In the memories of those who loved them, Susan Davis and Elizabeth Perry are forever 19, as they were that Memorial Day weekend, 1969.
All that the college pals could have become was ended 24 years ago by an evil intruder who brutalized and killed them in woods just off the Garden State Parkway.The slayings shocked a gentler era when most parents still believed their children were safe on holidays at the seashore. No one ever was arrested or charged.
But the parents of Elizabeth Perry said in the days leading up to this year's holiday they are at peace because they believe their daughter was avenged when serial killer Theodore Bundy was executed in Florida in January 1989.
"We loved her dearly, but we couldn't bring her back, and we had to go on," her mother, Margaret Perry, said from the couple's home at Mercer Island, Wash. "We are convinced that when Ted Bundy died, our daughter's killer got his comeuppance."
Bundy biographer Richard Larsen, a close friend of Elizabeth Perry's parents, said he is convinced the women's deaths were the serial killer's "first adult, planned crimes," and that what followed was "a complete circle from the East Coast to the West Coast, back to the Rocky Mountains and then down to Florida."
Investigators from the New Jersey State Police have known for more than a decade that Bundy was raised in Philadelphia, that he was attending Temple University there in 1969, and that he was, as one put it, "a strong suspect."
"There was never enough to say for sure that he did it," said Maj. Thomas Kinzer, one of the original detectives on the murders, who now commands Field Operations for the department. "It remains an open investigation."
Larsen, a former reporter and author of the book and television movie "The Deliberate Stranger," said it no longer has to be.
Bundy was here. Bundy was a killer. The crime has Bundy's homicidal style resonating all through it.
Larsen believes that when the two young women drove out of Ocean City before dawn on Friday, May 30, 1969, they were heading into a trap laid by a 22-year-old Ted Bundy, who probably had stalked them on the beach and was waiting up the Parkway pretending to be hurt to get them to stop.
Perry and Davis had driven to the Jersey Shore for a three-day holiday. They planned to travel to Camp Hill and then on to see Davis' brother graduate from Duke University. They stopped for breakfast at the Somers Point Diner, and were headed up the Parkway before 6 a.m.
A New Jersey trooper found Davis' powder-blue convertible abandoned alongside the highway about 10 a.m. He had it taken to a private garage in Northfield, where it remained for three days.
Within eight hours of the young women's departure, their parents knew their daughters were missing.
By Monday, police realized Davis' car had been impounded and went to the site two miles north of the Somers Point interchange where it had been found. About 1:30 p.m., searchers walked 200 feet into the woods and found the bodies buried under piles of leaves.
Just after Memorial Day 1969, Bundy went west. Larsen believes he made the trip in a car borrowed from a Temple faculty member.
Larsen was chief political writer for the Seattle Times, and dealt often with Bundy, who was a worker in Republican political campaigns. Then Bundy went to Utah to attend law school, and eventually was caught trying to kidnap a young girl.
"The bells went off," said Larsen. Larsen and other reporters were able to trace Bundy's credit-card purchases of gasoline, and figured out he was around where girls disappeared.
Bundy escaped twice, killed many times more and was finally caught and convicted and put to death in Florida.
Investigator Kinzer said that two New Jersey detectives tried to interview Bundy in 1988 about the Somers Point slayings, but that he would not discuss the crimes.
Kinzer said he did locate Bundy's aunt in Philadelphia, who told him that her nephew could not have gone to the Jersey Shore that weekend because he had been in an auto accident and had a cast on his leg. There was no record of the accident, Kinzer said.
"Bingo," said Larsen. He said Bundy used a leg cast, an arm cast or crutches, or a combination of the three to lure victims.