In Miami it is the mean season of not enough and of too much: not enough gasoline and too much sun. There is a lack of rain and a lack of tenderness. A man at a movie theater was stabbed to death because on his way out he stepped on the toes of another patron. Two babies have died at an overheated, overcroweded day-care center. Police say that since January the area has averaged at least one cocaine murder a week. This is the summer when the tate of Florida showed the rest of the nation that it means business by conducting the first involuntary public execution in 14 years.
The closest thing to a distraction, if it can be called that, is the trial of Theodore Robert Bundy at the Dade County Metro Justice Building, an ongoing daily drama of almost monstrous fascination.
Bundy, 32, is on trial for the murder of two coeds at Florida State University in Tallahassee on January 15, 1978, but more importantly, according to the FBI, he is a suspect in 37 other sex slaings.
He may be, on the one hand, the most prolific mass murderer in American history. He may be, on the other hand, a man who in the words of Dick Larsen, a polictical writer for the Seattle Times who covered Bundy when he was rising in the local Republican Party, a man with a tragic history of "Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, an existential figure."
As a former law student, Bundy is participating in his own trial. He sits at the table for the defense, a pen poised in his left hand, scratching notes on a yellow legal pad, rifling through manila folders, rising occasionally to question withnesses or to tell the judge, "I object."
Of all the astounding factors about this trial, perhaps most astounding is the amount of television coverage it has generated. At one point, all there networks were on hand, and a total of 27 local stations have been accredited to cover the trial; local, that is, in Utah, Colorado, Washington state and Florida. The ninth floor of the courthouse is an electronic carnival; many reporters prefer it to the fourth floor courtroom, because they can drink coffee and hear better, and they have access to instant replay if they want to check a quote. Even presiding Judge edward Cowart could not resist a tour of the ninth floor media room; he professed "amazement" at the technology that has been sommoned to cover the trial.
The reporters come from the various states that have since 1974 been terroized by the disappearance of young women. Police say that most of the women had extroadinarily similar appearances, long dark half parted in the middle. They were last seen in rough activites, acts of surpassing innocence. One was on her way to her dorm at college to study for a Spanish test. Another had just put some clothes in a washer at a laundromat. Two young women were last seen sunbathing at a state park, helping a stranger named Ted, wearing an arm cast, who had asked them to help put his sailboat on his VW. One young woman disappeared from a resort hotel in Aspen on her way to her room to get a magazine. All of them died.
Ted Bundy is a household word in many homes in these states. Not only is he a suspect in these slayings, but he is also a convicted kidnapper in the state of Utah. He faces formal murder charges in Colorado. He has twice escaped from jail in the Aspen area, the last time on December 30, 1978.
As might be expected, Bundy's escape from jail in Aspen inspired irreverence; Aspen is a place where the only thing that is sacred is the right to view everything irreverently. Bundy was elevated almost to the status of a folk hero in that town. People wore T-shirts with this slogan: "Ted Bundy is a one night stand." The local radio station had a Bundy request night: "Movin' On" and "Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady," were two popular selections. Someone even wrote a song to him: "So let's salute the mighty Bundy here on Friday, gone on Monday. All his roads lead out of town it's hard to keep a good man down."
Bundy fled from Aspen to the University of Michigan and then headed south to Tallahassee, where he lived in a rooming house six blocks from the Chi Omega sorority. Sixteen days after his escape, Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman were bludgeoned to death in their beds by a club-wielding intruder.
Ted Bundy once told a reporter from Utah Holiday magazine that he does not mind talking to the media because it is his way of destroying "the myth that I am some kind of distorted, disordered, disturbed person. When I get out, I want to remain as anonymous and inconspicuous as possible for the rest of my life as long as I can be free. I read a quot that struct me: 'I would rather live a life-time in anonymity than have a dishonest fame.'"
