Robert Hayward, Utah trooper who arrested Ted Bundy, dies at 90

Robert Hayward — a Utah Highway Patrol trooper who took a wrong turn and stumbled upon a suspicious Volkswagen Beetle that happened to be carrying one of the most notorious killers in America history, Ted Bundy — died Saturday at his home in West Valley City. He was 90. 

Hayward was a state trooper for 33 years and retired as a captain in 1986. His most memorable arrest, and what he called his best police work, came at 3 a.m. on Aug. 16, 1975. 

According to an account he later gave to the Associated Press in 2000, then-Sgt. Hayward was sitting in his cruiser, finishing paperwork, outside his own home in the suburban-Salt Lake City community then called Granger. 

The tan Volkswagen drove by. Minutes later, he heard a call for assistance over his police radio. 

On the way to responding, Hayward took a wrong turn. He wound up in front of the home of a neighbor. Hayward knew the owners were on vacation, but their teenage daughters were home alone. In front of the house was the Volkswagen. 

The Volkswagen fled, eventually pulling into an abandoned gas station. Hayward held Bundy at gunpoint while questioning him. 

"I'm lost," Bundy said, according to Hayward’s account to the AP.

He said he had been at the drive-in, watching "Towering Inferno." Hayward knew that movie wasn't playing.

Mass murderer Ted Bundy's Beetle will go on display in 2009 in the new Crime and Punishment Museum in Washington, D.C.

Hayward searched the car. Inside were found pantyhose, a ski mask, a crowbar, an ice pick and handcuffs. Hayward booked Bundy into the Salt Lake County jail on suspicion of evading, but he suspected Bundy was up to something else.  

Hayward told his brother, Pete Hayward, who was then in charge of detectives for the Salt Lake County Sheriff, about the arrest and what he found. The sheriff’s investigators took over the case.

While Bundy was already suspected of murders in Washington, the only charge law enforcement had evidence to pursue was the kidnapping of Carol DaRonch in Salt Lake City. 

Bundy was convicted March 1, 1976, of kidnapping and assault and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

The next month, there was a separate trial for on the charge of failing to stop at the command of a police officer. At that trial, Bundy testified he was nervous about having smoked marijuana in his car in the neighborhood and didn't recognize that it was a police car pursuing him. He was convicted of the failing to stop charge, too. 

Bundy was later convicted of murder in Florida and executed there in 1989. 

In this photo dated Jan. 3, 1958, Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Robert Hayward investigates an accident at 3365 S. 200 West in Salt Lake County. ; Photo by Salt Lake Tribune via Utah Department of Heritage and Arts.

Robert Allen Hayward was born Nov. 18, 1926, in Salt Lake City to Daniel and Hortense Floyd Hayward. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1944 and served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Casablanca. 

After leaving the Navy and joining UHP, Hayward became the sergeant in charge of the Alcohol Safety Action Program — the first UHP unit to be dedicated to arresting drunk drivers. The morning he spotted Bundy’s Volkswagen, Hayward was updating a log detailing what the unit had been doing.

Despite the long career with UHP, the Bundy arrest stood out even to Hayward, said his son-in-law, Dave Popelmayer, who also is a retired state trooper. Lots of people asked to hear the story over the years, Popelmayer said, including Hayward’s own grandchildren, who sometimes asked him to tell the story at their schools. 

“He remembered it until the day he passed,” Popelmayer said. 

Robert "Bob" Hayward poses in his U.S. Navy uniform circa 1944. Courtesy Hayward family.

Utah Highway Patrol trooper Robert "Bob" Hayward poses in uniform in this undated photo. Courtesy Hayward family.

Hayward’s survivors include his wife of 69 years, the former Marian Shober; three daughters, Susan Hayward, Sandra Hayward and Tamra Popelmayer, all of West Valley City; a sister, Bonnie Snodgrass; eight grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and two-great-great grandchildren. 

His brother Pete Hayward, who went on to serve two terms as Salt Lake County Sheriff, died in 1993. Two sisters, Florence Hakes and Shirley Sheridan, also preceded Hayward in death. 

The number of people Bundy murdered is still in dispute, though it was more than 30, including some after his conviction in Utah. Bundy escaped after being extradited to Colorado in 1977, fled to Florida and murdered two women at a sorority house at Florida State University. 

Still, Hayward wondered how many murders he prevented by arresting Bundy that morning in Utah. 

"I often wonder if the Lord sent me in that direction," he told the AP. "If I didn't get him that night and stop him, I don't know how many more he would have got."