carol soon became fascinated with these ideas. She said that Doug had once announced that a woman who loved him should be willing to kill for him. He persuaded Carol to purchase two .25-caliber Raven automatics from a pawnshop and to register them in her name.
He wanted Carol to bring other women into their relationship for a threesome, and he also got her to entice young girls into the apartment, specifically an eleven-year-old neighbor. The girl was photographed nude and persuaded to get into the shower with the adults. Bundy did not seem to think this was wrong. Instead, she later admitted, she did not feel that this kid was competition for her; and letting Clark have this experience with the girl was just a way to please him. It was a “gift.” They even made a photo album of pictures of the girl with him—that same album that Carol would soon turn over to the police.
While Carol claimed that she was hesitant but afraid that if she did not go along with him, Doug might reject her, it’s fairly clear from what she did not say that she had little sense of right and wrong. At times, she seemed to be less the frightened female who does what she must to please her man than a female psychopath easily goaded in immoral acts through her own lack of conscience and remorse. She claimed she had no idea that Clark was capable of actual murder, but her version of the story tends to be self-serving, especially in light of subsequent events.
When Doug became Carol’s roommate, things began to pick up speed.
Carol found Doug to be suddenly quite controlling. He demanded that she do what he wanted and threatened to abandon her (she said) if she did not comply. He wanted a sex slave, someone who would see to all of his needs, mundane and bizarre. She gave in, expecting that in return he would be true to her. But he soon told her that he was tired of having sex with her and needed something new and more exciting. He brought prostitutes home, according to Mitchell, and to please him Carol went along with it.
In the meantime, Jack Murray faded away, apparently relieved to be free of Carol’s delusional neediness.
By the spring of 1980, Carol said later to police, Doug Clark had turned to murder. One day in April, he came in covered in blood. He lied about its source but then on another occasion Carol discovered a bag of bloody women’s clothing in the car. Doug then told her about Gina and Cynthia, the two girls found murdered in June and dumped off the freeway. (Furio suggests that Carol was in on this, but other sources indicate that she did not know until he told her.)
Gina Marano, victim
Apparently Doug confessed in detail what he had done with the two girls. He said he had picked them up on the Sunset Strip where they sat at a bus stop. Then he made Cynthia perform fellatio on him and ordered Gina to look away. When she refused, he shot her in the head. Then he shot Cynthia. When it appeared that they were not dead, he shot them both again and took the bleeding corpses to a rented garage. There he played with them, posing them for his entertainment, and then he raped the bodies. In the early morning hours, he dumped them by Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills Cemetery.
Cynthia Chandler, victim
He told Carol about this incident and Louise Farr claims that she found herself intrigued and excited by the idea of this kind of kinky sexual escapade. She felt that an intimacy had grown between them that Doug did not have with another woman he was seeing, and she wanted to go along on one of his murder adventures. She apparently thought that this would finally seal their relationship.
Yet she must have had second thoughts, because she did call the Van Nuys police to report what she knew. That was on June 14. When the switchboard cut her off, she did not bother to call back. It’s not clear how far she would have taken this had they given her more serious consideration. She might have stopped Clark or she might have pulled away from the police. She was unpredictable.
That evening, she said, Doug urged her to watch the news. She turned it on and saw that another murder was being reported, but this one was a man. His name was Vic Weiss and he had been found in the trunk of a Rolls Royce at the Sheraton Universal Hotel. Doug took credit for this murder.
The following morning, he took Carol out to a ravine and pointed out an area where he had dumped a prostitute after shooting her. (This was the mummified victim, the fifth one to be found.) But he had kept her panties, he bragged, as a souvenir. He described the entire incident for Carol in explicit detail, getting her as excited as he was about sexual murder. She had once been a partner in his violent fantasy life and she had seen that as a sign of real intimacy. She wanted to get in on this.
Partners in Crime
On June 20, Bundy accompanied Clark on his Hollywood area cruising and in a parking lot Clark made Bundy lure a young prostitute who used the name “Cathy” to the car. Bundy climbed into the back seat, ostensibly to “watch” Cathy perform oral sex on Clark. She had one of the guns she had purchased in her purse and Doug had the other one with him in the front. Carol was supposed to signal whether or not she wanted to go ahead and shoot the girl herself. But Doug apparently got angry at something the hooker was doing (or not doing), so he reached for the gun, according to Carol, and shot her in the head.
Kelleher’s Murder Most Rare
Carol grew excited at what she had witnessed. It did not disturb her at all to see a young girl die in front of her. In Murder Most Rare, the Kellehers say that she may have even photographed it. She then covered the body so they could drive without attracting attention to a place where they could get rid of the body. They ended up near the Magic Mountain amusement park and left the dead girl in that general area, next to some bushes.
