The Sunset Strip Killers

I admit, I actually enjoy watching those so-called crime “documentaries”, the ones with cheesy titles like, “Deadly Duos”, and “Killer Couples”. I love that sort of drivel, even though I know those stories are not exactly touted for their accuracy. Accuracy isn’t required for that sort of programming. It only has to be titillating and idiots like me will tune in.

As someone once said, the most diabolical scenarios have the greatest cachet.

My idiocy notwithstanding, there was a time I figured, what’s the harm—what difference does it make if some tabloid-y type TV show takes an inherently gruesome story and gruesomes-it-up a bit?

If your name is Doug Clark and you’re in San Quentin Prison, sitting on death row, you already know the answer to that question.

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Douglas Daniel Clark and Carol Mary Bundy

Dubbed by the press as “The Sunset Strip Killers”, Douglas Daniel Clark and his accomplice, Carol Mary Bundy, met in early January, 1980, at the Little Nashville, a bar in North Hollywood. Clark, who called himself “King of the One-Night-Stands”, was the black sheep of his well-to-do family, and always in need of a place to stay.

Bundy obliged him and Clark moved in, but contrary to much that has been written about this pair, the relationship was a “friends-with-benefits” one, at best; Carol Bundy’s heart, if she had one, belonged to someone else. Like Clark, Jack Murray was also something of a ladies’ man. He fashioned himself after the singer Tom Jones and sang at the Little Nashville. Previously, Murray had been Carol Bundy’s landlord.

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Jack Murray

But Jack Murray had a wife and he had two kids, and if all he wanted from Carol Bundy was a little afternoon delight, he also had another thing coming. Think Alex Forrester in “Fatal Attraction”, and Evelyn in “Play Misty For Me”, then times that by a gazillion. Carol Bundy was a textbook example of borderline personality disorder. No amount of attention, no matter how negative, was ever enough for her, and unfortunately for both Murray and Clark, Carol Bundy was also a psychopath.

Mind you, Doug Clark was no prince, and neither was Jack Murray. In fact, “sleazy” is the most charitable word that comes to mind. When Carol Bundy dangled the temptation of a sexual encounter with an 11-year-old girl in front of him, Doug Clark bit, and Bundy kept the photographs she took of Clark and the young girl. She also dangled the same jailbait in front of Murray, who also bit, but Murray at least had the good sense not to make a Kodak moment of the event.

One night, in June of 1980, Doug Clark came home to the apartment he and Bundy shared and according to Carol, he was covered in blood. He said he had picked up two teenage prostitutes from the Sunset Strip and after paying the girls to perform fellatio on him, he shot them both in the head. The bodies were soon discovered near the Ventura Freeway, where they were left in plain sight. Carol called the police and toyed with them, saying she had information about the murders which she then would not disclose.

Twelve days later there were two more shootings. Both female, this time both adults. The women were both prostitutes and again the bodies were left in plain sight, but there was a grisly new detail: now, a victim’s head had been removed.

Carol didn’t call the police this time even though she was certainly aware of this “development”; the prostitute’s severed head was in her freezer. In her confession, Bundy told police that once the head had been defrosted she put makeup on it, and Doug Clark used it as a sex toy. Since keeping a severed head just any old way speaks to a poor upbringing, again, according to Carol, she and Clark cleaned the head, put it in an ornate, casket-like box and left it in an alley.

Three days passed and another body was found. Dumped in the woods of San Fernando Valley, the victim was a teenage runaway and forensics would determine that although she was the fifth victim found she met her fate some three weeks earlier, giving her the dubious honor of being the Sunset Strip Killer’s first kill. In late August, 1980, the body of another young woman was discovered. Killed with the same caliber weapon used in the other five murders, she was also shot in the head. Her skeletonized remains were not identifiable.

Even with all this going on, Carol still found time to hang out at the Little Nashville and make goo-goo eyes at Jack Murray. In spite of his wife’s protests, Murray either would not, or could not, bring himself to end their association. Jack Murray was a violent and sadistic man and Carol adored him, and told him all about the sordid things she and Doug were up to, hoping to win his admiration.

