When 22-year-old Kerry Hardy-May disappeared from Seattle in June of 1972, at first her family wasn’t too worried. After all, Kerry was young, a free spirit, and in a period of transition after recently separating from her husband. So when she didn’t show up to her family home to help them pack for a trip as planned, they assumed she was busy and would be in touch soon. But Kerry would never be seen again. That is, not until excavators digging a golf course unearthed her bones from a shallow grave nearly 40 years later.
Kerry May Hardy was born in Seattle, Washington on April 3, 1950 to Sheila and Donald Hardy. Less than a year apart in age, she and older brother Ken were quite close while they were growing up. In our 2021 interview, Ken Hardy fondly remembered his little sister: “Kerry had hair like a brand new copper penny, and one of those personalities that you instantly liked her. Very friendly and outgoing, but engaging too, and when she started to talk, it didn’t matter where you came from, you wanted to listen to what she had to say.”
The Hardys divorced in 1960, and Sheila remarried Carol Olson in 1961. The family grew with the birth of three more children over the next few years. After graduating high school in 1967, Ken joined the Army, and was promptly conscripted into the Vietnam War. He returned to Seattle in 1969. By then, pretty, dimpled Kerry had left Lincoln High School a year early and adopted a “flower child” lifestyle in the Seattle music scene. Ken recalled, “I was the older one, so she took a back seat the whole time we were growing up, and all our friends would say, ‘oh yeah, that’s Ken’s little sister.’ But when I got back home, all of a sudden it was, ‘oh you’re Kerry’s brother!’ She really jumped out because her personality was so attractive.”
Kerry’s mother had a similar story to share. Sheila Olson recalled walking down the street in Seattle and watching her oldest daughter stop to converse with an aristocratic looking woman in a mink coat, and then chat with a hippie further down the block. “It was amazing… she knew all these people, and they knew her.”
After a short courtship, Kerry married John May* at Central Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill on May 15, 1971. Although they didn’t know him well, the Hardy-Olson family disliked Kerry’s new husband. “He wasn’t a very outgoing person,” her mother recalled later. “I just know she was very much in love.” Ken put it more bluntly: “He was a jerk, and they were always arguing.”
Only six months into the marriage, Ken explained, “a friend of ours found out that John was beating up on her and so he got him up against a wall one night when John was alone. Warned him that if he ever did that again, he’d kill him.” The couple separated soon after that incident, and the young woman moved out to stay with friends. Six months later, in June of 1972, Kerry disappeared without a trace. According to Sheila, her daughter had stayed over at a friend’s house in Seattle’s Woodland Park neighborhood and left a note to say she was going to another friend’s house in Beacon Hill. In 2011, Mike Ciesynski, a Seattle police cold case detective, said that Kerry was last seen hitchhiking in the Woodland Park area on about June 13, 1972. The details of her exact movements and whereabouts leading up to the disappearance remain unclear.
As we talked, Ken thought back to when he first noticed that his little sister was gone. “My parents and younger siblings were going on a family trip out of town, and Kerry was supposed to go over and help pack some clothes for my youngest sister, who has Down’s Syndrome,” he said. “But she never showed up.” When the Olsons returned in late June, Kerry still hadn’t called. They realized they hadn’t heard from her since about a week before their vacation. None of her friends had seen her recently. No one knew where she was. When they contacted Kerry’s husband, he said he hadn’t seen her either, not since their separation. John May never filed a police report about her disappearance.
After about a week of calling around to no avail, finally Mrs. Olson filed a missing persons report with the Seattle Police Department. “Because of the separation of her marriage, they didn’t pay that much attention to it at first, because they figured she just went off somewhere,” Ken explained. The media never reported on her disappearance, and not a single news story mentioned her name. Months went by, and the missing woman’s mother kept pressing for more work on Kerry’s case, calling police repeatedly. Eventually one of the officers got angry, and according to Ken snapped “Mrs. Olson, your daughter is not dead!” and hung up on her. Sheila could never get him on the phone again.
According to records, in October 1974 Seattle police compared Kerry’s dental X-rays against the teeth of two skulls recovered from Clark County (later identified as Carol Valenzuela and Martha Morrison, likely both victims of serial killer Warren Leslie Forrest). It is unclear what if any additional investigative work was done at the time; unfortunately, the original reports from her case file have since been destroyed. But as Ken recollects, the Seattle Police Department didn’t seem very interested in a thorough investigation, and did not keep in contact with the Hardy-Olson family.
