Valentine Queen

Graffiti Art, Detroit

Ted Bundy’s last victim is Kimberly Leach. February 9th, 1978, she is twelve years old and has just been elected first runner for the Valentine Queen at her junior high. She’s forgotten her purse and walks back to the homeroom class with her friend, Lisa. It’s raining, windy, glum. They’re in Lake City, Florida. Kimberly’s excited. She’s happy and wants to get back to her PE class. She’s taken her necklace with the tiny gold scissors off and put it in her locker. Her mother’s a beautician, she doesn’t want to lose it. Lisa remembers she has left her book in another room in the school. The girls split up.

The rain is slow and slacked on Bundy’s windscreen. He turns the stolen van onto the street. He is out of control. Escaped, again, from prison and he needs something, his fix, he is desperate for it, to consume, inflict, anything. Three weeks before he’d attacked four women at their Chi Omega Sorority house. Two died of their injuries. Bundy sees Kimberly, purse in hand, waiting for her friend in the rain.

Witnesses assume the arguing man and girl are father and daughter, even as he pushes her into the van and drives off. Kimberly’s body is found a month later, April 7th, 1978, the day before her 13th birthday. She is discovered under a collapsed hog shed in Suwannee River State Park. Newspapers announce that she had been sexually abused and beaten before Bundy eventually strangled her. And left her under the hog shed, discarded and forgotten.

*

I always thought, why her? There seemed to be no piece of real information that articulated how odd it was that Bundy had raped and killed a twelve-year-old girl. To me, as a teenager reading about Bundy and the women, it seemed that people were so exhausted by Bundy’s crimes that it didn’t seem too shocking. He was out of control, sexually obsessed and perverted, he’d have any woman, any age. But would he? Did he pick her out of all the other girls he saw? I kept thinking of that question, of her time in his van. Bundy, this man on the run, out of prison again, is this is taste of freedom? This, this girl in a car, quivering, petrified because she knows what is going to happen.

I read the biographies, watched the documentaries. Her name was briefly mentioned. When it was, I clung to it. I think, as a teenager, I found the irregularity of age perplexing, interesting in some way. As an adult, I’ve grown to comprehend Bundy’s sexual addiction and view of women. He treated them as animals, he bite them, raped them, hurt them.

When Bundy was arrested, he described himself as a “cold-hearted son of a bitch” and threw Kimberley’s photograph on the floor. He had no conscience. He didn’t care that he had murdered over thirty women, let alone a young girl. Years later, in his interview with James Dobson, Bundy was again asked about Kimberly – why her? He seemed sheepish, unable to explain himself: “I can’t really talk about that right now. It’s too painful…” He then went on to discuss God and forgiveness. It is important to note, however, that this interview was more about the agenda of Dobson than Bundy himself. Dobson had spent his career discussing the dangers of pornography and, when a sexually obsessed and aided serial killer landed on his doorstep, he jumped at the chance to show just how bad pornography is. Bundy, it seems, went along with it and decided to show a bit of remorse when it came to the young girl. Many believe it was just a part of his psychopathic tendencies. I believe that Bundy became a star, like many of his serial killer kind, in prison. Women still came to his cells, worshipped him, begged for him not to be killed. And when discussing killing Kimberley Leach came up he knew he had to do something. Remorse is powerful, fake remorse even more so. We know Bundy wore different masks in his life, the one for everyday life and one for murdering his victims. We know Bundy was able to switch between two worlds and did it remarkably, nobody knew he was a killer. We know that he killed Kimberley Leach and he said sorry for it but sorry is a useless word, he can’t undo what he did. Bundy was no God, no star, just a man who killed. The man who killed the Valentine Queen.

*

I’ve made a vow. I’ve written it down. I’m going to visit Kimberly’s grave. I will take her a flower and lay it down. I will go to Suwannee River State Park and try to understand the end of her life a little bit more. Maybe I shouldn’t, maybe I should spend more time understanding Kimberly Leach as a person rather than a victim of Bundy. That’s the true horror, that the women become The Women of Bundy. Bundy’s girls. The girls of Bundy. People forget their names. The women and girls who existed independently from a man who enjoyed murder, whose main appetite functioned on the desire to destroy. People forget because of him and I have written another vow because of it – never to forget. Never to forget Karen Sparks and Lynda Ann Healy. Never to forget Donna Gail Manson and Susan Elaine Rancourt and Roberta Kathleen Parks and Brenda Carol Ball. Never to forget Georgann Hawkins and Janice Ann Ott, Denise Marie Naslund, Nancy Wilcox and Melissa Anne Smith. Never to forget Lauren Ann Aime, Carol DaRonch, Debra Kent, Caryn Campbell, Julie Cunningham, Denise Oliverson, Lynette Culver, Susan Curtis, Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy. Never to forget Karen Chandler and Kathy Kleiener, Cheryl Thomas and Kimberly Diane Leach. At the grave of Kimberly Leach, when I am done paying my respects and understanding what and how and when, I will go and scatter the written blots of ink to the sky, professing respect for all the women, free, at least, from Bundy’s bruised and battered hands.

Thomas Stewart

About Thomas Stewart

Thomas Stewart's fiction, essays and poems have been featured in The Cadaverine, Ink, Sweat and Tears, The Stockholm Review, Agenda Broadsheet, Flight Journal, The Fat Damsel, Lies, Dreaming, Anomaly, among others. His debut poetry pamphlet, 'Creation' is forthcoming by Red Squirrel Press. He has an MA in Writing from Warwick and a BA in English from South Wales. He enjoys folk music and is afraid of the dark. He can be found on Twitter at ThomasStewart08.

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