Instead, as Carol tells it, Jack Murray hinted he might have to go to the police, an idea he should have kept to himself. Murray’s headless, heat-blistered body was discovered in his own van parked a scant two blocks away from the Little Nashville. He’d been stabbed nine times, his buttocks were slashed and pieces had been removed. There were two spent shell casings in the van, suggesting that additionally, he’d been shot. Jack Murray’s head was never found.

At this point, some accounts portray Carol Bundy as breaking down, telling her co-workers she had “taken lives.” Personally, I’m of the opinion this was less about “breaking down” than it was about Carol being an attention-junkie, and now, in Murray’s absence, in bad need of a “fix”. At any rate, the co-workers promptly called the police and Carol was arrested at the apartment she shared with Clark. She was charged with the murder of Jack Murray, and with the murder of the young woman who could not be identified. Bundy told police in her confession, “It’s fun to kill people.”

Apparently it was fun to bury people, too, which Bundy proceeded to do to Doug Clark even before she was in the police station. Clark was at his place of work at the time of her arrest; reportedly, Carol asked the arresting officers if they wanted to see what kind of guy Doug Clark was, then trotted out the pictures taken of him with the 11-year-old girl. Clark was immediately charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor and aiding and abetting a murder suspect, i.e. Bundy. Subsequently, two small handguns that matched the ballistics reports were found at the factory where Clark worked and where, stupidly, he had hidden them for Bundy.

In addition to the previous offenses, Doug Clark was now charged with six murders.

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Doug Clark, August 1980 mugshot

Bundy accused Clark, Clark accused Bundy, they both accused Jack Murray since, after all, Jack Murray was dead, and though few if any tears were shed on that account, you just can’t go around killing people no matter how much fun you’re having. Charged with two counts of murder, Carol Bundy was offered a plea bargain deal; she received a life sentence in exchange for her testimony against Clark.

On December 9, 2003, at the age of 61, Carol Mary Bundy died in prison. From heart failure.

Clark went to trial in 1983; convicted on all six counts of murder and now sitting on death row, in California’s congested criminal justice system Douglas Daniel Clark will probably die of natural causes before his sentence is carried out.

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Doug Clark, at his trial

I have never met Doug Clark but from what I’ve read about him, he seems to have all the appeal of the sound of fingernails scraped across a blackboard. Which may be why no one seems to care that Clark’s court-appointed attorney was drunk for the better part of his trial. Or that the presiding judge refused to accept the evidence of a key witness and several banking documents which exonerated Clark in the death of the decapitated prostitute. Or that several times during the trial Clark’s attorney nodded off while Clark was being cross-examined.

When Clark made a request to defend himself, which was his right, he was denied co-counsel. The judge literally told him to “go it alone.”

Doug Clark had no history to persuade anyone he’d suddenly decided to take a small caliber weapon and start picking off young women with a bullet to the head.

On the other hand, Jack Murray had more than once blackened his wife’s eyes and bloodied her nose, and nothing pleased him more than forcing women he’d just sodomized to fellate him.

And semen traces found in two of the murder victims were a match to Jack Murray’s blood type but not to Doug Clark’s, and Carol Bundy’s testimony was awash with inconsistencies and outright lies. And there are many, many other problems with this case not the least of which is Doug Clark sitting on death row based on little more than Carol Bundy’s necrophilic fantasies.

Doug Clark is a sleaze, I’ll grant you that.

But think about it, gentlemen: if you had hired a prostitute and she was in your car performing oral sex, in that delicate position, would you take out a firearm and shoot her in the head?

Of course not. Moral and ethical concerns aside, you would never ever do that for oh-so obvious reasons, and as absurd as that may be, that was one of Carol Bundy’s less absurd inventions. Yet to this day, that story is still believed.

The most diabolical scenarios have the greatest cachet.

And you may wonder, what’s the harm, what difference does it make.

But if you’re Douglas Daniel Clark and you’re in San Quentin Prison, sitting on death row, you already know the answer to that question.

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Douglas Daniel Clark, death row ID photo