With no sightings and no one coming forward with information, Kerry’s case went cold. Her heartbroken parents didn’t know what to do. Ken described a particularly sad moment: “One day my stepdad calls up and has me come over to the house. I was a single parent then, with two young kids. My stepdad said that he was really worried about my mom and that they would get my truck fixed up and take care of my kids if I went out looking for my sister. At first I thought it was a good idea, but reality sunk in immediately. I looked at him and said, that sounds great, but where do you want me to start? New York, Florida, southern California, you know? I kept having talks with my mom about it, but there just wasn’t anything to do.”
In 1974, a drug bust in Seattle’s Fremont District gave the family hope. According to Ken, John May was involved in dealing drugs, but “he just kind of walked through the middle of this huge mess and nobody touched him… so our feeling at that point was that Kerry had probably turned state’s evidence on the drug situation and made a deal for her husband, because she still loved him. Like maybe my sister had made a deal which led to this huge bust under the condition that he didn’t get touched, you know? That’s what it seemed like.” But as time went on this fantastic scenario seemed less and less likely. “She wouldn’t have stayed away that long, even in witness protection, because we were close.”
Eventually, the family began to suspect that Kerry’s husband was involved in her disappearance. “John said that he’d tried to contact several mutual friends that she would have been in contact with, looking for her,” Ken said. “We found out that that was a lie. He never contacted anybody.” Ken continued, “one time he came over to my parents’ house when I was there, and my stepdad was so pissed at him that he wouldn’t even allow him inside. When we confronted him about her disappearance, he just acted totally ignorant. ‘I haven’t talked to her since she left.’ That’s all he would say. That and ‘I don’t know.’” Then a couple of years later, Ken encountered his former brother-in-law at a coffee house in Seattle’s University District. “John was sitting at the bar, and he jumped off his stool when he saw me. He came up to me and said, ‘Hey, Ken, how ya doin?’ and boom, he hit me in the arm. I just kind of turned sideways and elbowed him in the side of the head. Laid him out on the floor and walked out.”
Ken speculates that sometime in the week before the family trip, John and Kerry met, and things turned violent. “I kind of assumed, knowing her as I did, that eventually she was going to think about either getting a divorce or reconciling with her husband. And I don’t know if the attempt to do one or the other of those two things got them together. I just don’t know.” Kerry hadn’t decided yet on how to move forward, and at the time of her disappearance, she was still wearing her wedding ring. Her brother said, “She wore it all the time. Getting married, even at her young age… it was an important thing for her.” Eventually John May moved out of Washington State, and the Hardy-Olson family lost contact with him completely. “All we had was speculation, no evidence,” sighed Ken.
Slowly, Kerry’s family came to realize that their loved one was never coming home. “At some point,” her mother sadly remembered, “I knew Kerry was dead. She would have called.” Decades passed without any word, or any further investigation. Finally, in 2004, the King County Medical Examiner collected DNA samples from Sheila Olson in an effort to link the unidentified bodies discovered during the Green River Killer investigation to local missing women. But none of those were a match to Kerry Hardy-May. She remained missing for another six years.
Then one bright morning in early September, 2010, laborers were digging for a new golf course waterline when their backhoe churned a tattered piece of clothing out of the dark earth. A hard hat shouted to stop the machine and scrambled over to the hole, where he discovered a human skull. Digging came to a halt as the worker ran to call police.
The skeleton was quickly identified as that of a young woman. She’d been buried in a shallow grave in Kittitas County, about eighty miles southeast of Seattle along Interstate 90. Investigation revealed that the area had once been heavily wooded before being cleared for the Suncadia Golf Resort in 2002. The gravesite was about 100 yards away from a minor gravel road off the highway that had existed prior to the conversion.
According to the subsequent autopsy, the woman had been dead for at least twenty years, but possibly as long as fifty. She had been buried in a blue-colored, long-sleeved shirt with pink buttoned cuffs, and was wearing a plain 14k gold band on her left ring finger. No cause of death could be determined from the remains.
Soon after the bones were recovered, the King County Medical Examiner entered the woman’s dental information into CODIS, but that effort generated no hits. That meant if the victim had ever been reported missing, her dental records had been lost before the advent of the centralized database in 1998.
For the next attempt at identification, forensic artist Natalie Murry created a composite sketch based on the morphology of the skull, which the Medical Examiner’s office released to local media in March 2011. That did the trick. Kerry’s mother saw the drawing on the nightly news and recognized her daughter immediately: “When you put her picture up to it, and covered up the bottom part of her face, it was Kerry.” It was a miraculous discovery, her brother marveled. “What are the odds?”
