A journalist who watched Ted Bundy die in the electric chair has spoken out against sections of the media for portraying the serial killer as ‘charming and sexy’, adding that it’s the victims and families that deserve to be remembered.
Tim Swarens, an opinion editor and columnist, was one of the 42 people to witnesses Bundy’s death by electrocution inside the execution chamber at the Florida State Prison on January 24, 1989.
Writing in the Daily Beast, Swarens hones in on the recent media interest and focus on Bundy, 30 years since his death.
Journalist Tim Swarens (left), who watched Ted Bundy die in the electric chair, has spoken out against sections of the media for portraying the serial killer as ‘charming and sexy’ adding that it’s the victims and families that deserve to be remembered
‘Bundy’s sick and horrific story has again caught the attention of entertainers, journalists, and the public,’ he writes.
‘And I was appalled once more,’ Swarens adds. ‘This time because the cycle of media exploitation was happening again.’
Swarens comments come on the back of a four-part documentary released by Netflix, called ‘Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.’ It aired on January 24, 2019, the 30th anniversary of Bundy’s execution.
The documentary focuses on interviews with Bundy recorded by journalists Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth when he was on death row.
Netflix has also bought the rights to ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,’ a Hollywood film featuring Zac Efron, as Bundy, that has garnered favorable reviews at the Sundance Film Festival.
Bundy confessed to 30 murders, including the rape and murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach (pictured above)
Wanted Sign of Ted Bundy. Swarens highlights that Bundy was ‘a sociopath’ and a ‘cruelly manipulative narcissist’
‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,’ is a Hollywood film featuring Zac Efron, (pictured above) who plays Bundy. Critics have said the trailer and upcoming film show Bundy as sexy and charismatic
Swarens says, Bundy, a failed law student, ‘wasn’t particularly smart,’ (Bundy portrayed by Efron pictured above) stating how he turned down a plea deal that would have saved his life
Swarens accuses Netflix of ‘trying to work both sides of an ugly and exploitative street,’ firstly by producing the documentary and then buying a movie featuring heartthrob Efron.
He highlights that the recent media focus on Bundy, ‘isn’t the first time that the entertainment industry and the news media have portrayed Bundy as charming and sexy,’ referencing the two-part TV movie, The Deliberate Stranger, that stared Mark Harmon, ‘the Zac Efron of his day.’
It was released in 1986 while Bundy was still on Death Row.
‘He certainly wasn’t as good-looking as the actors paid to portray him. His supposed charm was only one weapon he used to trap his victims. Sudden, overwhelming brutality was another,’ Swarens says.
Swarens also notes that Bundy, a failed law student, ‘wasn’t particularly smart,’ stating how he turned down a plea deal that would have saved his life and twice served ‘unsuccessfully’ as his own attorney.
Bundy’s trial was the first nationally televised murder trial. The case, Swarens writes ‘fascinated TV viewers,’ with over 200 reporters covering the proceedings.
Bundy’s trial was the first nationally televised murder trial with over 200 reporters covering the proceedings
In his second murder trial, six months later, Bundy asked character witness Carole Ann Boone, a friend and former co-worker, to marry him. She accepted. She later said her daughter was fathered by Bundy, born while he was on Death Row.
Swarens highlights that Bundy was ‘a sociopath’ and a ‘cruelly manipulative narcissist.’
Bundy confessed to 30 murders, including the rape and murder of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach. He is said to have practiced necrophilia and kept the severed heads of some of his victims.
The Netflix documentary focuses on interviews with Bundy recorded by journalists Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth on death row
Days before Bundy’s execution Swarens was at the South Florida newspaper where he worked when he entered a lottery to attend a press conference, which Bundy had agreed to, the day before the execution.
Swarens was selected to attend.
The press conference didn’t go ahead and instead Bundy chose to do an exclusive interview with psychologist and radio talk show host, Focus on the Family’s James Dobson.
Bundy told Dobson that he took ‘full responsibility’ for what he’d done and claimed that his ‘addiction’ to porn had shaped his violent behavior.
Swarens also entered a second lottery to attend Bundy’s execution. Again, his name was drawn.
He recalls how as ‘a young journalist’ who hadn’t seen anyone die, ‘for years, I was haunted by what I saw and heard on the day of the execution.’
Swarens was a young journalist when he saw Bundy executed and said ‘for years, I was haunted by what I saw and heard on the day of the execution’
Swarens recounts Bundy’s last words, before he was hit by 2,000 volts, to his attorney, Jim Coleman, and a Methodist pastor, Fred Lawrence. ‘I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends,’ Bundy said.
‘I was appalled by what I witnessed in that field. I didn’t doubt then, or now, that Bundy deserved to be executed. His guilt was beyond doubt. He was manipulative and unremorseful to the end,’ Swarens writes.
However, Swarens says he was unprepared for the crowd after he left the prison who were laughing, cheering, eating and drinking and holding banners celebrating Bundy’s death and says his death should have been a time for reflection.
Swarens writes that the newly invigorated media focus must have brought dark memories back to the surface for the families of those Bundy killed.
‘Ted Bundy’s victims and their families deserve to be remembered and mourned. The man who caused so much pain and grief should be forgotten,’ Swarens says.
The body of Theodore ‘Ted’ Bundy is taken to the Alachua County Medical Examiner’s office following his execution at 7:16 a.m. on January 24, 1989