Clark soon returned on his own to the Sunset Strip. There he encountered Exxie Wilson. He drove her to the Sizzler restaurant on Ventura Boulevard at Studio City. She began to perform oral sex when he raised the pistol and shot her in the head. In an involuntary reaction, she bit Clark’s genitals, which angered him.
He got a bag from the trunk in which he had sharp knives, liquid cleaners, trash bags, and paper towels. He cut off Exxie’s head and placed it inside a trash bag. He left the body in the parking lot.
Then he saw a lone blond who had been with Exxie . Her name was Karen Jones. She agreed to get into the car with him, unaware that her friend’s head was in the back seat. Doug shot her and pushed her out of the car near the Burbank studios. She was quickly found, and Exxie’s body was discovered on the same day a few hours later (although reports are mixed on the order of discovery).
But Doug had driven away to Carol’s and placed the head in the freezer to preserve it for their use as a sex toy. Carol admitted to a journalist that they had fun with it. “Where I had my fun was with the make-up,” she is quoted as saying. “I was making her over like a big Barbie doll.” Once she had the make-up right to Clark’s satisfaction, he would penetrate the mouth for a form of necrophilic oral sex, and even take it into the shower with him. They continued to use it in this way for three days before placing it, freshly scrubbed, in the box in which it was found and discarding it in an alley. Carol wore gloves so she would not leave prints.
On August 1, Doug had taken his eleven-year-old companion with him on a prostitute run. He let the girl watch him have oral sex with the prostitute, dropped her off, and then shot the prostitute in the head. He told Carol he had used her corpse for sex and then dumped her near some water towers in Antelope Valley.
Then on August 5, Carol sought out Jack Murray for some companionship. She dropped hints about what she had been doing with Doug, and according to her, he apparently talked about turning Clark in to the police. That was not what Carol had intended, so she knew she had to get rid of him. (Mitchell claims she made this decision to prove her love for Clark.) She lured Murray into his van, had him lie on his stomach, and shot him in the head. But he was not dead, so she proceeded to stab him until he died. After she murdered him, she cut off his head and called Doug, who helped her to get rid of it in a trash can.
Jack Murray’s van
The stench in the van eventually led police to the discovery of Jack Murray’s body. Carol and Doug were actually at Little Nashville when a commotion occurred just down the street. Carol overheard that the police had found shell casings and realized that they now had evidence linked to her gun. Not only that, Jack’s current girlfriend had seen Carol go to his van with him and had told this to the police.
Carol couldn’t hold it together for long, and when she admitted to coworkers that she had killed people, the series of murders came to an end. Feeling betrayed by Doug’s aloofness, she blamed everything on him, claiming that he was insane and that he had overpowered her. In his turn, when the police arrived, he said that Carol Bundy was a lunatic and that he had nothing to do with any of the crimes. She was framing him for her perverse activities. He talked without an attorney for more than three hours, admitting he knew one of the victims, that he frequented the Strip, and that he had helped Carol to dispose of the head of Jack Murray.
Their nasty demise was as predictable as their relationship had been in terms of the dynamics of dominance and submission. They had performed a deadly dance together and now it would proceed to a new phase.
Power and Need
Robert R. Hazelwood
Robert R. Hazelwood, a former FBI Special Agent with the Behavioral Sciences Unit, undertook an extensive study with Dr. Park Dietz and Dr. Janet Warren of twenty wives and girlfriends of sex offenders. While he does not name them, one case he describes is similar to that of Carol Bundy. Of this study, Hazelwood said, “It was more revealing than talking to the offenders. With offenders, you get lies, projection, denial, minimization, or exaggeration. The wives and girlfriends are just like a sponge. They ask, ‘How can I help? What do you need to know?’ You’ll get insights into the offender that you’ll never get from the offender himself. For example, what type of fantasy would he act out? They would tell this in detail. It was fascinating.”
He was surprised to learn that these women all appeared to be normal and came from mostly middle-class backgrounds. Like the women themselves, Hazelwood pinpointed the males as the instigators. “These men have the ability to recognize vulnerable women and manipulate them. The behavior gets reinforced with attention and affection, gifts, and excitement. Eventually they [the men] are doing things that isolate them and further lower their self-esteem. All they have is this guy, so they cooperate.”
Hazelwood identified a five-step process that turned these women into accomplices:
Identification: Identifying a vulnerable, easily-controlled person
Seduction: Getting the woman to fall in love.
Reshaping the woman’s sexual norms: Introducing her to sexual images and acts that may offend or frighten her but which she must do to please the man and keep him involved.
Social isolation: Cutting her off from family and friends.
Punishment: Physical, verbal, and sexual, which further erodes the woman’s self-esteem and ability to act on her own.
In short, it’s a relationship of dominance and submission, which means that one person is assertive and the other submissive as a means of achieving intimacy or greater sexual satisfaction. Conflict like this reportedly magnifies physical sensation.
