After waiting and wondering about the fate of her young daughter, who vanished into thin air from a high school parking lot 14 years ago, Belva Kent may finally be on the verge of an answer.
Kent, like Utah lawmen from several jurisdictions and family members of other victims, was anxiously awaiting information that could solve the disappearances and murders of eight Utah women in the mid-1970s - unsolved cases that have haunted detectives for more than a dozen years.Salt Lake County Sheriff's Detective Dennis Couch conducted a 90-minute interview Sunday night with condemned serial killer Theodore Bundy, who provided specific times, dates and places on some Utah murders and vague information on others.
"Bundy has given information to another investigator (from Washington state) that there were a total of eight Utah victims," said Salt Lake County Sheriff Pete Hayward, who refused to comment on just how much information Bundy gave Couch.
"Bundy talked in specifics about the five cases we pointed out to him, but beyond that I don't want to comment at this time."
Utah investigators - presumably officers from Salt Lake City and Salt Lake, Utah and Davis counties - will now pore over the information contained on the tapes, some of which is particularly gruesome.
Couch went to Bundy's maximum-security prison cell at Florida State Prison last week to talk about five cases in particular: Nancy Wilcox, who disappeared Oct. 2, 1974; Melissa Smith, who was kidnapped Oct. 27, 1974, and was later found murdered; Laura Aimee, who was kidnapped Nov. 27, 1974, and who was also later found murdered; Debra Kent, who disappeared Nov. 8, 1974; and Nancy Baird, who vanished without a trace July 4, 1975.
At the request of BYU Police Chief Robert Kelshaw and Salt Lake City Detective Pat Smith, Couch also wanted to talk to Bundy about two other cases: the 1975 disappearance of 14-year-old Sue Curtis from a BYU Youth Conference; and the killing of 17-year-old Debbie Smith, whose decomposed body was found April 1, 1976, near Salt Lake International Airport.
Both Hayward and Couch refused comment on exactly which Utah cases Bundy confessed to. "We want to make sure every bit of information possible is given to the families of these girls before we make that information public," Hayward said.
"We also want time to go over all the information with the different police agencies involved and analyze it before we make any statements." Hayward said it may be several days before the information obtained by Couch is made public
Hayward did say, however, that investigators can now place Bundy in Provo as early as 1970, when Bundy was 23 years old. Bundy, in fact, visited Provo many times and was familiar with the area.
"That certainly widens the window of time we are looking at in terms of unsolved cases," Hayward said.> Bundy was scheduled to meet with members of the press Monday to answer questions, but the press conference was canceled without reason.
Bundy met with Couch from about 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday - about one hour longer than Bundy had agreed to. Earlier, Bundy had canceled a Sunday afternoon meeting with Couch, apparently in anger over Utah's refusal to intervene on his behalf. Bundy is seeking a stay of execution to allow him more time to reveal details of how he abducted, sexually abused and murdered between 22 and 38 women infive Western states and Florida.
"Bundy's attorneys called and simply wanted to know if I was interested in coming to Florida. They said they wanted a representative from our office to come," said Utah Attorney General Paul Van Dam. "I told them Detective Couch was an acquaintance and that he had worked for me before and that I believed he could handle our representation.
"They suggested that it (the interview) would likely take more than a couple days. I told them I was not willing to be an advocate for any delay. If they wanted to talk, fine, but that I would not intercede."
Florida Gov. Bob Martinez has repeatedly refused Bundy's offer to exchange information on the killings for a stay of execution, saying he would not "negotiate with a killer."
Bundy has said through his attorneys that it could take several months to recall details and tell all he knows about the killings. So far, Bundy has confessed to killing eight women in Washington state, two in Idaho, eight in Utah and three in Colorado. He is also under three death sentences in Florida for the 1978 bludgeoning deaths of two Chi Omega sorority sisters in Tallahassee. He is scheduled to die early Tuesday morning for abducting and killing 12-year-old KimberlyDiane Leach from Lake City, Fla.
On Sunday, Bundy also met with Idaho investigators and confessed to two homicides that investigators knew little about.
Idaho Attorney General Jim Jones confirmed he received a call on Wednesday requesting that a representative from his office be sent to Florida. "It took us by surprise because we were not aware of any connection with Bundy and our state," Jones said.
"He gave detailed description of when, where and how, but at this time we're not in a position to release details. If we can verify the details, we'll release the information as soon as we can notify the next of kin."
He also said Bundy's attorneys were seeking his intervention to delay the execution, but Jones told them there would be no deals.
Besides Idaho, authorities from Colorado and Washington state remained at the prison hoping for more time with Bundy before his 5 a.m. MST Tuesday date with "Old Sparky" - Florida's infamous electric chair.
Lawmen trying to question Bundy are increasingly frustrated and angry with the 42-year-old condemned man, whom they accuse of orchestrating the circus-like events and circumstances surrounding the confessions. Bundy's "on-again, off-again" attitude toward interviews is prompting a number of angry outbursts.
Most lawmen recognize that Bundy is manipulating them in a last-minute attempt to buy more time. "Sure we want to know (about the crimes)," said one Washington investigator, "but not to the extent of keeping him alive.
"Bundy is the quintessential manipulator, and it's our opinion he's doing that again."> Hayward agrees, saying Bundy is like a master puppeteer, pulling every string for maximum effect. "He's playing the big game, he's at the height of his glory now. He has everyone dangling from his string, and he loves it."> Unfortunately, the game-playing could mean that the bodies of five of the eight Utah victims will never be found. While one report said Bundy gave Couch maps of where he dumped or buried the bodies, Hayward said it may not be enough to pinpoint exact locations. "If he was really sincere, he would have given everyone the time to delve into the information," Hayward said. "Now we have to accept his word on the time and places of each crime. We don't have any choice."
While the interview revealed considerable detail about Bundy's Utah crimes, Bundy was reportedly detached and very tired. During the interview he would cover his eyes with his hands and appear to nod off, only to revive himself and continue his sordid account.
Bundy is currently in a 9-foot by 12-foot death watch cell about 30 feet from the execution chamber. Most of his personal belongings have been removed. "He is very subdued, he recognizes this is a very serious point in the process," said Bob McMasters, spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections. "He realizes this is it."
But Bundy's attorneys haven't thrown the towel in yet - continuing his legal appeals, which could reach the U.S. Supreme Court sometime Monday or early Tuesday. On Monday, Bundy;s attorneys were to present a petition to the Florida governor claiming Bundy cannot be executed because he is currently insane.
Florida authorities have anticipated the move and have three experts standingby to determine Bundy's mental competence.