In May 2021, reports circulated that yet another Ted Bundy movie was in the works. And, in keeping with previous iterations of this particular true-life story, another so-called “hot” actor was cast as the serial killer, former teen star and scourge of Riverdale, Chad Michael Murray. Even the filth merchants at the New York Post wondered who the hell asked for this movie. American Boogeyman, a title that kind of rips off Michael Myers but whatever, reportedly, “follows the elusive and charming killer and the manhunt that brought him to justice involving the detective and the FBI rookie who coined the phrase ‘serial killer.’ ”
Social media wasn’t too impressed with the news, which is heartening considering just how many so-called fans Bundy had, and continues to have, due to his alleged good looks (check out old pics — he’s certainly not that cute). As the Post notes, to date, Bundy has been played by all-out hunks including Spike himself, James Marsters, and even Jigsaw’s apprentice, Cary Elwes, as well as Zac Efron in the most recent iteration, Netflix’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. Serial killers have always had their diehard fans, but the current obsession with hideous men like Bundy is troubling, particularly as it takes much-needed attention away from their many victims, and the loved ones they left behind.
With that in mind, let’s take a deeper look at the women Bundy targeted and whose lives he ruined either by killing them or forcing his victims to live with the memories forevermore:
Following the events of January 4th, 1974 Karen Epley opted for a life of anonymity, deciding she would not let a brutal attack or the fact she was just one of the handful of victims to survive Bundy’s wrath define her. Formerly known as “Joni Lenz” in previous publications, Karen Epley was an 18 year old college student at the University of Washington. Author Ann Rule would write of her that she “…was a friendly, shy girl who had no enemies.” After a long recovery, Karen would go on to have a successful life, becoming an accountant and having a family.
Lynda Ann Healey
Without realizing it, thousands of western Washington radio listeners were familiar with the sound of 21 year old Lynda Ann Healey’s voice. Lynda’s days started at 5:30 a.m. each morning; she would report to her job at Northwest Ski Reports, attend classes at the University of Washington, where she was a psychology major, and spend most of her free time skiing or working with handicapped children. Lynda had grown up comfortably in a sheltered, upper middle class home in Newport Hills with her parents and two siblings. Lynda was often described as a diligent student who regularly got above average grades. She was a talented singer and musician who almost always had a camera by her side. Lynda was planning on making Beef Stroganoff for an upcoming dinner with her family.
Donna Gail Manson
Evergreen State College was still considered a relatively new school when 19 year old Donna Gail Manson matriculated there in 1974. The daughter of a music teacher, Donna grew into an expert flutist who could easily have played in a symphony. With an all but official “do your own thing” philosophy, students at Evergreen were allowed to choose what they wanted to study. Donna had taken an interest in alchemy, witchcraft and the occult — something that freaked her roommate out considerably. Despite her high I.Q., Donna was struggling to maintain a “C” average. Due to being prone to bouts of depression, Donna indulged in marijuana and impromptu trips — typically via hitchhiking — to blow off steam. She was well liked, dated casually and, on the night of March 12th, she was excitedly getting all dolled up to go to a jazz concert on campus.
Long before the news of women disappearing in the Washington area became widely known, Susan Rancourt had always been cautious. Author Ann Rule remarked that she “…frankly was afraid of the dark, afraid of being out alone. She never went anywhere without her roommate after the sun had set.” It took a great deal of courage on her part to stay in Washington for college while the rest of her family moved to Anchorage, Alaska. One of six children in a close family, Susan was a cheerleader, crowned homecoming queen and was well known for her shy, sensible ways and wholesomeness, for which her family nicknamed her “Prudence Pureheart.”
Coming from such a big family, Susan knew she would have to pay her own way through school and, the summer before her freshman year at Central Washington State, she worked seven days a week at two full time jobs. By 1974, Susan, then 19, was majoring in biology, maintaining a 4.0 GPA and working a full time job in a nursing home. On April 17th, she expressed interest in a dorm advisor position mostly because it would shave a great deal off her tuition. She did some laundry. She was planning on seeing a German film with a friend later that night.
Roberta “Kathy” Parks
Unfortunately there is not much written about 20 year old Kathy Parks. What little is known about her is shrouded in speculation. Many noted how homesick she was feeling around the time of her death. The California native was studying world religions at Oregon State University. Investigative journalist and author Billy Jensen commented, “As someone who was also a world religions major, I can hazard a guess at what she might have been looking for — those truths we all have in common, no matter the religion.” Was she feeling heartbroken? She recently broke up with her boyfriend. Was she feeling guilty? On May 4th, 1974 Kathy had argued on the phone with her father and, just days later, he suffered a massive heart attack. Was she feeling any better on May 6th? That was the day Kathy got a phone call from her sister, who reassured their Dad just might pull through. Later that day, Kathy agreed to meet up with some friends for coffee at the Student Union Building. She promised her roommate she would be back within the hour.
