Bundy Finally Draws Cheers


Hundreds Celebrate Execution

January 25, 1989|By Roger Roy and Craig Dezern of The Sentinel Staff

STARKE — They said good riddance Tuesday to Ted Bundy as he did the only thing likely to rate a cheer - leave Florida State Prison in the back of a hearse.

As hundreds of spectators sang, danced and lighted fireworks outside the prison, the hated serial killer's 10-year residence on death row ended at 7:16 a.m. with his execution for the rape and murder of a Lake City schoolgirl.

Bundy, 42, walked quietly to the electric chair. Those hoping Bundy would shed more light on the myriad mysteries still surrounding the dozens of sex murders he is suspected of or has confessed to across the country were disappointed by his final words: ''I'd like you to give my love to my family and friends.''

Hours before dawn, hundreds of spectators already had gathered in a pasture across State Road 16 from the prison.

The crowds came in a steady stream from virtually every part of the state. They wandered through the field, many with coffee and doughnuts, and more than a few with beer in their coffee cups. They carried signs and banners: ''Fry, Ted, Fry!'' and ''Tuesday is Fry Day.''

Some were jabbed in the ribs as they wandered into live network television shots. More than a few were screamed at as they tripped over the miles of cables and power lines strewn on the ground.

On death row, Bundy spent a sleepless night. A final visit with Volusia County State Attorney John Tanner, Bundy's spiritual adviser, ended after 1 a.m.

Earlier Monday, Bundy had given an hourlong videotaped interview to California psychologist James Dobson, in which he partly blamed pornography and alcohol for his crimes. Bundy, who in his final days confessed to 23 murders, did not talk about specific killings with Dobson.

Bundy's final hours were spent with Fred Lawrence, a Methodist minister from Gainesville, with whom Bundy talked and prayed through his cell bars.

At 4:50 a.m., Bundy refused a steak and egg breakfast offered in his 9-by-14-foot death watch cell just 30 feet from the electric chair.

At 6 a.m., traffic along S.R. 16 carried a steady stream of spectators. Inside the prison, a guard shaved Bundy's head and right calf - attachment points for the chair's electrodes.

Just after 6, Bundy showered and dressed in dark blue slacks and a light blue shirt.

At 6:30, a steady plume of thin, gray smoke rose from a small building to the right of the execution chamber - a sign that the prison's diesel generator, used to power the electric chair, had started and was running smoothly.

At 6:35, some in the crowd were startled when all the lights in the brightly lit prison compound and gun towers went dark.

Some cheered, thinking the darkness signaled Bundy's death, but their celebration was premature: The power supply to the death row wings, which Bundy shared with 296 other condemned men, was only being switched to the generator, a routine procedure. Within seconds, the lights were back on.

At precisely 7 a.m., Bundy was led into the execution chamber. On each wrist was a manacle held on a short chain by a guard.

On the other side of a plexiglass panel, 42 people watched as Bundy walked in. A dozen were reporters whose names had been drawn by lot. A dozen others had requested to see the execution. They included Jerry Blair and Bob Dekle, who prosecuted Bundy for the murder of 12-year-old schoolgirl Kimberly Leach, the crime for which he would be executed; Eldridge Beach, who headed the Florida Highway Patrol during the massive search for Kimberly when she was abducted Feb. 9, 1978; Democratic state Rep. Joseph Randy Mackey, from Kimberly's hometown of Lake City.

FHP Trooper Ken Robinson, who found Kimberly's body under an abandoned hog shed in April 1978, was an alternate witness, but he did not get in: all the original 12 showed up.

Lawrence and Bundy's attorney James Coleman were seated in the front row. The rest in the room were Department of Corrections employees. One was the anonymous black-hooded executioner, who would be paid $150.

Witnesses said Bundy appeared startled as he entered the room. The guards led him to the oak chair, built by inmates in 1923.

They attached the heavy leather straps to his ankles, wrists and chest.

Bundy nodded to Blair and Dekle, who nodded back. He exchanged glances with Coleman and Lawrence.

Outside, the crowd of about 300 was restless. There was nothing to see.

At 7:03, someone in the crowd lit a Roman candle firework. It burst red and green above the field. Minutes later, there were more fireworks.

No one knew what was happening inside the execution chamber, about 300 yards away. But most in the crowd knew to watch for a reporter to walk from the room waving his notebook, the traditional signal that the execution had been carried out.

Inside, Superintendent Tom Barton held a microphone to Bundy's mouth and asked if he had any last words.

''Yes,'' Bundy said, ''Jim and Fred, I'd like you to give my love to my family and friends.''

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