Yet there’s a popular misunderstanding about relationships that involve dominant and submissive partners that the dominant one runs the show and makes all decisions, and the submissive one has no choice but to obey. In fact, as Gini Graham Scott points out in Erotic Power, both partners have strengths and weaknesses, both manipulate, and both complement the other. To make the dance work, they each need the other. They play with the illusion of forced captivity and make it seem more frightening than it actually is.
Erotic Power by Gini Graham Scott)
That means there’s a continual exchange of power. The dominant person finds pleasure in mastery while the submissive one enjoys the feeling of surrender. They help each other to explore their fantasies by each of them playing the role that the other needs to complete his or her idea about the desired feeling. The experience pushes them both closer to their most primal needs, which reportedly creates a flow of energy that neither can experience alone. Oddly enough, a paradoxical equality is achieved between the one who shoulders power and the one who is willingly stripped of it.
Thomas Moore’s Dark Eros
The most extreme form of this dynamic is sadomasochism, as Thomas Moore writes about in Dark Eros, which involves consensual violence. The “Master” inflicts pain and humiliation to help the “slave” reach emotional catharsis. Both enjoy their parts in the scenario. Sadomasochism, according to practitioners, eroticizes mental and physical pain by synthesizing the body with mind and spirit. Psychologist Roy Baumeister says that reducing one’s identity to the body via pain is a carefully choreographed activity that can provide immediate intense pleasure, because when the self is deconstructed, people are more willing to do things they might not ordinarily do.
The rituals make the fantasies they both enjoy concrete. For the masochist, the violent loss of control, coupled with fear, translates into a powerful psychic orgasm and a feeling that the self has been momentarily obliterated. It feels like a radical transformation into a sense of openness and full existence. Obliteration of self means the loss of limitation, and this helps the participants to come to terms with the inner paradoxes of pain and desire.
The development of this dynamic is clear in the way Clark and Bundy related to each other. She liked that this self-named “King of One Night Stands” (Kelleher) was decisive and dominant, so that once he became really controlling, she was already used to submitting to whatever he demanded.
No matter what it was.
While the .25-caliber pistol with which the five known victims were shot was found in Clark’s possession, it turned out to be registered to Carol Bundy. That complicated matters. The police needed Carol’s testimony against Clark, but he might be able to throw reasonable doubt into the process by pointing to Carol as the instigator—even the sole killer. She could have murdered the women out of jealousy and then framed Clark. She had, after all, killed Murray, and had even beheaded him herself. She was capable of murder.
In fact, she apparently had bought two guns, which she said had been for Clark.
Yet Clark’s fingerprints were on the murder weapon and on nude photographs of a child, so he was certainly implicated in something. In fact, the police had an entire photo album that showed him to be a pedophile and to have engaged in illegal behavior. (He claimed that the child was responsible for seducing him .)
In many ways, it looked as if it was going to come down to which of these two the jury would believe. Carol had come forward, and that was in her favor, although it’s also true that when psychopaths feel the heat, they often turn on their cohorts as a way to get the best deal for themselves. Coming forward first is no measure of honesty.
Clark had already manufactured his own story for everything. He was saying that Carol, whose last name was Bundy, imagined herself to be the wife of Ted Bundy, the infamous nomadic serial killer who had been arrested in Florida in 1979 and had committed countless murders across the country. She had engaged Jack Murray in this delusion and they had killed the victims together before Carol had finally turned her wrath on Jack.
But the police soon collected more physical evidence that pointed to Clark. They went to Clark’s rented garage and found a bloody boot print that matched one of his boots (not Jack Murray’s), which they had confiscated. They also found blood in a car that he had sold that was matched to some of the victims, and they located the “kill bag” that Carol had described, and the gloves she had worn to handle the box with Wilson’s head. They also had a clipping about Exxie Wilson’s murder in Doug’s bedroom at Carol’s apartment, along with some disturbing pornography. Inside Doug’s wallet, they found a list of names—Cindy and Mindy—and some phone numbers. Mindy, they had learned had been an acquaintance of Cynthia Chandler. She had reported to police that after Cynthia’s murder someone had called her. First he’d imitated a police officer, and then he had called back and said he’d killed Cynthia and would do the same to her.
The detectives had a tape of Doug’s voice from his “confession.” They went to find Mindy. She identified it as the voice of the man who had called her.
In the meantime, another team had found alibis for Jack Murray for three of the murders, so Clark’s attempt to throw it all onto a dead man were proving futile.
Then on August 26, the remains of the woman that Doug Clark had allegedly dumped near the water tower at the amusement park were found. The bullet in her skull was linked to the same Raven that had killed five others. Then another set of remains were found of a blond woman near Malibu, which were never identified. Carol claimed that Doug had told her about killing and dumping this prostitute. She had been shot, but the bullet was too fragmented to be definitely linked to the others.
