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1961 Disappearance—Did Ted Bundy Kidnap Little Ann Marie Burr?

Updated on January 10, 2017
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Kym L. Pasqualini is founder of Nation's Missing Children Organization and National Center for Missing Adults (CEO 1994-2010)

Cold case: Ann Marie Burr was abducted from her bedroom in 1961.
Cold case: Ann Marie Burr was abducted from her bedroom in 1961. | Source

Ann Marie Burr: Serial Killer's First Victim?

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.

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 parent’s room in the middle of the night to tell them the cast was bothering Julie's arm. Their parents told them to go back to their room. That was the last time anyone ever saw Ann Marie.

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 the front door had been unlocked from the inside and left partly open. She also found the living room window open wide (a window the family left slightly ajar to accommodate a TV antennae wire) and the garden bench from the back yard moved in front of the open window.

Ann Marie’s parents had recalled 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 police. 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. 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. There was little evidence at the scene to go on.

The Burrs’ neighbors had reported seeing someone in their yard peeping into windows a couple days prior to Ann Marie’s disappearance. 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. Nearly 52 years later, Ann Marie remains missing.

Home where Ann Marie Burr vanished in 1961.
Home where Ann Marie Burr vanished in 1961.
No sign of struggle in Ann Marie Burr's bedroom.
No sign of struggle in Ann Marie Burr's bedroom.

Bundy: The Serial Killer Next Door

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.

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 did know each other and were friendly. She would not have feared him.

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. It was not until the 1970s arrest of Bundy 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 to a college professor who was researching serial killers and interviewed him in prison. 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 that 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.

Bundy is believed to be responsible for killing 30 to 36 women, but it was reported that Bundy once commented to 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 1960’s and not a decade later, as 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.

Searchers for little Ann Marie Burr gather on the front page of The Tacoma News Tribune.
Searchers for little Ann Marie Burr gather on the front page of The Tacoma News Tribune.

A Desperate Letter to Ted Bundy

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

Preserved blood sample taken from Ted Bundy March 17, 1978.
Preserved blood sample taken from Ted Bundy March 17, 1978.

Still No Answer from Bundy

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.”

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.

Ted Bundy: The Making of a Serial Killer

Bundy's seemingly normal childhood.
Bundy's seemingly normal childhood.
Childhood photograph of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy.
Childhood photograph of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy.
Photograph from Woodrow Wilson High School where Ted Bundy graduated.
Photograph from Woodrow Wilson High School where Ted Bundy graduated.
Ted Bundy alluded to killing up to 100 women.
Ted Bundy alluded to killing up to 100 women.

© 2013 Kym L Pasqualini

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      Kent Evans 3 days ago

      Unfortunately, some articles make it appear that Ted Bundy lived a couple blocks away. The neighbor I am talking about never worked and had some mental issues. He did show an interest in the girl and would have been, if I remember correctly, closer to the correct age to have done such a thing. Now Ted Bundy was quite strong and maybe was in good shape so he could have done it.

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      Kent Evans 3 days ago

      I believe King 5 News did a story on Evening Magazine sometime in the early to mid 90's. The family believed Ted Bundy lived too far away to be involved. There was a neighbor Mrs. Burr was suspicious of. This makes more sense to me. I am not sure this segment can still be located.

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      Brian Moser 2 weeks ago

      It is sad, but I think we all know Ted did this. It just makes you wonder how many others there were before his first confirmed.

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      Aleta Ashlock 3 months ago

      I lived on 68th and J street when this happened. I used to have a reoccurring dream that Ann's body was in a garbage dumpster. I know this sounds strange but I used to have dreams and then my dreams would actually happen just as I had dreamed them. I always believed that Ann was Ted Bundy's first victim. I was only 11 years old when this happened but I still have the same dream. Does anyone else suspect the garbage dumpster?

