With the 30th anniversary of his execution, serial killer Ted Bundy has reentered the news. The hypnotizing story of a seemingly-clean-cut law student convicted of nearly 30 homicides continues to be told by none other than the media giant Netflix. The recently released docuseries “Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” revisits the accounts of witnesses, lawyers, escaped victims, acquaintances and experts in the case that rocked the United States in the 1970s and 80s with one of the first true “serial killers.”
Ted Bundy came to the University of Utah for law school in 1974, after graduating from the University of Washington and — unbeknownst at the time — killing almost a dozen young women in the Pacific Northwest. Like many people, Randy Dryer, current Law Professor at the University of Utah and graduate of the program, remembers the infamous Ted Bundy as a friendly figure. “He was a year behind me in [the program.] I knew his name and he knew mine.”
Dryer grew up in Odgen and studied journalism and political science in his undergraduate career at the U. Though he entered law school with no real intentions of practicing, he saw, despite the lawyer stereotype, that it was a noble profession with the power to create societal change. “There’s a legal aspect to every piece of life,” Dryer said, “And that’s what makes it so interesting.”
That same interest in the power of the law drew Bundy to the field. Bizarrely enough, his knowledge on law assisted him when he chose to act as his own defense, propose in court, make his escapes, address the media and carry himself with a charming attitude in his first trials. In first-hand interviews of his counsel from “Conversations With a Killer,” Bundy was unlike any sort of guilty killer the world had seen before. Even Judge Edward Cowart, who ruled for the death penalty, said to Bundy, “You’re a bright young man. You’d have made a good lawyer. I’d have loved to have you practice in front of me. But you went another way, partner.”
As a Utah lawyer with a storied career in media law, Dryer finds the media’s fascination with Bundy apropos. “It is the shock of his Jekyll and Hyde that makes him so interesting,” he said. The obsession lies in trying to understand just what was happening in his mind as he ripped lives apart.
“Conversations with a Killer” presents how unprecedented the Bundy case was: the lack of technology, the miscommunication over state lines, his manner in the court and the celebrity status he assumed. It serves to connect all of the loose ends of the accounts from the communities he impacted, using hindsight to tie the stories of the infamous killer together.
Dryer has a Bundy story of his own. He said, “I was the President of the Student Bar Association at the time, and the dean called me into his office, swore me to secrecy and said, ‘The police believe we have a murderer in our law school. One of his escaped victims will be coming with plainclothes policeman to see if she can identify him.’ So, the dean and myself and this woman and two policemen were there waiting for Ted Bundy to come out of criminal law class. The bell rang. About 80 students walk out. No Ted Bundy — he was absent that day.” But the next day, Dryer hosted a party that Bundy attended.
“When the party was winding down, some people were headed to an afterparty,” said Dryer. “Ted says to Brooke [Wells, another student] ‘I’ll give you a ride.’ I can’t say anything, but I’m not going to let her go. So, I convinced her to stay and help me clean up. She later became a Federal Magistrate Judge, and mentioned in her swearing-in-ceremony, ‘I might not even be here today but for Randy Dryer not letting me get into Ted Bundy’s car.’”
The portrayals of Bundy in the media will continue. Netflix just purchased the film “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” to add to their growing collection, starring Zac Efron as Bundy. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and it will hit theaters and the streaming platform in late 2019. “Conversations with a Killer: the Ted Bundy Tapes” is available on Netflix now.