Yet despite Carol’s description, searchers did not locate “Cathy,” the prostitute that Carol said she had seen Doug shoot right in front of her. (This woman would eventually be located, but not until March 1981, at which time Carol was charged with two murders.)
Carol did tell detectives that she had heard through the prison grapevine about a prostitute who was nearly killed by a john, and this sounded like the attack that Doug had once recovered from and admitted to her. Her name was Charlene Andermann, and she picked Clark out of a photo spread as the man who had nearly killed her with a knife. On top of everything else, Doug was charged with attempted murder.
Both Bundy and Clark were subjected to several batteries of psychological examinations. Carol was described by one professional as condescending and controlling, ready to blame others. She was not brain-damaged and showed no overt psychopathology. Doug, too, was not organically damaged or considered in any way psychotic enough to be judged insane. He had numerous personality and psychosexual disorders, to be sure, but nothing that would provide an excuse for what he had allegedly done.
So his trial procedure moved forward, and he sat in the same jail as Angelo Buono, Roy Norris, William Bonin (arrested for the Freeway killings), and an assortment of other serial killers. Through them, he saw exactly what kind of person he was. Not that it mattered. He thought he was better than everyone else, an attitude that would not help him at his trial.
Clark on Trial
Doug Clark, headshot
Clark wrote a press statement based on Carol’s arrest report, but switching names and incidents around to make her and Jack Murray look like the guilty parties. He insisted that all of the evidence pointed to her.
Yet at his preliminary hearing on November 14, 1980, Mindy Cohen testified that Clark had told her over the phone in July that he had killed two of the victims—the step-sisters—and had then had sex with their corpses. It was not an admission, she said, so much as a threat. She testified that he had told her he wanted to do the same thing to her. He also told her that he had shot the girls in both the head and the heart. He did not identify himself, she said, but she later recognized his voice from a tape that police played for her.
The taped voice was indeed Douglas Clark’s and he had said during his three-plus hours of confession that Carol Bundy was his roommate and that she had killed her boyfriend, Jack Murray, because he knew too much about the other murders. He admitted that he had helped her to dispose of Murray’s decapitated head. Mindy’s testimony was supported with phone records that indicated that someone had called her twice from Clark’s apartment, and police had found her phone number in his wallet. The first time he had posed as a detective, the second time as the killer.
Clark admitted that he made the calls, but insisted that he had identified himself with his real name. He believed that this indicated that he was innocent.
Clark was held for pre-trail motions, set for December. Because of special circumstances in the murders, he faced the death penalty. He began at once to accuse the police of planting evidence and faking the tape of his voice, and he proceeded to show fault with a succession of lawyers that the court imposed. He accused everyone involved of being dishonest, and he attempted to find ways of discrediting Carol. He even suggested that the blood of a victim found on one of his paintings from the rented garage had been refrigerated for the purpose of framing him.
One of his plans for undermining was rather ludicrous. He had learned that Veronica Compton was in the same prison as Carol. Veronica had tried to win Hillside Strangler Kenneth Bianchi’s love by following his plan for her to strangle a woman in Washington State and plant his semen on her. That way, he could prove that he had not been the murderer of two women there earlier that year. But Compton had failed in her mission and been arrested and imprisoned for the attempted murder. Bianchi had turned his back on her, but Clark saw an opportunity. He wooed her himself and hoped to use her via his flowery letters (and a valentine decorated with a headless female corpse) to get at Carol. He also assured her that he would be out of prison by August the following year. When a Washington jury convicted her, he sent her a rose. He hoped he could win her into helping him to frame Carol.
The trial began in October 1982 before a jury of eight women and four men. Farr gives a detailed account in her book, and reporters for the Los Angeles Times summarized the highlights in daily reports for their paper and the Associated Press. The event drew large crowds of journalists, television reporters, and onlookers, including Peter Falk, the actor who played TV detective Columbo. It took four months to complete all the testimony, which Deputy District Attorney Robert Jorgensen described as “an intimate tour of a sewer.” Doug Clark was charged in the murders of six women, ages 15 to 24. All had been shot in the head with the same gun. (For another potential victim, the bullet was too disintegrated to make a definite match.)
Jorgensen called Clark a “cowardly butcher of little girls” and a necrophiliac, but the defense portrayed him as an articulate, intelligent man against whom the evidence was only circumstantial. Clark himself undermined this by acting arrogant, calling the court officers names, and disrupting the proceedings with temper tantrums.
Expert witnesses testified that three of the victims had been sexually assaulted, but could not tell whether this had happened pre- or post-mortem. The prosecution had letters from Clark in which he described his interest in necrophilia to back up their assertions about that aspect of his behavior. While they hoped with this association to show his depraved nature, they also had good physical evidence of the murders themselves.
During part of the trial, Clark served as his own attorney, with court-appointed lawyers Maxwell Keith and Penelope Watson as his legal consultants. (He despised Keith but liked Watson.) During his stay in prison over the past two years, Clark had studied law books and wanted to handle things himself. The judge was not so sure, but allowed it for a period of time.