There is thus far only one certainty in this trial: The anonymity of Ted Bundy has received a severe blow. ABC is running the media pool and, according to Bill Konwles, southern bureau chief of ABC News, it is the largest affiliate pool ever. He called it "a very unprecedented situation made possible by satellite technology." The video feeds are being transmitted on ground lines to Atlanta, where they are picked up by Rest START II, 22,000 miles up in the air, and then beamed across the country.
Jane Wallace, a reporter for KBTV in Denver, said she has been feeding one to four reports a day. "I have been hearing 'good job, excellent' from my boss, but it is hard to tell whether the station is more impressed by the technology, the fact that they can get statellite reports from Miami, than the reports themselves. I have no idea what the average viewer thinks. Our management wants us to stay; it is very expensive, and they haven't pulled us back. I guess that's the ultimate vote."
Ruth Walsh of KOMO in Seattle says, "People are tuning in like crazy. They're sitting in front of their television sets yelling and screaming. My station has done 'incidentals,' and the viewership has been very high."
She explains it this way: "During the first six months of 1974 there were eight women missing. All lived locally, all their families and relatives lived locally. It was a time of incredible fear, people were barricading their doors, getting dogs, refusing to let their 18-year-old daughters go out on dates. Although Bundy has never been charged with these murders, nine out of 10 people in Seattle think he is guilty."
"From what I know, our phone calls have mostly been from fanatics who are serious about any sort of coverage being given to what they call a mass murderer. The mood in Seattle is that even if somebody else confessed, they wouldn't believe it.
"What is most amazing is that the Bundy trial is the biggest news story that will happen in Seattle this year and it's happening as far away as you can get in this contiguous country."
Martha Jones, a reporter at KFL in Utah, said that she has been producing a minimum of one story a day. She said a couple of time she had called in to say there was no big story, but her editor ordered her to send something: "We're getting pressure from the affiliates." She said her station had received a couple of negative letters from people who said they no longer wished to hear anything about Ted Bundy. They say they no longer wish to hear anything, that is, "until he's executed."
Public television, under the direction of Ed Hula, is sending out a half-hour broadcast every evening called the State of Florida vs. Theodore Robert Bundy. It is seen in Colorado, Utah and Washington state as well as in New York, Boston, St. Louis, New Jersey, Louisiana and Chicago. Each broadcast is preceded by the caveat: "May not be suitable viewing for children."
Theodore Bundy, handsome and articulate, was once a man with a fine future. He graduated from Washington State University, a psychology major, in 1972. He attended the University of Utah law school, where he converted to Mormonism. He was a campaign aide in the governor's race of Gov. Dan Evans, in which, donning a flase mustache, he often attended public appearances of Evans' opponent. At one point he worked at a crisis hot line as a counselor, and he was also a member of the Seattle crime commission that helped draft the state's anti-hitching law.
Ted Bundy made connections along the way. As he told police in Pensacola, Fla., when he was arrested in February 1978, "I had a lot of important friends in Washington. I'm not bragging or anything." Bundy was born on Nov. 24, 1946, in a home for unwed mothers in Burlington, Vt., his father a soldier returning from war. Shortly after hs birth, his mother, Louise, moved to Philadelphia, where she met John Bundy, whom she married and who later adopted the boy. The Bundys moved to seattle where they had four more children, two boys, two girls.
Louis Bundy works as a secretary at The Theater Department of the University of Puget Sound, and his father is a cook at a nearby naval installation. His parents are expected to attend the trial.
Bundy seems to enjoy the attention of his own trial.
One witness was asked to identify him as the man whom he had once arrested in Utah in a residential neighborhood in the middle of the night with a suspicious array of articles in his car, including a crowbar, an ice pick and panty house with holes cut out as if for a mask. The passenger seat had been dismantled. "It's that man here, the one with the pen in his mouth, said the witness. Bundy quickly removed the pen, waving it away from his mouth toward the press and the television camera, which is documenting his every move. He smiled broadly.
