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Ted Bundy’s murderous charm still polarizes, 40 years later

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CINCINNATI — She kept her eyes on the dapper, wavy-haired man who smiled, winked and exuded self-confidence as the courtroom proceedings moved along.

“I don’t know what it is he has, but he’s fascinating,” the teenage spectator explained to me at the time. “He’s impressive. He just has a kind of magnetism.”

It was that beguiling magnetism that investigators said helped make the object of her interest — Ted Bundy — one of the nation’s most prolific serial killers, with at least 30 women and girls’ deaths linked to him across multiple states in the late 1970s.

I reported the teenager’s comments for The Associated Press’ coverage of Bundy’s 1979 murder trial in Miami, the first of two murder trials he would have in Florida. She was just one example of a regular courtroom backdrop of spellbound female spectators who were “attractive, young and single,” as I wrote at the time, just like the women Bundy was on trial for bludgeoning and sexually assaulting.

“I haven’t lost any sleep about the verdict,” a relaxed, self-assured Bundy told me in a jail-cell interview a few days after the jury swiftly convicted him of murdering two Florida State University sorority sisters and assaulting three other young women in Tallahassee.

Nearly 40 years after that trial, and 30 years after his death in Florida’s electric chair, Bundy’s deadly charm continues to captivate and perplex.

Some reactions to a new Netflix documentary series, “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” prompted a Twitter appeal to viewers asking them to chill out about his “alleged hotness,” adding there are many other attractive men featured on the streaming service who aren’t convicted serial killers. Nearly simultaneously, a movie starring heartthrob Zac Efron as Bundy recently made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival with some criticisms that the film, shot last year in the Cincinnati area, glamorizes the killer. A Vanity Fair reviewer wrote that at times, “the movie feels almost sympathetic to Bundy.”

Filmmaker Joe Berlinger, who is the director for both projects, acknowledged in a Salt Lake Tribune interview he had tackled “a very polarizing subject” with Bundy, but insisted there’s no glorification. His movie hasn’t yet been scheduled for wider release. Efron, by the way, isn’t the first hunky actor to play Bundy — Mark Harmon starred in the 1986 TV miniseries “The Deliberate Stranger.”

The July 1979 trial I helped cover was for Bundy’s rampage on Jan. 15, 1978, in Tallahassee, Florida. Armed with an oak limb, Bundy left two Chi Omega sorority sisters dead and three other women injured. Less than a month later, on Feb. 9, he abducted, sexually assaulted and killed a 12-year-old girl in Lake City, Florida. She was Bundy’s final victim in a gruesome series of attacks that claimed the lives of dozens of women in states from Washington to Florida.

During the trial, I interviewed other young women in Miami who talked about Bundy’s handsome looks and expressive eyes, and also the chilling testimony about his crimes. A University of Washington psychiatry professor talked in a telephone interview about him giving women “Dracula shivers.”

Jurors deliberated less than seven hours on July 24, 1979, before convicting Bundy, then 32, of the Chi Omega murders. Three days later, I was assigned to go to Dade County Jail and find out what I could about what he was doing, who was visiting him and whether he was causing problems for jailers as he had at times during the trial.

A sergeant noticed I had been waiting for a while and asked who I was there to see. “Ted Bundy,” I replied quickly. He took me to a visiting cell where Bundy was meeting with one of his attorneys. The cell door closed behind me. I introduced myself, and it was clear by his grin that Bundy was amused by my audacity.

Despite the attorney’s uneasiness about an unplanned interview, I sat while Bundy, unshaved and dressed in jail greys left open at the top, leaned back on his elbows on a bench, and went to work on me.

He told me he was innocent, of course. Repeatedly. So innocent, he explained with that same grin spreading across his face, he wasn’t losing any sleep. “I’m not trying to sound callous. … I’m very confident we have a good appeal.”

He professed to be surprised and disappointed by the jury’s relatively quick verdict after a five-week trial with complicated forensic evidence. He told me it would take a mind like “William S. Burroughs” to explain it. Not a fan of the Beat generation author he referenced, I didn’t get what he meant, other than to show he was well-read.

Bundy expected the death penalty but said he’d be “kind of stupid” to predict what Judge Edward Cowart would decide. He then imitated the judge’s drawl: “Ah can only hope that the judge will look at mah case with an open mind.”

Bundy had me smiling, and he left me wondering about the contrast between this personable, engaging man across from me and the ruthless killer the jury found him to be.

The next week, Judge Cowart sentenced Bundy to die for “extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile” crimes — a quote that became the title of the new movie. Yet, as he had throughout the trial, Cowart showed judicial firmness mixed with some homespun warmth toward the former law school student who sometimes insisted on questioning witnesses, raising objections, and disrupting his defence team.

Cowart called him “a bright young man” who could have been a good lawyer, one he would “have loved” to have practice before him. “But you went another way, partner,” Cowart said. As deputies prepared to take Bundy away, Cowart added softly: “Take care of yourself,” and Bundy thanked him.

Eight years later, I would write an obituary for Cowart, a former police officer turned judge who died at 62.

