For today’s post, we’re back to a case that Bundy confessed to that remains classified as a missing persons case. We’re jumping forward slightly, to March 1975. Another slight difference is that this is the first case we’re covering from Colorado in the Bundy series. So – what happened to Julie Cunningham on the night of March 15, 1975? Let’s explore.
Who Was Julie?
I’m going to go back to sounding a bit like a broken record here, but there isn’t a lot of information available regarding Julie’s personal life, so we’ll go over some basics and conclusions I’ve drawn based on reading about her. Julie Cunningham was born on January 10, 1949. She was friendly and outgoing. She loved going out with friends. The term social butterfly seems fitting for her. In The Stranger Beside Me, Anne Rule Reported that Julie had gone through a tough breakup in early March of 1975, leading her to become depressed and despondent. Julie also had an interest in staying active, which was easy to achieve in Vail. She especially enjoyed skiing. In 1975, Julie worked two part time jobs – one as a ski instructor, and one as a cashier at a sporting goods store.
In the early evening hours of March 15, 1975, Julie left her apartment. She’d just gotten off of the phone with her mother. The call had apparently mostly consisted of talk about Julie’s recent heartbreak, and getting things off her chest made her feel a bit better. Julie decided to head down to a local tavern, where her roommate was already out for the night. She dressed in jeans, a brown jacket made of suede, boots, and a ski cap. But she never arrived at the tavern, and never arrived back to her apartment that night. In fact, no sign of Julie Cunningham has ever been found.
I normally give a rundown of the investigation in these missing persons posts, but I could find absolutely nothing about steps taken to find Julie in the days, months, and years after she went missing. I can only assume that the typical steps were taken – the missing persons report, the searches, the appeals for tips – but I simply can’t find anything about it online. If you have any info or newspaper clippings about the search for Julie Cunningham, shoot me an email. I would love to see them.
The Bundy Connection
The only things connecting Bundy to Julie’s disappearance are the fact that Bundy was known to be in the Vail area at the time of the disappearance, the fact that Julie matched his victim profile, and Bundy’s own confession. Those first two points are self-explanatory, so let’s get into the details of the confession. Bundy claimed that on March 15, 1975, he stopped in Vail and fell back onto an old ruse. He feigned a knee injury and hobbled down a street while carrying a pair of ski boots. The end game was to get someone – a young woman with dark hair – to help poor him to his car. And unfortunately, Julie was the kind soul to see him that night. She allegedly offered to help him to his car by carrying his ski boots for him. Of course he took her up on the offer.
In true Bundy fashion, however, he knocked her out when they reached his car. He then handcuffed her before closing her in the trunk of the car. Then Bundy claims he drove up near Rifle, Colorado. This drive is nearly 90 miles long and would have taken about an hour and a half. Once in Rifle, Bundy removed Cunningham from the trunk and strangled her to death. He left her body in the desert there, but apparently returned weeks later to bury her. Bundy offered no explanation as to why he took Julie so far away, but the idea seems to be that it would be harder to connect the missing persons case to a body being found if it was further away from the point of abduction. Bundy also offered no reasoning for burying her, saying it was just something he did.
If you have any information about Julie’s disappearance or current whereabouts, please contact the proper authorities. As this is one of the more vague Bundy confessions, the Vail Police Department has encouraged anyone who possibly has information to contact them. Vail PD can be reached via phone at 970-479-2200 in reference to case number 750806 and NamUs case number 12084.