Attorney Keith pointed out that Clark had voluntarily given blood samples and cooperated with authorities with interviews and information. “It’s not something a responsible person would do if his life was in danger,” he said. But most of his efforts were thwarted by Clark’s assertions and behaviors. Like many narcissists, he failed to see how he was coming across.
Charlene Andermann was first on the stand in terms of the line-up of victims, because according to Carol’s report, she had been the first one attacked. However, her testimony was not very strong, due to mistaken identifications and conflicts in her story. She also had been hypnotized to refresh her memory of the incident, and this became a point of contention, since such evidence had been ruled inadmissible in California.
Then the victim stories were recounted, with the aid of witnesses and relatives. The evidence to implicate Clark was presented.
Clark tripped himself up after a waitress, Donielle Patton, broke down in tears as she described how her fear of him had forced her to move. In what could be construed as a veiled threat, he told her he knew her new home address. He obviously could not resist showing off his sense of power over her, but it did not help his case.
Calling Judge Ricardo Torres a “gutless worm,” among many other vulgar names, got Clark’s attorney privileges suspended. Keith and Watson were told to take over.
The chief witness against Clark, but ironically called by the defense at his behest, was Carol Bundy, who had been promised “use immunity” in those murders (but not her own)—i.e., what she said could not be used at her trial. She had dressed like a prim and proper housewife and she spoke articulately about being under Clark’s spell. She talked about how Doug had brought home the head of one victim and said that he had bragged about committing murders since he was 17—to the tune of about 47.
She admitted to having played with the head and applied cosmetics to make it more appealing as a sex toy. Although she claimed to be a compulsive truth-teller, she undermined herself with a letter she had written explicitly stating that she could not be trusted to tell the truth. Other letters also showed her to be aware of just how to leave an impression on the jury. She, in fact, began to sound like the mastermind herself rather than someone under the master’s spell.
In January, Veronica Compton was brought in as a witness, even as the trial of the Hillside Stranglers, Bianchi and Buono, was happening across the hall. Clark had hoped to get her to say that Carol had confessed to everything. That was the point of his concerted wooing efforts, according to Farr, but she pleaded the Fifth and would not talk. That disappointed the media.
In the end, Clark had no real case and he had failed to destroy the prosecution as he had promised. As inept as he claimed they were, they managed to lay out a compelling argument that he was a vile sexual predator and serial killer.
On January 28, according to the newspapers, after the jury deliberated for five days, Clark was found guilty of six counts of murder and one count of attempted murder (in his attack on Andermann). Farr writes that when the verdict was announced, Clark looked at his mother and mouthed, “Hi Mom.”
He kept insisting he was innocent, but nevertheless when he took the stand to once again display his arrogant attitude, he urged the court to sentence him to die in the gas chamber. They were willing to oblige.
On March 16, 1988, Douglas Clark received six death sentences and he currently serves his time at San Quentin, trying to get an attorney to listen to his case and get him a new trial. He also married a woman named Kelly Keniston, who helped him in his crusade to prove his innocence.
Bundy’s Surprise Deal
During Carol’s initial confession to the police, she took the opportunity to make a sexual invitation to the detective who was questioning her. This disturbing behavior did not help her to gain any sympathy. She seemed altogether pathetic, needy, and unaware of the reality of her situation. Yet she had been needed in the case against Doug, so the detectives had tried to overlook her ploys. (She even sent the judge from Clark’s trial a suggestive Christmas card.)
Carol Bundy, headshot
Carol Bundy had long considered pleading not guilty by reason of insanity in the murder of John Murray and in assisting in the murder of an unidentified prostitute (the “Cathy” murder). Then she backed away from that approach and moments before her trial was to begin on May 2, 1983, she admitted that she had killed Murray because he suspected Clark of the Sunset Slayings and she was afraid he would turn Clark in. She had lured him to his van at midnight one night with the promise of sex and had killed him there by shooting him in the head. With a boning knife, she had removed his head to prevent anyone from finding the bullet and linking it to the other murders.
During her original confession, Bundy had told police officers, “It was really fun to do.” She had likened it to an amusement park ride and said she would probably do it again. Now she was backing away from that sentiment, aware of how it made her look. She accepted a plea deal that spared her from the death penalty.
On May 31, she received consecutive prison terms of twenty-five years-to-life on the count of participating in the murder of one of Clark’s victims and twenty-seven years-to-life on the murder of Murray and the illegal use of a gun. She was sent to the California Institution for Women at Frontera. In 2012, she will be eligible for parole, but the legal system is not obliged to let her go free. She may well be in for the rest of her life.
Despite her testimony against Doug Clark, she continued to write to him and urge him to use her to free himself. She even handed over her psychiatric files to his lawyer. She seemed to flip-flop over her feelings about him, but apparently, she would do anything to please him, even hang herself.
