Support Local Journalism


It seemed, at first, like a tragic but isolated situation - a young woman went missing from Central Washington State College in Ellensburg.

Within a year, though, the scope of the story became clear: 18-year-old Susan Rancourt was one of many victims of a brutal serial killer. That killer, who abducted Rancourt from Central's campus 30 years ago today, was Ted Bundy.

Two days later, April 19, 1974, the first related headline ran in the Daily Record: "Search on for missing Central coed."

"We didn't know where she was; we didn't know what happened to her," former Kittitas County Sheriff Bob Barret, recalled this week. "There were a lot of unknowns."

More headlines would follow:

€ April, 20, 1974, Daily Record: "Search continues for CWSC coed"

€ April 22: "Reward offered"

€ April 25: "Missing CWSC coed's parents here"

€ April 27: "Search for coed is planned"

They went on like that for about a month, offering few new details. What was known about Rancourt was repeated in each story - she was a 5-foot-2-inch, 118-pound blonde with blue eyes who came to Central from Anchorage, Alaska. The stories also said she was a biology major and was last seen at a meeting in Munson Hall for future residence hall leaders around 10 p.m. the day she went missing. No items were taken from her room.

Eva-Marie Carne, a German professor at Central at the time, said Rancourt was just a typical student.

"She was a student in my first-year German class," Carne said. "She seemed a perfectly normal, pleasant girl who wasn't outstanding in any way."

A 62-square-mile search of the Ellensburg area was conducted by more than 200 people, but nothing came of it. Rumors swirled, including one that more young women had been abducted in Ellensburg, and it hadn't been reported. Police denied the rumors in a May, 2, 1974, Daily Record story.

Barret remembers getting phone calls from people who were scared.

"There were some real deep, deep concerns about it, about the circumstances," he said.

Soon, though, the headlines stopped. There was simply nothing new to report on the case. In an eerie coincidence, the Daily Record ran a seemingly unrelated Associated Press story on May 24 about missing Oregon State University student Roberta Parks.

Within a year, many of the case's questions would be answered. On March 3, 1975, police searching around Taylor Mountain found what would soon be identified as Rancourt's skull. On March 7, the Daily Record headline read: "Susan Rancourt among dead." The skull of Roberta Parks, the missing OSU student, also was found as were two others.

In that story, it was reported that police had linked the killings together and suspected someone calling himself Ted who lured young women to his car by wearing a sling on his arm and asking for help carrying things. Two other Central students reported speaking with "Ted" on campus the night Rancourt was abducted.

Pam Wilson, who had just graduated from Central and begun working in the admissions office in early 1974, remembers the fear that gripped female students and employees at Central.

"Everyone was talking about it," she said. "It was the main topic of conversation for months. Š Coeds, female employees, everyone was nervous. There was a sort of tension in the air for a long period of time."

The admissions office had police composite drawings of "Ted," and young men with slings on their arms were automatic suspects, Wilson said.

"I remember a couple of guys literally coming up to the counter and saying, 'I really have a broken arm, and I'm not that Ted guy," she said.

The fear, the realization that Ellensburg wasn't immune to such crime, changed the town, said Wilson, a lifelong Ellensburg resident.

"People really did start looking at things a lot differently and started locking their doors and things," she said.

Bundy was caught, prosecuted and convicted, but not until after he killed at least 15 women between 1974 and 1978. At 7:07 a.m. Jan. 24, 1989, he was executed by electric chair at Starke Prison in Florida.

Now, thirty years later, the lesson of Susan Rancourt is still clear to Barret: "Any place, any area is vulnerable to these type of predators," he said.

Ellensburg's link to Bundy is an ugly part of the city's history, but it's one best not forgotten, Barret said.

"As time passes, people become more complacent about these kinds of things, thinking it can't happen here," he said. "They don't remember that it did happen here."


Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.