On March 12th, 1974, Ted Bundy abducted 19-year-old Donna Gail Manson from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.
Although Bundy confessed to Donna’s murder shortly before his execution, investigators were unable to locate her body.
To this day, she remains listed as a missing person.
Donna Manson’s disappearance.
On that murky Tuesday evening, Donna Manson was planning on attending a folk dancing class at the College Activities Building.
She also had plans to attend a jazz concert at the library building on the Evergreen State College campus. This concert was due to begin at 8 p.m. in the main foyer.
Before she left, Donna seemed overly focused on her appearance. So much, in fact, that she decided to switch outfits several times.
However, Donna did not say anything to her roommates about meeting someone. Nor did she say that she was going on a date.
Donna left her dorm room shortly after 7 p.m. and set out for the College Activities Building, which was less than 200 yards away.
Because no one recalls seeing her at the folk dancing class or the jazz recital, it is unlikely that she ever made it that far.
At some point during her journey, it seems as though Ted Bundy managed to intercept the young college student and coax her into accompanying him to his car.
One of Bundy’s favorite “ruses” involved feigning an injury and intentionally dropping items in front of young women. If someone took the bait and offered him assistance, he would ask them if they could help him carry the item back to his vehicle.
In many cases, Bundy strategically parked his Volkswagen Beetle in quiet areas, away from potential witnesses. This gave him the time and the space to strike his unsuspecting victim over the head with a crowbar and abduct them.
The route that Donna Manson took.
In the aerial photograph below, we have highlighted the shortest route between Donna Gail Manson’s dorm and the College Activities Building. As you can see, the CAB building is right beside the library.
This route is only 0.1 miles long. The average person can walk it in less than two minutes.
It took six days for someone to report her missing.
When Donna failed to return to her apartment that night, her roommates didn’t believe that anything was amiss.
This is because Donna was a free spirit who hitchhiked on a number of occasions. It wasn’t out of character for her to go missing for days at a time.
As a result, it took six days for someone to report her missing.
It wasn’t until March 22nd that newspapers started to report on her case.
The search for Donna.
Following Donna’s disappearance, search teams combed the 990-acre campus using tracking dogs.
Volunteers searched the grounds on four separate occasions. Each time, up to 200 people took part. The surrounding brush-covered area around Evergreen State College was also probed for clues.
Sadly, despite their best efforts, investigators were unable to find any trace of the missing teenager.
Like many of Bundy’s victims, Donna Gail Manson had seemingly vanished.
A security guard stated that he saw Donna.
During the investigation, a campus security guard stated that he saw Donna walking back and forth along Overhulse Place between 8 p.m. and 9.30 p.m.
This road is south of Donna’s dorm building. A police report notes that it did not have any street lights at the time.
The security guard in question seemed pretty certain that it was Donna Manson. This is because he had seen the young woman around campus on a number of occasions.
His statement that she was wearing a maxi coat also matches up with her roommates’ description of her outfit.
This contradicts the widely accepted theory that she was abducted en route to the library.
If this was Donna, then it drastically changes the timeline of events.
Donna never attended the dance class or the recital at the library. Instead, it seems as though a security guard spotted her walking back and forth along a dark road that was roughly half a mile away.
The sightings in chronological order:
- The security guard sees Donna walking south along Overhulse Place at some time between 20:00 and 20:30.
- Half an hour later, he spotted her again. This time, she is walking north along the same road.
- Another thirty minutes goes by and he sees her for the third and final time. This time, she is heading south again.
The fact that she was walking up and down this road raises a number of possibilities.
- Donna was looking for someone and was unable to find them. Bear in mind that this was long before cellphones became a thing.
- She may have been attempting to hitch a ride. However, she might not have bothered raising her thumb at a campus security vehicle.
- She lost something and was looking for it.
Because Donna had an interest in alchemy, death and other unusual subjects, the police initially believed that she had committed suicide. However, they ruled this theory out after a psychiatrist looked at her writings and concluded that there wasn’t anything worrisome about them.
The fact that Manson often hitchhiked was also worrying to detectives. In their opinion, she may have thumbed a lift from her abductor.
Although Donna had hitchhiked in the past, there was no evidence to suggest that she was planning on going far that evening.
For example, she did not take her backpack or a change of clothes. Furthermore, the camera that she liked to bring everywhere was still in her dorm room.
Donna was Bundy’s third confirmed victim. Although the police suspected foul play from the start, nobody knew at the time that a serial killer was preying on women in the Washington state area.
However, as the months passed by and more girls went missing, it started to become apparent that Donna’s case was a part of a much larger and worrying trend.
One of the more “unique” theories at the time was that the women were being abducted into a slavery ring.
Was she planning on meeting Ted?
One alternative theory is that Donna was planning on meeting Ted that evening.
According to several authors, Bundy liked to hang around in college libraries. Therefore, it is possible that the pair crossed paths with one another at some point during the afternoon.
For example, Bundy may have approached Donna in the library. Then, after some casual conversation, he may have asked her to attend the jazz recital with him.
Although this theory is plausible, there is no evidence to back it up.
Her noticeable concern about her outfit does suggest that she was keen on impressing someone that evening. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that she had plans to meet anyone.
For example, she might have known that a romantic interest of hers was going to be at the concert.
Unfortunately, there are very few details about the events leading up to Donna’s disappearance.
Because spring break was just around the corner, the police didn’t get the chance to interview a number of potential witnesses until they returned to the campus two or three weeks later.
Sadly, by that stage, it is likely that people’s memories of the day in question were quite foggy.
