Ted Bundy, the prolific serial killer who confessed to murdering at least 30 young women in the 1970s, could soon have more deaths added to his toll. Police in Florida have found a vial of his blood, allowing them to create for the first time a full DNA profile that they hope will help solve a string of cases.
The vial was discovered in the Tallahassee Crime Laboratory, where it had been since 1978 when Bundy was arrested for the murder of a 12-year-old local girl. Most biological evidence in the case was destroyed years ago and detectives were "really surprised" to find the well-preserved sample in a file.
Bundy went to the electric chair in 1989, aged 42, after being found guilty of three homicides. Only 20 of his victims have ever been identified, but he has been linked to dozens of unsolved murders over a four-year period from 1974.
Some estimates put Bundy's potentiallist of victims at almost 100, across several US states. Since most of the women he is known to have killed were violently attacked and then raped, it is highly probable that he left DNA evidence.
Linking Bundy to surviving evidence has until now been difficult. He was executed before the advent of DNA technology, and forensic experts have previously been unable obtain anything that might allow them to build a satisfactory profile.
Letters sent by Bundy were examined, but found not to contain surviving saliva samples. A dental mould of his teeth taken at the time of his trial had been contaminated by excessive handling. And a tissue sample taken from Bundy's body before he was cremated had deteriorated to the extent that only a partial profile could be created.
The blood sample was remarkably well preserved, allowing David Coffman, the laboratory's Chief of Forensic Services, to extract what he described to the Associated Press as "a beautiful profile".
It will be added to the FBI's national DNA database on Friday, allowing detectives pursuing cold cases from the time Bundy is believed to have been active to confirm his involvement in unsolved crimes or eliminate him from inquiries.
Among the first cases that it may help solve is the abduction of Anne-Marie Burr, eight, who disappeared from the bedroom of her home in Tacoma, near Seattle, in 1961. Bundy grew up nearby, and she is often cited as his first suspected victim.
"From a historical standpoint, there is this belief that Ted Bundy could be responsible," said detective Gene Miller, who leads the Tacoma Police Department's cold case unit. "It's a question that needs to be answered... Ann Marie's family wants to know. Her parents have died but her siblings still don't know what happened to their big sister."