Triangle journalist recalls his experience interviewing serial killer Ted Bundy

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Ted Bundy confessed to at least 30 murders. The state of Florida executed him 30 years ago.

In an exclusive interview, CBS 17 sat down with journalist Mark Pinsky, who traveled from the Triangle to the Florida Panhandle for a one-on-one interview with one of America’s most notorious serial killers.

“He’s the creepiest guy I ever met,” Pinsky told CBS 17’s Zak Dahlheimer. “What goes through my mind is one of the worst stories I’ve ever had to cover in my life.”

Throughout his career, Pinsky has covered capital murder and racial injustice cases. In the 1970s, he called the Triangle home, working as a freelance writer.

“I saw journalism as a way to make social change,” Pinsky said.

In 1978, he received a call for an assignment in Tallahassee, Florida.

“Because I specialized in the death penalty, an attorney I worked with before on a North Carolina case called me and said, ‘Would you like to interview Ted Bundy?’ I said, ‘Well, okay,” Pinsky said. “He was incommunicado, as far as the press was concerned. This was to be the first face-to-face interview since his arrest.”

Known for his good looks, charm and confidence, Ted Bundy had just been captured in Florida, accused of killing two coeds at Florida State University.

Bundy also had been suspected of raping, abducting and killing other women across the Pacific Northwest.

“It was a big national story, and I thought it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Pinsky said.

Pinsky recalls the moment he walked into the jail cell, locking eyes with Bundy.

“He was sitting at a table or a desk inside his cell. Playing on the radio was classical music from the local public radio station,” Pinsky described. “He had kind of a faint smile when I walked in. I noticed behind him what looked like a professional looking rope, which one does not expect to see in a high-security jail cell. I asked him about it, and he said, ‘Oh yes. I tore up my sheets. And I wove this rope. And I used it for jumping rope to stay in physical shape.”

“He wasn’t at all demonic,” Pinsky added. “I think he knew his job, at that interview, was to charm me and to put me at ease.”

In his New Times article titled “Just an Excitable Boy?” Pinsky wrote about his conversation with Bundy.

“He was all of the things that I thought a murderer wouldn’t be,” Pinsky said. “Half of me knew that he was this monster. He had done this stuff. And half of me had just had this experience of sitting with a normal-seeming person, demographically, much like myself.”

Pinsky joined reporters from around the world at Bundy’s trial in Miami, Florida in 1979.

“He relished the spotlight,” Pinsky said. “He sort of strode and stalked the courtroom. Cross-examining people. Just loving the attention and the limelight that he knew he was getting in that case.”

A jury eventually found Bundy guilty of killing the two FSU coeds, and in a separate trial, his final victim, 12-year-old Kimberly Leach.

In January 1989, Bundy was executed in Florida’s electric chair. Outside the Florida State Prison, people celebrated.

Since then, Ted Bundy has been the subject of books, movies and documentaries, including the Netflix series, “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.”

“It’s morbid curiosity,” Pinsky said. “It’s that dissonance of someone who looks so normal, or better than normal, doing this monstrous thing. It’s just hard to get your head around it.”

Now, Pinsky looks back on the interview.

According to an article Pinsky wrote for the Los Angeles Times in 1989, he also reflected on Bundy’s parting words he wrote on Pinsky’s notepad following their interview.

According to the Los Angeles Times article, Bundy wrote, “Dear Mark, Thank you for allowing me this interview. Theodore Robert Bundy.”

“I think he was a charming sociopath, good at what he did,” Pinsky said.

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