Doug Clark continued to insist on his innocence. He wrote a court petition for a new trial, but it was dismissed. He continues to seek a lawyer who will defend him more ably than he claims his string of fired lawyers have done. In June 1992, the California Supreme Court affirmed his death penalty.
When prison reform activist Jennifer Furio put together a collection of her correspondences with serial killers, published in 1998, Doug Clark was among her correspondents, and she printed a selection of his letters to her from a two-year period. In her preface, she indicates that Clark claims to be innocent. Indeed his first letter reiterates how he was framed by Carol Bundy and her boyfriend, Jack Murray. He insists that a DNA analysis of the biological evidence will exonerate him. He denies having been Carol Bundy’s lover. At best, they were casual acquaintances. He calls Carol a “sadistic lesbian serial killer.” He also notes that Furio’s project may just be a way for her to get vicarious thrills.
In these letters, his sentences are erratic and he never fails to add some sexual content to try to draw Furio into giving him a thrill. There’s no doubt that he likes lesbians and he hints that she might want to try that. He also never fails to mention that it’s impossible to prove that he is guilty of the murders and that he expects a retrial to happen very soon.
After her book was published, Furio wrote in her next book on team killers about how she went on a talk show and Clark called in. “Douglas is incredibly tricky,” she wrote. She went on to say that he had portrayed himself in his letters as an honestly lustful man, not an unstable, repressed person like Carol Bundy. Because she kept secrets about her deviant sex life, she’s logically the killer, not him. Being out of touch with her needs led to the kind of anger it takes to murder people so brutally. Yet when he called in to the talk show, he claimed that he’d given Furio details to excite her lonely existence. She was just like Carol.
But Furio had the last word, as she reframed his ideas as manipulations and his ruse as one of his many masks. She then tried to enlist Carol Bundy in her attempt to understand team killers, but Carol did not cooperate. Furio dismissed her as emotionally dissipated. In the end, she decided that Clark was guilty and had manipulated Carol through her instability and desperation to be loved—exactly what Carol may well have manipulated many people to believe.
Larry King devoted a show to the murders in 1992, in which he interviewed witness Mindy Cohen, author Louise Farr, and author Mark MacNamara, who argued in an article for Vanity Fair that Clark may be innocent of the charges. He claimed that there were only three pieces of actual evidence against Clark—the fact that the gun was found in his workplace, Bundy’s testimony, and the testimony of a woman who claimed that Clark had once attacked her. He believed each piece, when closely examined, fell apart. It was his contention that the trial did not establish Clark as a killer. (Farr accused him of being a mere mouthpiece and alter ego for Clark.)
Nothing was resolved on this show.
Freed serial killer Nico Claux wrote to both Clark and Bundy, and received a postcard from Carol in 1995 to the effect that she was going blind. She also could not afford stamps to France, where he lived, so she declined to engage in an ongoing correspondence with him. She thanked him and wished him a happy new year. He posted the letter online with several photos of the crime scenes from the Sunset Slayers.
Michael and C.L. Kelleher indicate that there is some belief that Bundy and Clark were responsible for many more murders than those with which they were charged—possibly as many as fifty (probably based on Bundy’s testimony about 47). They maintain, probably correctly, that the true relationship between these two may never be known. Those who have spent time with them claim they are both manipulative.
Louise Farr, a magazine writer, is the only person to have gone through the 52 volumes of courtroom transcripts and to have tracked down many people involved, including Clark and Bundy. She commented that researching these crimes had an emotional impact on how she now views violence. For an interview with the Los Angeles Times, she said, “Crimes like these reverberate outward and the circle keeps getting bigger and bigger.”
Another Perspective: Introductions
Carol Bundy and Doug Clark
In 1992, Mark MacNamara went on Larry King to discuss his interviews with Doug Clark and Carol Bundy. While author Louise Farr accused him of being a mouthpiece for Clark, since he took the position that the evidence against Clark was shaky and failed to establish him as a killer—at least, the sole killer.
Below, MacNamara discusses his side of that story and his feelings about it more than two decades later. He has been a journalist for 25 years, except for a period of eighteen months when he went “over the wall” to be the public information officer for the San Francisco District Attorney’s office in 2002-2004. He has been both a staff writer and freelancer for newspapers and magazines, including Vanity Fair.
In the late 1980s, MacNamara wrote a story for Tina Brown about death row in California. It opened with a description of a daily bridge game between four serial killers, including Douglas Clark. “The card game was a metaphor for the game the death penalty had become in California,” he remarked. He has also written for city magazines, including Los Angeles, where he wrote a story in the early 1990s about his extensive interviews with, and observations of, Carol Bundy. In that, he indicates her inappropriate sexual behavior, her attempts at seduction, and her ability to switch moods easily, and the evidence for her deception and manipulation. He indicated that he suspected that she was more involved in the Sunset murders than she admitted.