The Olsons contacted the Kittitas County Sheriff with their hunch, and final confirmation came on June 1, 2011, when the University of North Texas’ Center for Human Remains noted a “cold hit” from the bones. They’d found a familial DNA match to the sample Kerry’s mother had submitted years earlier for the Green River investigation. Any remaining doubt as to the victim’s identity was erased. The dead woman unearthed from her lonely forest grave was definitely Kerry Hardy-May, nearly 40 years after her disappearance.
The Kittitas County Sheriff detectives shared more with the family about how Kerry had been buried all those years ago. Her brother said, “She was laid in the ground carefully—I guess the term they used was ‘caringly’—not just thrown in a hole.” The Medical Examiner also gave them the ring discovered in the grave. The family recognized it immediately- Kerry was buried still wearing her gold wedding band. She’d never taken it off.
Ken recalled a particularly moving moment after Kerry’s bones had been released to an Ellensburg mortuary. “The mortician had us come over, and he had laid out all her bones on a table so that we could see everything where it was supposed to be physically. And when I went in and looked at her, her skull—it was laying there facing up and I swear, for a moment… I saw her face.”
After the viewing, her family visited the place where Kerry had been found. “The resort drove us out in golf carts to the area,” Ken related. “It had all been covered over by then, but they took us there anyway. At one point, I had to walk away from the group because I started to get emotional. My oldest daughter came up and asked me if I was okay. And I said, ‘I should have felt something if she was just dead this whole time. I should have felt a sense of loss. But I didn’t, and I don’t know why.’ And my daughter looked up at me and she said ‘well, you know Dad, you don’t have to be alive to be connected.’ And that’s true.”
While the local news media buzzed with the potential of a newly discovered serial killer victim, the Hardy-Olson family felt confident that they already knew who killed their loved one. Ken elaborated, “I knew Kerry’s husband well enough that I don’t think he would have murdered her with intent. I don’t think it was something he planned. I think he got carried away when he decided to beat her.”
Kerry’s brother has his own theory about why her remains ended up where they did. He speculated, “knowing the kind of person John was at that time, I’m sure he would have gone to his dad for help because they were very close.” According to Ken, in 1972, May’s father owned rural land in the Ellensburg area (“within spitting distance of where they found her”).
While Kittitas County homicide detectives certainly found all this information intriguing, John May’s aggressive personality, the turbulent marriage, and proximity of the grave to his father’s property weren’t proof. Detectives needed more, so they interviewed May’s second wife, whom he had since divorced. “She told them that he was always evasive about it,” Ken shared, “and she felt like he was lying to her when he would talk about Kerry.”
After a phone call to May’s home in a distant state went nowhere, police flew there unannounced to question him in person. Ken explained, “The detective just told me that John was really, really evasive. But they couldn’t catch him in a lie. And there wasn’t any physical evidence that they could confront him with, so instead they just indicated that they knew he was responsible for her death. Then he got really angry and asked them to leave.” There wasn’t anything left to do, and not enough evidence for an arrest. The detectives flew home to Washington and broke the sad news to Kerry’s family. “They said he completely and totally acted like he didn’t know anything at all, and I guess I understand that. I guess that’s what anyone would have done in his situation. I just don’t know how he could live with it for so long,” Ken mused bitterly.
But for Kerry’s mother Sheila, relief outweighed grief. Interviewed by the Seattle Times in 2011, she said she was “almost ecstatic” when she heard her daughter had finally been found. “I don’t care if they find who did it or not. My daughter is home, and that’s all I care for.” When asked if she thought Ted Bundy could have been responsible, Sheila said no. “I just don’t—a mother’s feeling.” Sadly, Sheila Olson passed away in 2015 without ever knowing for certain who murdered her daughter over 40 years earlier.
A Bundy Connection?
Almost immediately after she was identified, local media began speculating that Kerry Hardy-May could be a victim of Ted Bundy. The timing of her disappearance in Seattle on June, 1972 put her within 18 months of Bundy’s earliest confirmed attack, which happened in January, 1974. Her grave’s location, along Interstate 90 in rural Washington, fit his tendency to deposit victims’ bodies in remote areas, miles away from where they were last seen. In fact, he was even known to use that particular corridor when stalking and disposing of victims. Kerry herself was an attractive young woman, and generally fit Bundy’s victim profile. On the surface, these basic facts point to a potential connection. However, a deeper look at the case raises questions, as well as an intriguing list of coincidences.
