February 1, 2017

Remembering Linda Ann Healy

 Forty-three years ago yesterday, Linda Ann Healy enjoyed her last day of life before Ted Bundy would take it from her.

On January 31, 1974, Linda, a willowy 21 year old brunette, was a student at the University of Washington.  She was studying psychology and hoped to make a career out of helping children. She shared a rooming house in the popular "U District," located at 5517 Northeast 12th Street, with four other girls.  She and one roommate shared the basement area, turning it into two makeshift "bedrooms" with use of a piece of plywood.  Two other girls occupied two bedrooms on the upstairs, second, floor and one girl used the bedroom on the main floor of the home.  Their set up and accommodations were no different than thousands of others in the area.

On that Thursday, it was Linda's turn for kitchen duty and she rode her bike to the local Safeway, picking up items for dinner.  Later on, it would be discovered that Ted Bundy was in the Safeway as well, cashing a check.

Linda in her high school graduation photo
Linda likely had a lot on her mind.  Not just dinner for that evening but her parents were coming over for dinner on Friday, the following evening, and she and her roommates were planning a party for Saturday.  Furthermore, Linda had a morning job announcing the ski reports for a local station before she headed to the university for classes.

That evening, after all five women had sat down and enjoyed dinner together, several of them would head over to Dante's, a local tavern that was a favorite of the college crowd.  The girls could walk, where they met up with friends.  They enjoyed a pitcher or two of beer before deciding to call it a night shortly before 9:45.  One of the group's friends had to catch a 9:45 bus and would later be precise about the time.  It is unlikely that Linda or anyone in her group would have noticed Ted Bundy in the tavern, watching Linda intently.

As she had done in many previous evenings, Linda watched a bit of tv with her roommates before saying goodnight and heading downstairs.  She changed into her nightgown, set her alarm clock for 5:30, turned out the light and went to sleep. Her roommate would come downstairs later, around 1:30, and see and hear nothing out of the ordinary.  She would sleep soundly until 5:30, when Linda's alarm clock began buzzing insistently.  When her own alarm went off around 6, she shut it and Linda's off, noticing that Linda's bed was neatly made - - something Linda almost never did, as she had to be at the radio station at 6.  Shrugging it off, the roommate got dressed and left for her classes.

Around 7 a.m., Linda's manager at the radio station called to find out where his reliable employee was.  A roommate with a later class schedule answered the phone and went downstairs to see if Linda had overslept.  She saw that Linda was not there, nor was there anything amiss.  She too left for school.

By 3 p.m. that day the women compared notes.  None of them had seen Linda at school or heard from her.  Their concern grew when they realized that Linda's bike was still at home and Linda's parents were due for dinner in just a few hours.  One of the women called all of Linda's friends, even her ex-boyfriend, hoping to find her.  With no luck, she finally dialed Joyce Healy, Linda's mother, who knew immediately something was very wrong.

The first officers to respond to this missing persons call had little concern.  "Missing" students in a college town were a dime a dozen and the majority of these cases solved themselves when the "missing" person showed up within hours.  This was the 70s, too, when young people frequently went off to "find themselves," and hitchhiking around the state or even the country was not uncommon.  Despite the Healy family's protests that Linda would never just walk away from her life, the officers felt certain she was gone of her own volition and would return shortly.  As they saw nothing suspicious in her basement bedroom upon a cursory look, they left.

Two hours later, a roommate's mother, a friend of the police chief, called and got them back.  This time a homicide detective came with them.  What they found sent shivers down the spines of Linda's loved ones and became the start of what was one of the most inexplicable and unusual disappearances on record.

The detective pulled back the bedspread of Linda's made bed.  He immediately saw the blood, a large splotch of it on the bottom fitted sheet and a stain in the pillow, missing its usual pillowcase.  An inspection of her closet led to the discovery of her nightgown, hung neatly on a peg, with dried blood caking the back of the neckline.  Taking into account that Linda's backpack, a blouse, pair of jeans and boots were missing, the detective at first believed that Linda had suffered a nosebleed and had gone somewhere to have it attended to.