Then MacNamara wrote a piece for USA Today, when he was their news correspondent in northern California in the late 1980s, that yielded another assignment, and this one caught Doug Clark’s interest. “I wrote a short news story about Dorothea Puente, who ran a boarding house in Sacramento and murdered several of her tenants. So much detail was left out of the news piece, that I wrote a reporter’s notebook for the San Francisco Chronicle. Not long after I received a note from Doug Clark who suggested I might be interested in his case because, by having written about Dorothea Puente, I seemed to have accepted the idea that a woman could be a serial killer. The logic was off and frankly I had never considered the idea, one way or another. But I responded to his letter.”
MacNamara was curious, so he visited Clark at San Quentin. “From the start he insisted he was innocent, that his one time lover, Carol Bundy, had framed him. He insisted that she had committed the crimes with her lover, Jack Murray, who Bundy beheaded. Interestingly, one of Clark’s victims was beheaded. And there was some evidence to suggest that the same hand may have cut both victims, but it was never brought into court. Bundy always admitted she killed Jack but denied she killed any of the victims attributed to Clark .”
MacNamara continued to visit Clark off and on over the next year. Then he read the court transcripts and spoke with Clark’s public defender for his appeal, “who had absolutely no doubt of his guilt.” MacNamara also talked to Clark’s brother.
“In the beginning,” he says. “I didn’t give Clark’s claim much credence. For one I had always assumed that if you were on death row you were guilty. Later, I learned how wrong that assumption was. But there was another reason I discounted Clark’s claim. I’ve looked into a number of death row cases and often the condemned insist they’re innocent — against all the evidence. In another capital case I investigated, a man convicted of killing four people, including three members of one family, insisted on his innocence and even demanded DNA testing for a bloody shirt found not far from the crime. ‘That will prove I didn’t do it,’ he kept telling me. Eventually, he got the test and it was his DNA on the shirt. You wonder why someone would ask for a test that could perhaps conclusively tie him or her to a crime, but I’m told that’s not uncommon.”
So he initially viewed Clark’s story a bit skeptically, but after reading the trial transcripts, he began to wonder if he might be telling the truth, “or a truth.” Then he corresponded with Carol Bundy. Finally, he visited her in prison as well. “Once we spent nearly 7 hours talking in an administration building at the prison where she lived. The administrators forgot we were there and it wasn’t until she was missed at dinner that someone came running down the hall to find us.”
Another Perspective: Two Sides of a Strange Story
The more time MacNamara spent with Bundy, the more convinced he became that she had directly participated in at least some of the murders, whether with Jack or Doug.
“She was also clearly a sociopath,” he said, “nearly a mirror image of Clark, except in one respect. She had a long sordid history of abuse as a child. She was also highly intelligent and very perceptive when it came to understanding people’s motives. My enduring image of Carol was the time I interviewed her and while we were talking one of the lenses in her glasses fell out. These were coke bottle thick lenses. Now suddenly she appeared in a new way. She couldn’t put back the lens but she kept her glasses on and we continued talking. It was unnerving: the one eye was very large; the other very small. The rat’s eye and the owl’s eye. And that was how I came to think of her: the owl and the rat together.”
He believed there were many clear indicators the Carol was fully involved. He offered four key points:
1. “The transcripts of her interviews with police are filled with inconsistencies. One moment she knows nothing about the killing of a certain victim, for example. ‘Clark never told me about that one,’ she says. And then just a few moments later she goes into vivid detail about how that victim was killed and then sexually attacked. She recounts extraordinary details, including smells, details that one would think might only be known to someone who was at the scene.”
2. “Clark has always admitted that he was in a car with Bundy during the killing of one victim. He insists he was in the back seat with a prostitute when Bundy took a gun out of the glove compartment and shot the girl in the head. Bundy claims she was in the back seat when Clark sitting in the front seat put his hand up, which was the sign they had agreed to that she should give him a gun. She claims she gave him the gun and then he shot the prostitute in the head while she was giving him oral sex. I never believed that story for several reasons. One is I can’t imagine any man would shoot a woman in the head when she has his penis in her mouth, particularly a sensualist like Clark who was in some respects also a coward. Whatever happened in that car Bundy told police and me that she fondled the victim after death. When she told me the story she was crying one moment, supposedly out of grief for the victim; the next moment she was laughing and talking about what nice ‘tits’ the victim had. It was the most vivid demonstration of a sociopathic personality drifting from one emotion to another that I’ve ever seen.”
3. “During our conversations she hinted several times that she was involved in the killings but she would never come out and say it. She would promise to tell me if I would have sex with her (the two times I met her we were left alone in a small room in the administration building of the prison). She did exactly the same thing with police detectives. In a series of letters to Clark written years after the crimes she also made strange allusions to the killings, which further implicated her.”
