Did Ted Bundy Kidnap Ann Marie Burr? A 1961 Cold Case From Tacoma

In 1961, Ann Marie Burr was a beautiful eight-year-old girl with golden blonde hair, hazel eyes, and a smile that could light up a room. On August 31, 1961, Ann Marie vanished. She has never been found.

The Night of Ann Marie’s Disappearance

The Burr family had been living in a house near the 3000 block of North 14th Street in Tacoma, Washington, where Ann Marie shared her bedroom with her three-year-old sister, Julie. Julie had recently injured her arm, so Ann Marie brought her to their parents’ room in the middle of the night to tell them the cast was bothering Julie. Their parents told them to go back to their room. That was the last time anyone ever saw Ann Marie.

An Unlocked Door and an Open Window

The following morning at approximately 5:30 a.m., Ann Marie’s mother went into the girls’ room and found Ann Marie missing. There was no sign of a struggle. Although she had locked and chained the front door the night before, Ann Marie’s mother found that the front door had been unlocked from the inside and left partly open. She also found that the living room window was wide open (a window the family left slightly ajar to accommodate a TV antennae wire), and the garden bench from the backyard had been moved in front of the open window.

Ann Marie’s parents had heard the family dog barking that night but had dismissed any danger, thinking the heavy rainstorm had frightened the dog. Ann Marie’s two brothers slept in the basement but had not been awakened. Ann Marie’s parents frantically searched their home, opening kitchen doors and looking under beds. They called the police.

Little Evidence at the Scene

When authorities arrived, they discovered a slight sneaker print outside the living room window, leading investigators to believe the kidnapper entered through the open window, abducted Ann Marie from her room, and left through the front door. There was little evidence at the scene to go on. Aside from the shoe print (which investigators believe was from a size 6 or 7 Keds sneaker), they also found a strand of red thread stuck in the window jamb. The Burrs’ neighbors had reported seeing someone in their yard peeping into windows a couple days prior to Ann Marie’s disappearance.

An Unsolved Kidnapping

Ann Marie’s disappearance was classified a kidnapping from the outset but left police baffled. Investigators questioned known sex offenders in the area but speculated she may have known her abductor. A month after her disappearance, on September 2, the Tacoma News Tribune reported intensive ongoing searches that included soldiers, police, and volunteers. However, more than 50 years later, Ann Marie remains missing.

At age 14, notorious serial killer Ted Bundy lived only a few blocks away from Ann Marie. No one suspected the 14-year-old boy of anything then, and it would be another 14 years before the police would finally become suspicious of Bundy.

Early Warning Signs

Bundy displayed disturbing behavior early on in his childhood; stories emerged about animal mutilation, violence, and incidents of sexual deviancy. One family story was that Bundy’s aunt had awoken from a nap to find that three-year-old Bundy had removed knives from the kitchen and placed them around her while she was sleeping.

Bundy’s Connection to Ann Marie

Around 1951, Bundy’s mother, Louise, had brought him with her to Tacoma to be closer to Bundy’s great-uncle Jack Cowell, a music professor. Cowell was also Ann Marie’s piano teacher. Bundy went to Mason Middle School and is said to have worked an early morning newspaper route at the time of Ann Marie’s disappearance. However, authorities did not consider the teen a person of interest in the case. A decade later, Ann Marie’s relatives would tell authorities that Bundy and Ann Marie knew each other and were friendly. She would not have feared him.

It was not until Bundy was arrested in the ’70s that Tacoma police began taking a closer look at his potential involvement in Ann Marie’s kidnapping. In fact, there are many who believe Ann Marie was Bundy’s first victim.

According to author Rebecca Morris, Bundy confessed to Ann Marie’s abduction and murder during a prison interview with a college professor who was researching serial killers. For her book, Ted and Ann—The Mystery of a Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy, Morris spent four years researching Bundy’s potential connection to Ann Marie’s disappearance.

Throughout the years, investigators who spent time with the serial killer have said that Bundy would often talk in third person and speak hypothetically when discussing how serial killers operated. Those who interviewed him over the years are confident he was speaking about his own crimes, but Bundy believed communicating in third person shielded him from prosecution for crimes he had not directly admitted to.

“Add One Digit”—How Many More Victims?

Bundy is believed to be responsible for killing 30 to 36 women, but it was reported that Bundy once commented to a police officer, “Add one digit to that and you’ll have it.” Based on Bundy’s own stories, it is not out of the realm of possibility that Bundy began actively killing in the 1960s and not a decade later, as previously thought.

Bundy’s attorney, John Henry Browne, agrees. He reportedly wrote a memoir that details conversations with his client prior to Bundy’s execution. Bundy had provided Browne, a Seattle criminal defense attorney, with a signed release of attorney-client privilege prior to his execution. Browne, who may have known Bundy better than anyone, claims Bundy told him he killed more than a hundred people—and not only women.

In 1986 (three years before Bundy’s execution), Ann Marie’s mother, Beverly Ann Burr, wrote Bundy a heartbreaking letter:

Dear Ted,

On August 31, 1961, just before school was to start for you and our children, there came a black rainy night with lots of heavy winds. You were 15 and had been wandering the streets late at night and peeping in windows and taking cars. I feel your FIRST MURDER WAS OUR ANN MARIE BURR. The bench from the back yard was used to climb in the living room; the orchard next door was a dark setting for a murder. What did you do with the tiny body? God can forgive you.

With all appeals likely to be refused and soon, there is nothing left for you in this world; there can STILL be everything good for you in the next.

Your life started going wrong somewhere when you were very young. There had to be a lot of bad things happen to make you have your strong feelings of hatred.

I came close to ruining my life because of my cruel actions and feeling no sorrow about them. A lot of strange circumstances brought help to me or I would not have found myself, even though I knew I needed help and my actions were getting out of control. You should have received that same help when you needed it.

God can still give the help to you—if you can gather together any strength you have left and try to feel a real sorrow inside for the horrors you have brought so many. You will face these horrors alone if there is no chance to be with God after you die.

You have NOTHING MORE TO LOSE IN THIS WORLD. By explaining your sickness, you will feel sorrow and gain everything in the next life, as God promised you and all of us. Please try. There isn’t much time. I am deeply sorry you did not get help when you needed it. I have not written until now because the end of life for you did not seem near until now.

Will you write back to me regarding Ann Marie?

Bundy replied to the letter in 1986 but never admitted to abducting the little girl. The Burrs adopted a daughter several years after Ann Marie’s disappearance, but both parents spent their lives haunted by questions. Ann Marie’s father died in 2003, followed by her mother in 2008. Both died never knowing what happened to their precious child.

If Bundy was responsible for Ann Marie’s death and the deaths of approximately 70 other victims that have never been accounted for, then he took that answer to his grave. Bundy was executed on January 24, 1989, and Ann Marie’s four siblings still wait for answers.

In 2011, fifty years after Ann Marie’s disappearance, authorities submitted evidence to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab for DNA testing. Authorities had developed a DNA profile utilizing a vial of Bundy’s blood preserved for decades. Several weeks later, they reported that the evidence gathered at the scene of Ann Marie’s disappearance did not contain enough measurable DNA to produce a complete DNA profile.

Mark Fulghum, public information officer for the Tacoma Police Department, told The Tacoma Herald, “This avenue hit a dead end, but the investigation itself is not over.”