February 19, 2015

Audiobook Review: TED AND ANN: THE MYSTERY OF A MISSING CHILD AND HER NEIGHBOR TED BUNDY by Rebecca Morris




Description:   At age three he was using knives to frighten his teenage aunt. By 14 he was a thief, animal abuser, and peeping tom who liked to pull little girls into the woods to scare them.

Ted Bundy killed at least 35 girls and women, and possibly hundreds. Was his first victim eight-year-old Ann Marie Burr who disappeared from their Tacoma, Washington neighborhood in 1961? Her body was never found and there were no clues, just two tenacious detectives who spent the rest of their lives trying to solve the case. Was Bundy telling the truth when he told a hypothetical story about killing Ann and dumping her into a muddy pit?

With new information about Ted Bundy's childhood, interviews with those who knew him best, and the memories of the Burr family, Ted and Ann is the story of one the 20th century's most fascinating cold cases. Rebecca Morris is an award-winning journalist who has worked in radio and television news in New York City; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington. A native Oregonian, her reporting has appeared in The Seattle Times, The Oregonian, People, Entertainment Weekly, New York Newsday, American Theatre, and many other publications. She lives in Seattle.








My Thoughts on Ted and Ann: The Story of a Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy by Rebecca Morris

As a reader of true crime, I am in that rarefied (and often misunderstood) group of individuals who not only read about the worst of humankind but have certain cases that I will always follow and seek out.  Ted Bundy is one of those for me.

Mention Ted Bundy and invariably you will be met with something along the lines of "worst serial killer ever", a sentiment which is arguably true, or even "most infamous serial killer."   The true number of Bundy's victims will likely never be known, as well as his first true victim but this book attempts to decipher whether or not young Ann Marie Burr was indeed a then teenage Bundy's first victim.

Ted and Ann, despite the title, isn't so much about Bundy and his horrible trail of murder.  Any listener expecting to get a rundown on Bundy's biography and his crimes will be disappointed.  Instead, this book is about what the disappearance of a child does to a family and a community. 

Author Rebecca Morris, with help from Ann Marie's mother, takes the listener to Tacoma, circa 1961, and into the aftermath of the inexplicable tragedy of a missing child.  We hear of the fear, the confusion, the denial and the pain of not knowing where your child is or what happened to her.  

Other than Ann, Beverly Burr is the strongest character depicted in the book.  Not surprising, given that Ms. Morris spoke with her.  I had mixed feelings about Beverly.  Immense sympathy for her, obviously over the loss of her eldest child as well as the marriage that was less than fulfilling for her even before Ann disappeared, but also frustration over events after Ann's disappearance.  The Burrs' daughter Mary, only three or four years old when her older sister vanished, grew up to have a myriad of problems.  While I think the recounting of Mary's problems highlighted how every member of a family blighted by a disappearance or murder is affected - - some very severely - - I found the actions of Beverly and Donald Burr puzzling and even infuriating.  One particular case in point was leaving daughter Julie's young children in the care of Mary when she was clearly unreliable and unfit, as well as taking those children - - without Julie's consent - - to visit Mary while she was in jail.  

This was a difficult conundrum for me to find myself in because I normally relate to the victims and their families in most true crime books.  That said, both Beverly Burr and Donald Burr were complex individuals who were less than perfect and reacted in different ways to the loss of their daughter.  Ultimately I cannot judge how they dealt with such a horrific blow to their family.  It certainly didn't spoil the book for me.

The author also presented a few new facts about the young Theodore Bundy, claiming that he not only was killing animals before his adolescence (something not claimed or verified in any other books to my knowledge) but also that he was taking little girls into the woods to urinate on them.  These actions, combined with his prowling, window peeping and nocturnal activities, show that the young Bundy was displaying antisocial behavior from a very early age and even provide us with a glimpse of the sociopathic, efficient predator he would grow into.   

Ann Burr, close to the time of
her disappearance
I appreciated that Ms. Morris was able to structure her book in such a way that both Beverly Burr and Louise Bundy were seen as victims.  Both were mothers who lost their eldest children, both suffered from it for the remainder of their lives and neither deserved it.

The largest detriment of the book, in my opinion, was information that was repeated more than once that didn't need to be.  Whether it be an editing mistake or simply filler, it took a bit away from the substance of the book.

Knowing the Bundy story, as well as the general facts on the Burr disappearance, I knew the book would end without a conclusive and definitive answer as to what happened to Ann.  For some listeners, this may be a huge drawback . . . and an understandable one.  I felt the "behind the scenes" information on both the Burr and Bundy families offset the lack of answers. 

Narrator Lee Ann Howlett does a commendable job with a difficult story.  Her delivery is pitch perfect and she adds a special nuance to the tale rather than taking away from it.  I would not hesitate to listen to other books by this narrator.

In the end, I would recommend Ted and Ann: The Mystery of a Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy to those readers/listeners who include true crime in their library and/or are interested in the infamous Ted Bundy.  While there is no ready conclusion as to the fate of Ann Burr or Ted Bundy's potential role in her disappearance, I do believe, based on the information provided in these pages, that he was responsible for her disappearance and probable death.  
Teenage Ted Bundy

Ted and Ann: The Mystery of a Missing Child and Her Neighbor Ted Bundy by Rebecca Morris is available for purchase at major retailers.  

 
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FTC Disclosure: This audiobook was provided by the narrator, Lee Ann Howlett, in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of this audiobook affect the outcome of my review.  I was neither paid nor compensated for this review.  


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