A series of attorneys filed appeal after appeal for Bundy. One blamed the “Bundy mystique” for making it impossible for him to get a fair trial. Several argued he was insane.

Al Carlisle, a Utah State Prison psychologist who had interviewed Bundy extensively, understood the difficulty people had believing that the Bundy they saw could be such a calculating, remorseless killer. The courts ruled Bundy was competent.

He knew what he was doing, Carlisle explained to me years ago. Charm was one of his weapons.

“He believes he’s smarter than everybody else and that he’s going to play the pieces right, and win the chess game,” Carlisle said.

It ended Jan. 24, 1989, in Florida’s electric chair after he had ended his denials with sometimes-emotional confessions in his final days.

Hundreds of people, women and men, were thronged outside the prison. But this time, most were there to cheer his death.

——

Sewell, now the AP’s Cincinnati correspondent, wrote often in Florida about Bundy in the decade from the Chi Omega murders to the execution.



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81-year-old tap dancing legend hosts master class in Calgary

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CTVNews.ca Staff, with a report from CTV Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks


Published Saturday, February 16, 2019 10:00PM EST

Brenda Bufalino may not be a household name, but in the world of tap dancing she is an icon.

Recognized for her mastery of rhythmic dance, the 81-year-old has performed and taught internationally for over 25 years. This weekend, she will share her love of tapping with young dancers at Calgary’s Rhythm Body and Soul Festival.

“It’s my job to teach them what they are doing,” Bufalino said of her master class being offered at the event. “Not what I’m doing, but what they’re doing.”

Tap dancing has been part of Bufalino’s life since she started dancing in a small New England town at the age of five. By the time she was 17, she had moved to New York City where her career as a soloist and choreographer took off. She later founded the American Tap Dance Orchestra.

She also taught routines to Tony Award winners Tommy Tune and Gregory Hines, who called Bufalino one of the greatest female dancers that ever lived.

“They’re such wonderful dancers. It was such a treat,” Bufalino said of her work with Tune and Hines.

Though tap dancing may not seem like a mainstream form of dance, Bufalino said the art of tap isn’t going anywhere, describing it as an experience for the body and mind.

“It’s a total experience,” she said.

Calgary’s Rhythm and Soul Festival runs from February 15 through 17.



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Gucci to step up diversity hiring after ‘blackface’ uproar

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NEW YORK — Italian fashion designer Gucci is announcing a major push to step up its diversity hiring following an uproar over an $890 sweater that resembled blackface.

The company also says it will hire a global director for diversity and inclusion, a newly created role. Gucci also is promising to launch a scholarship program to cultivate diverse design talent.

The announcement Friday came after Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri met in New York City’s Harlem neighbourhood with Dapper Dan, a well-known African-American designer, and other community members to hear their perspectives.

Bizzarri says Gucci has spent the past days conducting a “thorough review of the circumstances that led to this.”



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Edmonton man surprises girlfriend with billboard proposal

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Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press


Published Thursday, February 14, 2019 5:32PM EST

EDMONTON — Laurie Moring had an inkling something was up by the time she and her boyfriend were on their way to a Valentine’s Day lunch.

Her suspicions grew stronger when Mike Dagenais unexpectedly turned off a busy Edmonton thoroughfare to where news cameras were waiting.

Just ahead was a digital billboard emblazoned with Moring’s face and the message: “Laurie M. I adore you. You’re my best friend. And my true soulmate. Will you MARRY me? – Mike D.”

The billboard, which also included a link to Dagenais’s photography business, had been there a few days. Moring hadn’t seen it, and she hadn’t come across any mention of it on the news or social media.

But colleagues were dropping cryptic remarks.

“My co-workers have been very curious about how I’ve been lately and how my drive to work was,” Moring, 43, said Thursday.

“I knew something was going on, but I didn’t really know what. This was a huge shock. It was a good shock, a good surprise.”

And the answer?

“I said yes, of course.”

Dagenais and Moring got together more than three years ago after he inherited a rare antique chest and went to get it insured. Moring was at the counter.

“No word of a lie — the moment I walked in and I saw her, it was like she had this white aura, this white glow of goodness about her and I just couldn’t help but notice her,” said Dagenais, who is 55.

About a month later, he was still thinking about her and made a wish while sitting on his back porch. Within days he got a handwritten card from Moring through her work, so he used that as an excuse to get in touch again.

For their first date, they went for a walk in a park.

“It was freezing cold and we can’t remember what the conversations were about,” said Dagenais. “But we both remember the turnaround point when we shared a nice kiss and I steamed up her glasses — twice.”

Dagenais said he originally wanted to propose last summer, but his dad’s health was declining and he passed away soon after. Dagenais was hoping to propose to Moring under the billboard earlier this week, but she had a migraine.

He chose a billboard proposal because it combined his two loves: Laurie and photography, which he’s pursuing more these days because his regular work in the oilpatch has slowed down.

A painted billboard was beyond his budget at $3,000, so he went for the digital one at about $450.

“I was pretty sure she would say yes, but you never know until you put it out there. And I really put it out there this time — oh, my Lord.”

The couple is hoping to get married this summer on Vancouver Island, where they have family. Moring said she’d like something small on a beach or in a park.



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