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      Kim 5 months ago

      He was On an episode of killer kids

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      Bob clark 12 months ago

      One big problem with blaming Ted for this one. Where's the body???? He was 14, he must have used a bike to cover the 3 miles to her house. You can't drag a body off on a bike. The body would have been disposed of somewhere very close to the house if he did the crime. Yet no body ever found. Maybe because someone drove it away and hid it very well, something 14 year old Bundy couldn't do. A kid that age committing his first murder is simply not going to make a body disappear.

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      Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      I was born and raised in Tacoma and, like billybuc, I remember this so very well--the terror I felt (thinking perhaps I would be the next victim). Years later I was terrified once again, as "Ted" was snatching and murdering pretty young girls with long hair.

      Thank you for a well-written hub, and welcome to the community.

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      Sue 2 years ago

      he surely did this.

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      dougie 2 years ago

      I just saw a show about Ted Bundy last night. Naturally I had to google Ann Marie Burr and found this thread.

      I have lived in Tacoma since 1954 and I was ten when Ann Marie Burr was abducted. In 1961 I clearly recall this sad case. I remember thinking at the time that Ann Marie Burr was just slightly younger than myself and if this happened to her it could happen to me!

      I added, "God don't let me be kidnapped, murdered or anything else bad happen to me" to my bedtime prayers shortly after this incident happened. I kept that phtase

      Bundy went to the same H.S. (Wilson) as I did but a year or two ahead

    • profile image

      gaffo 2 years ago

      well, now we have too much fear Polly. (mean reason I stopped watching unrealistic fear mongering local TV news years ago. from TV news you'd like every other neighbor is a rapist/etc.) from one extreme to the other. as for ted, maybe, but 14 is a little young for serial killing. 18+ for all the other 20 or so I know of.

    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 2 years ago

      This is a great Hub. In 1951, we kids used to sleep out in the back yard during the summer months, by ourselves without any thought of bad happenings.

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 2 years ago from US

      Very interesting. I read all about Bundy years ago and it was so scary because he was so normal looking; even handsome you might say. He easily fooled girls into going to his car and who knows how many more dozens of times it happened? We can never be too careful with our little ones but way back then many people had no fear of open windows or even unlocked doors.

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      Dena 2 years ago

      Thank you for this article...

    • kymp profile image
      Author

      Kym L Pasqualini 2 years ago from Carefree, AZ

      Thank you so much Sparrowlet! I have spent 20-years in this field but happened upon her story and just had to write about it. To think we put Bundy to death with all of his secrets.

    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Oh wow, this was eerie and heartbreaking! It does seem like there are too many coincidences in this case for it not to have been Ted Bundy who did it. I never knew about this before this chilling hub. Good job.

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      Steven 3 years ago

      Maybe his grandfather did it.

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      Ali 4 years ago

      I always wondered if Bundy actually killed this little girl. If he did, how did he manage to do it at that age and what did he do with the body ? What was Bundy's reaction after the girl vanished ?

    • kymp profile image
      Author

      Kym L Pasqualini 4 years ago from Carefree, AZ

      Thank you so much Billy. I read your awesome article today so this means a lot coming from you!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Welcome to my world. I lived four blocks from the Burr's when this happened, and Bundy was our paperboy. It was huge news at the time and still remains with me all of these years later.

      Well done and welcome to HubPages!

    • kymp profile image
      Author

      Kym L Pasqualini 4 years ago from Carefree, AZ

      Thank you so much To Start Again! We can only hope for answers for her family and so many others. So many questions unanswered.

    • To Start Again profile image

      Selina Kyle 4 years ago

      wow. riveting-I couldn't stop reading. I've never heard of this case before. It's scary to think how easily this little girl was taken from her family, whatever the reason. Sure makes you want to squeeze your babies tight and tell them how much you love them! Thanks for sharing this and hopefully it leads to some answers.

    • kymp profile image
      Author

      Kym L Pasqualini 4 years ago from Carefree, AZ

      Thank you so much Lilly. Sadly, Ann Marie's case represents so many other families of missing persons throughout this country. When there seems there is nothing left, there is still hope.

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      Lori J Latimer 4 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

      Thank you for your good work. I hope you get answers for this old case.