by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
“As the electricity coursed through his body and his fists clenched, I thought to myself, ‘How many throats have those fists clenched around?’”
At the April meeting of the Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association, former Florida Assistant State Attorney George “Bob” Dekle Sr. talked about what it was like to watch the death penalty by electric chair carried out on Ted Bundy in 1989.
Dekle prosecuted Bundy for the murder of Kimberly Diane Leach.
“I devoted a number of years of my life to the case and I wanted to see it through to the end,” said Dekle.
It was a chilling experience that still stirs emotions in Dekle, who had to take a moment to collect himself after his speech. But he believed it was necessary to bring closure to the most profound case of his career and the first Murder I case he had ever prosecuted.
“I was really green at the time and it was my first murder case,” said Dekle. “I learned how to be a prosecutor during that case.”
The term “serial killer” wasn’t widely used when 12-year-old Leach disappeared from Lake City in February 1978.
“It wasn’t big news, except in Lake City, that this little girl had disappeared,” said Dekle, who was an assistant state attorney in the Third Judicial Circuit, which included Lake City.
He called the process of building a case against Bundy an “extreme investigation.”
One of the key pieces of evidence was the white van that Bundy was driving. Inside it they found clothing fibers, sand and a blood stain on the floor in the rear of the van, which were examined.
There were few tools or methods that were turned down in trying to locate Leach. The Florida Highway Patrol donated a plane so they could watch for groups of buzzards that might signal the location of the body. They listened to psychics, were granted access to military equipment to search for the body and used psychological profiling to break down where Bundy might bury the body.
Dekle gave Bundy credit for his talent for manipulation, but also pointed out that Bundy outsmarted himself during the trial.
“He did his dead-level best to manipulate the system and to derail the prosecution,” said Dekle.
“In the end his antics contributed to his conviction. (Bundy’s attorney) gave one of the most stirring final arguments I believe I have ever heard in my life. I was sitting at the table thinking, ‘Oh … my … god. He’s going to talk this jury into turning that man loose.’
“As (the defense) was rising up to a crescendo, Bundy jumped up, ran across the courtroom, grabbed him by the coat sleeve and placed a note in his hand. Bundy wanted him to say something that had nothing to do with the argument. He killed the effect the defense was going for.”
Dekle authored a book about his experience. “The Last Murder: Investigation, Prosecution and The Execution of Ted Bundy,” should be available beginning June 30.