Bundy confessed to burying Donna Manson on Taylor Mountain.
In 1989, Ted Bundy finally confessed to abducting and killing Donna Manson. Although he told King County detective Robert Keppel that he didn’t remember much about the crime, he did describe it as “nightmarish”.
During his interview with Keppel, Bundy stated that he left Manson’s body “up in the mountains”.
This was the same site where police discovered the remains of Brenda Ball, Susan Rancourt, Lynda Ann Healy and Roberta Parks.
However, Bundy did specify that he buried Donna in a slightly different place than the other victims.
Below is a partial transcript of Bundy’s interview with Keppel.
Keppel: OK. How about Donna Manson? The girl from Thruston County, Olympia. Where is she?
Bundy: Where is she? She should be… [on Taylor Mountain].
Keppel: Was she dumped out along the power line too or on a different road?
Bundy: That was different. That was different.
Keppel: What was different about it?
Bundy: Well, where she was, relative to the power line road.
Keppel: You told me before that Donna might be buried.
Bundy: Yea. Do you have any pictures [of the site]?
Although Bundy did point out a general location, subsequent searches of the area failed to unearth any trace of the missing 19-year-old.
Bundy claims that he incinerated Manson’s skull in his girlfriend’s fireplace.
Later on, in the same interview, Bundy told Keppel that the search team would never find Manson’s skull.
In his own words, it was “nowhere”. This is because he allegedly incinerated the skull in Liz Kloepfer’s fireplace.
According to Bundy, he then vacuumed up the ashes.
Bundy acknowledged that this was a bizarre and risky act on his part.
“… it’s a lot of work and certainly very risky, under the circumstances. I mean, the kids come home from school and there’s a roaring fire in the fireplace and it’s warm outside.”
There are some major doubts hanging over this story.
Burning a skull in an open residential fireplace would not be an easy feat. To turn human bone into ash, the temperature of the fire needs to reach somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even if Bundy had managed to achieve such a temperature, it is likely that large fragments of bone would have remained behind.
This is something that would have taken a lot of time and fuel to do.
Although it is very unlikely that Bundy did incinerate Manson’s skull, he did point out that it was “a lot of work”. The fact that he acknowledged this makes it difficult to completely dismiss his story.
For example, it is plausible that he was telling a half-truth. In other words, he may have attempted to burn the skull. Then, after he realized that his plan wasn’t working, he resorted to using an alternative method of disposal.
Bundy’s statement about it being warm outside is also questionable.
In Bundy’s interview, he stated that burning a skull in Liz’s fireplace was risky because it was warm outside.
However, historical weather data from the Seattle area shows that the maximum temperature that week was 57°F (14°C).
On the day after Donna Manson went missing, the highest temperature was 49°F (9°C). Furthermore, it did not reach 57 degrees until seven days later.
Judging by the data, the weather remained cool until March 26th.
This means that he was either lying about it being warm outside or the fireplace incident took place at least two weeks after the 19-year-old went missing.
Why would he lie about the skull?
Bundy was an egotistical liar who liked to toy with authority figures. Because of this aspect of his personality, we can never take his word as fact.
By the time he made this confession, his ex-girlfriend Liz Kloepfer had cut all ties with him. She had also published a book about their life together. Therefore, it is well within the realm of possibility that he created this story in order to inflict psychological pain on her.
In other words, this may have been his only way to get revenge on Liz.
That or he hoped that such a shocking revelation would somehow “jolt” her into reestablishing contact with him.
Because of his egotism, it is also plausible that he lied in order to boost his own notoriety. Seconds before he told Keppel about the skull, he joked about the newspaper headlines that his confession might generate.
As you can see, there are a number of reasons why Bundy might have lied about such an event.
On August 28th, 1978, two fishermen discovered the skeleton of a young female in the foothills of Mount Rainier.
A number of years later, the remains were lost due to a mix-up at the Pierce County sheriff’s department.
Although a number of articles have floated the possibility that this missing skeleton belonged to Donna, the facts do not seem to line up.
According to The News Tribune newspaper, the victim was 5 feet 7. However, Donna was only 5 feet tall. That is a pretty noticeable difference.
The remains in question were accompanied by a pair of blue jeans. This information conflicts with the missing person report for Manson, which states that she was wearing green slacks on the night that she disappeared.
The report notes that the victim was between the ages of 12 and 17. Donna, on the other hand, was three months away from turning 20.
Investigators sent photographs of the skeleton’s clothing to the girl’s parents, Marie and Lyle Manson. However, her mother was quick to point out that it wasn’t her daughter’s top.
Shortly after the discovery of the skeleton, Pierce County detective Roy Durham noted that the bones did not appear to date as far back as 1974.
The two fishermen discovered the victim near Eatonville. That is roughly 60 miles away from the Taylor Mountain site.
Unlike in the cases of Bundy’s other victims, there are no reports that the skull had fractures or showed any signs of blunt force trauma.
As you can see, all of the facts seem to disprove this theory.
Bundy changed his M.O. with Donna Manson.
Donna Manson was Ted Bundy’s third victim. During his first two attacks, Bundy broke into his victims’ houses and bludgeoned them while they were sleeping.
However, in this case, he changed his M.O. by abducting a woman from a public place.
It is also highly possible that this was his first time using a “fake injury” ruse.
By March of 1974, it seems as though his confidence was beginning to grow.
Instead of lurking around in the night and attacking his victims while they slept, he was now willing to approach women in public and attempt to lure them back to his car.