One day, while dressed in a Seattle Mariners T-shirt in honor of his hometown baseball team, Bundy conducted his own triple-header, playing the roles of defendant and attorney and witness. He slipped in and out of his courtroom roles easily. Police have accused him of making another sort of transition equally easily: from upstanding citizen to vicious killer, back and forth, a total of at least 39 times.
The case for the prosecution hinges on two points of anatomy, Bundy's nose and his teeth. A student from the Chi Omega sorority hous in Tallahassee is prepared to testify that the profile of the defendant is the same profile she saw on a fleeing figure at 3 o'clock in the morning on January. 15, 1978.
The defense was most meticulous about asking potential jurors whether they have regular dentists. Dr. Richard Souviron, a forensic specialist from the Miami area, is prepared to testify that the tooth marks left on the buttocks of one of the strangled victims were Bundy's and Bundy's alone. The defense has lined up several experts who are prepared to contest the conclusiveness of Souviron's findings, including Baltimore and University of Maryland dentist Duane Dovore.
Bundy's eyes are not a matter of evidentiary debate, although one prospective juror asked to be excused on he grounds that "when I look at him, it scares me."
If Ted Bundy is easily mistaken for a lawyer, his female friend Carole Boone, 32, is easily mistaken for a reporter. She is tall with henna-red hair and face is habitually studious and concerned, breaking only now and then into a slow smile when she feels the defense has scored a victory. In the corridors outside the courtroom, she mingles with the reporters, behaving like Bundy's publicity agent, setting facts straight and giving the defense's side of the evidence.
She resents the tag "Bundy's girl-friend." "It is completely offensive. You don't hear many 32-year-old men described as the boyfriends of persons, do you?"
Although she prefers to argue about evidence and facts, she did give a glimpse of Bundy's more human side.
"We have a million nicknames for each other," she said, giving two examples, "Bubbles," and "Boonecakes." She says that the defendant has a "playful, silly" side: "He has already sent Christmas cards for 1980 to me and my son." Her 14-year-old son, being tended by her ex-husband in Washington while she is at the trial, often calls the defendant "Uncle Bundy."
Boone met Bundy in the early '70s when they both worked for the State of Washington. Since coming to the trial two weeks ago, she has been fired from her job in petroleum allocation for the state. On a limited budget, she is crashing in various rooms at the Holiday Inn across from the courthouse, including the room of Ruth Walsh, the television reporter from Seattle.
She said that last winter Bundy wrote her long, impassioned letters discussing Marilyn Fencher's novel "The Women's Room": "He supports my career-oriented feminism, and he said he liked tthe novel because men and women don't often get a chance to know what it is like to be the opposite sex."
Asked whether she would consider marrying Bundy if he were free from jail, she responds with a smile that quickly converts into a giggle. "I'm not into that. I don't have the time or inclination. I am busy raising my son."
She says her chief purpose in being at the trial is to "Inject reality." "All of the nice things about Ted have been turned against him. His charm comes through in print as an almost mesmerizing, evil sort of charm. He is called handsome, but it is a devastating, overwhelming handsome. When they say he is articulate and witty, the wit is seen as macabre."
She says Ted's biggest problems are not "legal,"
He has, she says, "a media problem. an image problem."
Ted Bundy complains that his trial is being conducted with haste. It took one week to pick a jury and another to hear pretrial motions. On Friday Judge Cowart said he wanted the attorney to be prepared to deliver opening arguments on Saturday. Bundy rose to say his attorneys were not prepared. The judge stuck to his schedule.
"Then you'll start it without me, your honor," said the defendant. "That's fine," said the judge.
On Saturday Bundy was on hand for the opening of his trial in the presence of the jury of 12 peers, but he continued to criticize the judge's seeming emphasis on a speedy trial.
"The whole world."
"And the Big Eye." CAPTION: Picture 1, Theodore Bundy in the courtroom, by AP; Picture 2, Carole Boone in court, by AP