4. “There was a piece of bloody scalp found in the air vent of Jack Murray’s van. It’s the one piece of forensic evidence that might tie Carol and Jack to the murders. It was never thoroughly examined.”
The more he studied the case, the more MacNamara believed that the media had misrepresented it. “The case was misrepresented to the extent that so much was made of it. I helped that misrepresentation by writing so much about it. And you wonder why are we so interested in these stories? I would argue that we are a jaded public, increasingly unable to feel all but the severest jolt. And then you have a journalism profession in utter ruin, with journalists forever thrown off the track of meaningful stories in search of the salacious.”
In addition, there were other problems. “Clark had a terrible trial attorney. Then he decided to go ‘pro per’ which only undermined his defense further. The case was thick with mishandling by investigators and in the end, there was a sense that, even if Clark hadn’t done all the killings, he had done some and, anyway, he was a despicable man. His sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl was part of the argument against him–a girl whom Bundy brought to be sexually abused by Jack a few days before she killed him.”
In the end, Macnamara felt uncertain about Clark’s degree of involvement. “In many respects he is not a likable person: He exhibits many of the characteristics of a sociopath: he lies and has a grandiose vision of himself, for example. He is also a satyr. But did he kill these prostitutes? In fact, he had frequented prostitutes for years, and seemed to flourish in the sexual underworld of swing clubs and street sex. ‘I had been going to prostitutes for years,’ he often told me. ‘I liked prostitutes. Why didn’t I kill any of those girls?” Of course, one could argue that it wasn’t until he met Bundy that he fell into a folie a deux, which drew him over the edge of sexual experimentation.“
Another Perspective: The Bigger Picture
MacNamara had studied other female serial killers and he found some interesting parallels. “I once did a piece for Vanity Fair about Aileen Wuornos. I went to the town where she grew up north of Detroit and went house to house in her neighborhood, trying to find people who remembered her. Several people agreed to speak and their stories generally tracked with her own recollections of abuse. I wasn’t able to verify Carol’s story to the same degree but I did find records of her interviews with psychologists and what she told them was what she told me. In the cases of both women there was tremendous physical and sexual violence and a pattern of finding approval and power from enduring the abuse. Both women grew up in severely dysfunctional households, and had horrific experiences at a young age with older men.”
Yet he also found a key significant difference. ”I’m certainly no psychologist but I always had the impression that Aileen Wuornos was driven by meanness and by a desire to be the breadwinner for her lover. Above all, she wanted to be believed. Carol Bundy seemed motivated more by a true sociopathology, as well as a desire to manipulate people to get what she needed. She wouldn’t talk to me at all unless I bought her a typewriter, for example. Above all, she wanted respect. Of the two, Carol was colder, darker, less sympathetic, more cowardly, yet more refined and perhaps more clever.”
As he got some distance on the case, MacNamara had more perspective. ”I was always attracted to journalism because it seemed to be the one profession where you could be paid to be skeptical. As I got to know this case I began to see how image is everything in this society. Here was Clark, the killer and satyr, who appeared to be the devil. Here was Bundy who portrayed herself as the nearly blind widow, a nurse and mother of two children: the victim. I became entranced by the illusions, by the complexity of the case, and all the convolutions in the telling.
People asked him when he was going to write a book about the case and a movie option was purchased from the VF piece, but the film was never made. Nor did he write a book. “I never really considered a book. The story was too grim. There was no protagonist. What could you say in the end? Three very dark people, a woman and two of her lovers, got together in the San Fernando Valley in the summer of 1980, (when, by the way, there were two other serial killers working in LA.) One lover was beheaded. The other lover went to death row. The woman went to prison (and died not long ago). What good is there to recount the story in a book? It’s a magazine piece at best.”
It seemed to him that only one thing elevated the story beyond a sordid series of crimes. “Even horrible people, even someone like Clark who, if he didn’t kill these women, certainly has lead a bleak life; even people of no account, people about whom there is nothing good to say, even those people should be saved from the death penalty — but particularly in this case where the overwhelming evidence against Clark at trial was from Carol Bundy. Without her, as the prosecutors admitted, they didn’t have a strong enough case to convict.
“I don’t believe in the death penalty. Even for someone like say Charles Manson. And this is not theory for me. My stepsister was kidnapped and horribly murdered in 1969; the case was never solved. My stepmother was destroyed by it, and by extension our family was deeply wounded. I believe people who have committed capital crimes should be locked up for life. Publicity should be kept to a minimum. There is nothing to say about such people.
“I follow certain Tibetan Buddhist teachings. I also believe you are endlessly forced to confront what you are afraid of, to what you cannot resolve, to recurring conflicts. You help people along the way. You don’t need a reason. In retrospect, you are misguided if you think you can visit the dark side, if you think you can become involved with these kinds of people, with good purpose or not, and avoid a price.”