The theory seems rather preposterous today (although maybe that's with the hindsight of knowing what actually happened to Linda).  If Linda had a nosebleed, would she have bled down the back of her nightgown?   Would she have bled so much as to leave a large stain on her bed?  Why would she take her pillowcase?  Wouldn't she wake a roommate or leave a note? And why on earth would someone who rarely, if ever, made her bed on any other day make her bed if she was having a medical emergency?

Yet the initial theory is understandable.  How could someone -- anyone - - sneak into the house without awaking any of its occupants, assault Linda without waking her roommate sleeping behind a slight partition and then smuggle Linda's unconscious or dead body out?  It seemed even more far-fetched than the nosebleed theory.

And yet . . . it would turn out that was exactly what happened.

Linda's friends and family would continue to search for her in the following weeks and months.  The police, no idea that her disappearance was the start of terror for women and girls in multiple states, contacted every person they could find that had any interaction with Linda and came up with nothing.  Linda Ann Healy was an average college student with nothing in her past to suggest that she might be a victim.

It would be a long thirteen months before Linda's fate was known with certainty.  On March 1, 1975 hikers on Taylor Mountain would stumble across a skull.  The location would turn out to be a dumping ground of sorts for the killer of not just Linda Healy but also Susan Rancourt, Kathy Parks and Brenda Ball.  Partial remains of four women were discovered there; Rancourt, Parks and Ball were identified by their skulls and remaining teeth. Linda, the first one to go missing, was identified on the basis of a single tooth, found in a lower mandible.  Her skull was not recovered, nor any other part of her or her belongings.

In 1989, shortly before his execution Ted Bundy confirmed that he had spirited Linda away that windy evening of January 31-February 1, 1974.  While not every detail was confirmed or given, I believe he had been stalking Linda.  His cousin knew one of Linda's roommates.  In fact, Ted visited the home where Linda lived after her disappearance and could possibly have been there before January 31.  He took some of the same psychology classes that Linda did at the U and he moved in her circle, at least peripherally.  He was in the Safeway store at the same time she was on that last afternoon of her life.  He did admit to going to her home that day and, upon finding the front door unlocked and no occupants home, entered and walked about.  I think this may have been either in the afternoon while everyone was out on errands or at school or after dinner, when Linda and friends went to Dante's.  This would have given him a perfect opportunity to locate Linda's room - - if he didn't already know.  Ted, by this point, was a well practiced voyeur.

I think he watched Linda at Dante's.  I think he returned back to the house and watched until he was certain everyone had gone to bed and was asleep.  I think he had probably left himself an entrance during his earlier exploration and he used that to get to the basement.   While he stated at one point that he strangled Linda, I think it's more likely, given the amount and location of blood, as well as what we know with certainty he did to others victims, that he struck her in the head.  I believe he used her pillowcase to wrap around her head to keep the blood from spreading.  He then took off her nightclothes and redressed her, either in an attempt to conceal the abduction for as long as possible or because he preferred her dressed in her normal college attire.  He then, amazingly, picked her up and carried her outside to his waiting car.

Even being early in the morning - - sometime between 1:30 when Linda's roommate went to bed and 5:30 when her alarm went off - - this was a college town.  There was always activity.  Bundy would have had to park his car on the street in front of the house or in the alleyway behind it, blocking any other traffic.  Either location was a huge risk for someone carrying a body.  And yet, he did it.

Along with Georgann Hawkins' June 1974 abduction, also from the University of Washington, Linda's kidnapping and murder is one that shouldn't have happened . . . and yet it did. It put paid to the theory that living in a group ensured your safety.  More importantly, it took a lovely young woman away from her family, friends and life.

Linda is mostly remembered as Ted Bundy's first victim (something I am certain she was not.)  She was much more than that. By all accounts, she was a gregarious, caring and sweet young woman who worked with handicapped children (she had pictures of those children on the wall in her basement bedroom.)  She had pretty blue eyes and a dulcet voice, both for singing and for broadcasting.  She was a loving and loved daughter, sister and friend.

The grave of Linda's father with a memorial to Linda
photo: findagrave.com 

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