Ted Bundy was so charming that even the judge who gave him death sentence complimented him
Ted Bundy's crimes were described by the judge presiding over his trial as "extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile," a phrase that was later adopted by a movie about the serial killer starring Zac Efron.
However, the same judge also delivered a lesser publicized set of words that many still find profoundly troubling today.
"Extremely wicked, shockingly vile, and evil" only goes a short way to capture Bundy's atrocities. He exploited the fact that he was handsome and charismatic to win the trust of his umpteen victims, all young, beautiful girls, before knocking them unconscious and taking them to secluded locations to rape and kill them.
He was so brazen that he would openly approach his victims, often in broad daylight, by feigning injury or disability, and even impersonating an authority figure. Once he had them in his control, he would promise to release them if they didn't kick up a fuss, only to later kill them in cold blood.
He would sometimes revisit his secondary crime scenes, grooming and performing sexual acts with the corpses until decomposition and destruction made any further interactions impossible. He also decapitated at least 12 of his victims and kept some of their severed heads as trophies.
So, as one can imagine, when he was finally caught a third time in February 1978 — his first two incarcerations in Colorado saw him engineer dramatic escapes and then commit further assaults — in Florida after the horrific Chi Omega murders and his last victim 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, women across the country breathed a sigh of relief.
His highly publicized trial was covered by 250 reporters from five continents and was the first-ever to be televised nationally in the United States, something Bundy took glee in and saw as an opportunity to further promote his cult of personality.
Despite having four court-appointed attorneys on his side, Bundy routinely ignored their advice and took the defense into his hands, promptly making the trial into a sort of spectacle where he could show off the lawyer he always thought he could be.
However, his case was always doomed. Eyewitness testimony and a plethora of physical evidence meant the jury took less than seven hours to convict him of two counts of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of burglary and recommended the death penalty.
Imposing the death sentence, Trial judge Edward Cowart delivered the words that have now almost been immortalized in pop culture.
"The court finds that both of these killings were indeed heinous, atrocious and cruel," he told Bundy. "And that they were extremely wicked, shockingly evil, vile and the product of a design to inflict a high degree of pain and utter indifference to human life."
However, his comments following that, as Bundy prepared to leave the courtroom, left many flabbergasted because it felt as though Cowart was almost sympathizing with the serial killer.
"Take care of yourself, young man. I say that to you sincerely," he said. "I say that to you sincerely; take care of yourself. It is an utter tragedy for this court to see such a total waste of humanity, I think, as I've experienced in this courtroom."
"You're a bright young man. You'd have made a good lawyer and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner. I don't feel any animosity toward you. I want you to know that. Take care of yourself."
Amazon Studios' 'Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer,' which premiered on January 31, criticized Cowart's handling of the case, with many taking issue with his kind words to a man who was responsible for the deaths of at least 30 women.
Reporters who were at the trial swear that they distinctly and categorically remember Cowart's words to Bundy after he was sentenced to death because of how taken aback they were by it.
"That he would say that to him with no concern for what these women actually experienced, it's almost like a homage to him," said Jane Caputi, a feminist scholar. "And that's a scary, scary thing."
'Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer' has attempted to reframe Bundy's crimes from a female perspective, including those of his longtime girlfriend and her daughter, and highlighted how his psychological hatred of women seemingly collided with the feminist movement and culture wars of the 70s.
The docuseries can be streamed on Amazon Prime.