Robert D. Keppel

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Robert David Keppel (born 15 June 1944) is a retired American law enforcement officer and detective best known for his work investigating serial killers Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway.

Early life[edit]

Keppel grew up in Spokane, Washington, and graduated from Central Valley High School in 1962, where he was a star athlete. He attended Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, on an athletic scholarship. After playing freshman basketball at WSU, in his next three years of college, he elected to concentrate on High Jumping in Track and Field. Although he was only 5'11", he was an outstanding collegiate High Jumper. He just missed making America's 1964 Olympic team as a high jumper. After he graduated from college, he high-jumped 7 feet.

He earned a B.S. in Police Science and Administration at Washington State in 1966, and his M.A. in 1967. In 1979 he received a Master of Education degree from Seattle University. In 1992 he received his Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from the University of Washington.[1]


Keppel first encountered the "Ted Murders" just one week after beginning work as a homicide detective. He investigated Bundy and his crimes extensively and continued a correspondence with him from the time of his initial imprisonment to his execution in 1989, at one point consulting him in order to form a profile of the then at-large Green River Killer. Keppel was able to get Bundy to confess to several unsolved murders in the weeks leading up to his execution.

Bundy was sent a paperback copy of Thomas Harris' Red Dragon — which depicts the relationship between a detective and an incarcerated serial killer — when it was revealed that Harris was in attendance for a portion of Bundy's 1979 Miami "Chi Omega" murder trial, and incorporated several elements of Bundy's case evidence into the plot of the novel (most notably the bite-mark exhibits and related testimony). Harris also based the relationship between FBI trainee Clarice Starling and serial killer Hannibal Lecter in his 1988 novel The Silence of the Lambs upon interviews between Keppel and Bundy concerning the Green River Killer.[2]

With forensic psychologist and criminal profiler Richard Walter, Keppel published an article that groups serial killers into four distinct sub-types: power-assertive, power-reassurance, anger-retaliatory, and anger-excitation or sadism. Walter and Keppel also created the Homicide Investigation Tracking System (H.I.T.S.), which provides crime and offender characteristics for law enforcement.


Serial Murder: Future Implications for Police Investigations (1989) ISBN 0932930840

The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer (with William Birnes) 1995 0671867636, Revised after Ridgeway confessions (2004) ISBN 9780671867638

Signature Killers (with William Birnes) (1997) ISBN 0671001302

Murder: A Multidisciplinary Anthology of Readings (with Joseph Weis) (1999)

The Psychology of Serial Killer Investigations: The Grisly Business Unit (with William Birnes) (2003) ISBN 0124042600

Offender Profiling (2006) ISBN 075938875X

Serial Violence: Analysis of Modus Operandi and Signature Characteristics of Killers (with William Birnes) (2008) ISBN 9781420066326

Later life[edit]

Keppel retired as chief criminal investigator for the Washington State Attorney General's Office. He joined the faculty of the Seattle University. As of 2004, Keppel was an associate professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University, and currently teaches there via teleconference. In 2007, Keppel joined the University of New Haven as an Associate Professor of criminal justice.

Keppel is author of The Riverman: Ted Bundy and I Hunt for the Green River Killer, made into a made-for-TV movie in 2004, starring Bruce Greenwood as Keppel and Cary Elwes as Bundy.[3] He is also the author of many textbooks regarding criminal justice and related topics.


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