Almost everyone who knew Brenda Ball, 22, described her as a fun-loving free spirit. Much like Donna Manson, she was given to impulsive trips and was comfortable hitchhiking. On the evening of May 31st, 1974 into the early hours of June 1st, Brenda was spending time at one of her frequent hangouts, the Flame Tavern. She was planning on meeting some friends at Sun Lakes State Park within the following few days. She enjoyed partying, had recently left Highline Community College and was just trying to find herself.
Georgann “George” Hawkins
As a child, Georgann Hawkins was a well documented wiggle worm. Virtually every report card she received growing up noted how talkative she was and how she just couldn’t seem to sit still. The youngest of two daughters, George grew into a happy, confident and beloved young woman. Her Mother, Edie, nicknamed George “the Pied Piper” because people just loved being around her. At Lakes High School she was a cheerleader, an honor student and was even crowned Daffodil Princess, which gave George the opportunity to travel across Washington attending events and giving speeches. In fact, she once addressed the state legislature. In 1973, George was tapped by one of UW’s top sororities and lived in one of the biggest houses on campus while studying TV journalism. By 1974, George was 18 years old. Her biggest worry, reportedly, was an upcoming Spanish exam for which she had been cramming endlessly. On the evening of June 10th, George attended a party with a sorority sister. She enjoyed one or two mixed drinks before strolling over to her boyfriend’s house, to chat and borrow some Spanish notes.
1974 was an eventful year for 23 year old Janice Ott. She not only graduated from Eastern Washington State College, but Janice also had to cope with her husband Jim moving away to California, so he could attend medical school. She remained in Issaquah and worked as a probation case worker at the King County Youth Service Center in Seattle. Janice was a hard worker who believed through kindness she could really help others who needed special guidance in changing for the better. Her sweet and bubbly personality earned Janice the nickname “Sunshine Girl” around the office. On July 14th, 1974, Janice was really missing her husband and decided to bike over to Lake Sammamish to make herself feel better. She left a note for her roommate to let her know she was going sunbathing. Janice finished off the note by drawing a little sunshine.
Denise Naslund was also at Lake Sammamish on July 14th, 1974. The 19 year old was accompanied by her boyfriend and another couple. The outing, which included roasting hotdogs and napping by the water, was a welcome vacation from her busy schedule working part time and taking a computer programming course at night. Denise was an unfailingly cheerful, dependable young woman, who was very close to her mother, Eleanore Rose, who would later recall that Denise often said things like, “I want to live. There is so much in this beautiful world to do and to be seen.”
Nancy Wilcox was just 16. A dedicated cheerleader at Olympus High School, she worked part-time as a waitress and was an active member of her local Mormon church, too. Some speculate Nancy left her home on Arnett Drive in Holladay, Utah on October 2nd, 1974, to buy a pack of gum. Others theorize she may have been going to school to watch her boyfriend play in a football game.
Melissa Anne Smith
Unfortunately, there is not much written about 17 year old Melissa Smith. Being the daughter of the Midvale Police Chief, she was a naturally cautious girl, despite her hometown’s quiet and solidly Mormon community. Melissa was also a good friend. When she found out a buddy was upset after a fight with her boyfriend, on October 18th, Melissa wasted no time taking a shortcut to her job at a pizza parlor to comfort a fellow woman in need. She was planning on going to a sleepover later that night.
Halloween of 1974 had been a bust for 17 year old Laura Aime. After recently dropping out of high school and moving in with some friends, Laura worked a series of small, part time jobs and was thus thoroughly disappointed with the lack of excitement that spooky October night. She had gone to a café where Laura stayed until around midnight before heading to a nearby park. She was just trying to figure out her place in the world, and reportedly spoke to her parents everyday.
Survivor Carol DaRonch was 18 years old in 1974. She was a recent high school graduate and had taken a job with the Mountain Bell Telephone Company. She still lived at home with her parents, described herself as being very shy, and was a bit of a shopaholic to boot. On November 8th, Carol drove over to one of her favorite haunts, the Fashion Place Shopping Mall, where she browsed around Auerbach’s, ran into and chatted with her cousins and leafed through some books at Walden’s Book Store.
Despite the trauma of nearly being abducted, Carol never shied away from telling her story. She spoke during Bundy’s Utah trail, as well as in numerous print and TV interviews — most recently, the Amazon Prime series Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer — to put a necessary spotlight on a monster who had been operating in the shadows for far too long. “It made me angry to think that he thought he could just take me like that,” she said. “I think that I couldn’t be this shy little girl anymore. I mean, I had to stick up for myself.”
Carol went on to earn a degree in business management and has long worked in the telecommunications industry, where she met her partner of more than 15 years, with whom she had a son. Carol enjoys spending her free time skiing, enjoying the nearby mountains and lakes, and golfing. “I’m really happy and healthy and just live a normal life,” she enthused.
Debra “Debbie” Kent
17 year old Debra Kent was also out on the evening November 8th, 1974. While her younger brother, Blair, hung out at the local roller rink, Debbie and her parents went to see the Viewmont High School’s production of The Redhead. When the play began to run later than expected, Debbie volunteered to leave early to pick up her brother. She promised her parents she would be right back to pick them up, too. Debbie was the kind of girl who slipped quarters into strangers’ expired parking meters while shopping downtown. She had aspirations of becoming a social worker someday.