Ted Bundy was a prime suspect in her 51-year-old murder. Now cops know who really did it

A Utah murder case that Ted Bundy was once a prime suspect in has been solved 51 years later, according to officials.

Investigators say that Doug Chudomelka murdered Ann Woodward in March 1973 at Woody’s Tavern in Moab. Woodward, 46, was the wife of Leslie “Woody” Woodward. Her husband owned the tavern where police say Chudomelka strangled and probably sexually assaulted her.

Investigators say that the suspect died in 2002 at the age of 67. But a box of DNA evidence taken at the time helped lead to the killer five decades later.

Jeremy Drexler, a police detective working on the case, thinks that the man could’ve been angry with the woman for beating him at poker. However, he said the crime might have also been committed out of opportunity.

Woodward’s half-naked body was found on the floor between two pool tables at the bar, The Times-Independent reported.

Police say Doug Chudomelka is the prime suspect of Ann Woodward’s murder in 1973 (Moab Police Department)
Police say Doug Chudomelka is the prime suspect of Ann Woodward’s murder in 1973 (Moab Police Department)

The victim’s pants were off. The right leg was inside out and tied into a knot, while her shirt had been unbuttoned. The pant leg was used to strangle the woman, the detective said. When her husband discovered her body at around 6.30 a.m., it was wrapped around her neck.

“He was the only one in the world who could have been sitting in that chair,” Drexler said, speaking of Chudomelka. The man’s DNA was found on the buttons of the woman’s shirt, the waist of her pants, and on the inside of her pants.

“He could explain away having his DNA on the outside of her clothes, but not the inside of her pants. No way,” Drexler said.

Chudomelka was originally one of 25 suspects, which included regulars at the bar and Bundy, who entered the picture because of multiple murders he committed in the area around the time of the woman’s death.

However, witnesses said Chudomelka’s mid-1960s Ford sedan matched the car seen parked next to Woodward’s truck on March 1, 1973. The victim was killed between 1.40am and 2.30am March 2.

The suspect told investigators that he was not at the bar on the morning of the woman’s murder but he had instead spent the night drinking at Westerner Grill. Complicating the investigation, the man’s girlfriend, a woman named Joyce, told cops that her boyfriend was home at 2 a.m.

In any case, the tavern’s bartender told police that he hadn’t seen Chudomelka that night.

The suspect was arrested on a domestic violence charge on July 3, 1973. Joyce told cops that he killed Woodward and she would speak to the county attorney about the murder.

Later, she recanted and only told police that he came home at 4.10am and not 2.00am as she originally claimed and the case went cold.

It was reopened in 2006 by Moab Police Chief Mike Navarre but Joyce still did not want to talk about the incident decades later.

However, DNA evidence collected by Moab Police Chief Melvin Dalton shortly after the murder helped lead investigators to Chudomelka.

It consisted of hairs pulled from the suspect’s body, including from his belly button, chest, pubic area, and head. Camel cigarette butts that were found in an ashtray were also preserved.

Those materials were sent to the FBI, but at that time the agency was unable to test the suspect’s hair or saliva on the cigarettes to determine the man’s blood type.

“This case hinged on the hair Dalton pulled in 1973,” Drexler said. “I have no idea how he knew that we would be able to do that today. Dalton made this case very easy for us in that aspect.”

The box of DNA evidence was not easy to locate. It was moved from the evidence room and placed in an outbuilding. He eventually found the box 50 years and six months later. The evidence eventually came back matched to Chudomelka.

Nowadays, DNA evidence is used to solve cold cases all over the country, bringing suspects to justice decades after crimes occurred. It has also helped exonerate innocent people who have been incarcerated for crimes they did not commit.

Apart from the murder, Chudomelka also took $75 from the cash register and the $50 Woodward won when she beat him at poker. The suspect paid his rent two days later with five $20 bills.

It’s not known if the suspect paid his rent with the stolen money. Leslie Ann Estes, the couple’s last surviving child, was present at a news conference last week when officials revealed the details of the crime.