At the time of Kerry’s disappearance, Ted Bundy was certainly nearby, living in Seattle’s University District. He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in psychology on June 10, 1972– three days before Kerry was last seen. Bundy worked at Harborview Hospital’s Mental Health Center that summer, and was dating a co-worker, Sandy Gwinn, while carrying on another relationship with his primary girlfriend, Liz Kloepfer.
According to Seattle Police, the last known sighting of Kerry placed her in the Woodland Park neighborhood, hitchhiking. There is no direct evidence that Bundy was already killing in Seattle at this point, but interestingly Ted’s earliest admitted murder victim was also a hitchhiker. Shortly before his execution, he told FBI Agent Bill Hagmaier that in May of 1973 he’d picked up a young woman in the Olympia-Tumwater area, manually strangled her to death, then dumped her body in a ravine, which was never found. Of course, neither the timing nor place described in that confession fit Kerry’s circumstances. Then again, when Washington investigator Bob Keppel asked about his earliest murder, Bundy whispered, as if thinking aloud, “1972?”:
RK: I guess what I need then, I want to eliminate any suggestions of rather than me throwing out stuff for you to say, you know, “this is what we need to talk about” or not. I don’t want to do any guess work…
TB: Yeah, I can tell you — we can do it that way if you’d like, too. And maybe in some ways that’s easier. I can tell you what I’m not involved in. If you have a list of that type in your head.
RK: There’s a gal in 1971, Thurston County.
RK: Not that far back. Nothing that far back?
TB: [whispers] …1972?
The meaning of this utterance isn’t clear. Unfortunately Keppel did not ask the serial killer to elaborate, and proceeded to question him about another case from 1973. Mentioning this year only once, while at all other times offering May of 1973 as his earliest, could have been a slip of the tongue, a genuine confusion about the date, or a lie. For what it’s worth, Hagmaier was Bundy’s most trusted confidant on Death Row, and the former special agent has denied that Bundy ever admitted to killing anyone in 1972.
Ted did not own a car when Kerry disappeared, a fact which would have made transporting a victim difficult, but not impossible; he had frequent access to his girlfriend Liz’s own Volkswagen Beetle. Notably, his other girlfriend Sandy reported her red sports car stolen in June of that year. According to a police interview, she believed that Ted had stolen it, as he was “prone to borrowing it without permission.”
In life, Kerry was a tall young woman with flaming copper hair— an eye-catching combination. Her mother reflected, “You can’t be almost six feet tall with bright red hair hanging down your back and just disappear.” Besides being attractive, Kerry didn’t match many of Bundy’s known victims, who were nearly all petite (with the exception of Laura Aime) and brunette (with the exception of a few blondes). Of course, Bundy himself later insisted that there was no pattern to his victims besides being young, female, and pretty.
Bundy certainly was familiar with the rural portion of I-90 east of Seattle where Kerry was discovered. In early 1974 he drove down that highway many times to get to his “dumping grounds” at Taylor Mountain and Issaquah. He traveled two hours further east that April to abduct Susan Rancourt, a confirmed victim who attended Central Washington College in Ellensburg. The Suncadia Resort is located about halfway between the Taylor Mountain gravesite (where Rancourt’s skull was found) and the college. Much like Bundy’s Taylor Mountain and Issaquah gravesites, Kerry’s burial place was wooded and remote, yards away from a gravel side road off the interstate. In 1989 Bundy described burying Colorado victim Julie Cunningham in a similar location, saying he would get on the highway and just drive until he found an isolated place to turn off: “I found a side road, a dirt road, turned off onto it and drove maybe a quarter mile off the road.” He made similar declarations about Utah victims Debra Kent and Nancy Wilcox.
According to her brother, Kerry’s grave was unusually dug with heavy machinery. I didn’t realize that this could be forensically determined, but Ken explained, “there was evidence that the hole was dug with a backhoe. It was amazing, just because of the way that the dirt was separated when they were excavating her, they could tell it was done by a machine, not a hand shovel.” Bundy did not have any known access to this type of machinery. Instead, he admitted to using a small army type hand shovel to dig the graves. Interestingly, according to Ken, John May’s father owned heavy machinery. “He had lots of land out there in the woods, and built a house off the timber from his property. He had a backhoe, and a CAT vehicle, and all that kind of stuff.”
Like his many of Bundy’s Utah and Colorado victims, Kerry was also buried in a three foot grave. However, unlike any of his known victims, she was found at least partially clothed. In contrast, Bundy habitually stripped his victims nude in an attempt to eliminate fiber evidence, a strategy he’d learned from reading true crime magazines. And unlike Bundy’s victims, Kerry’s bones showed no evidence of trauma. The King County Medical Examiner was unable to determine a cause of death. Ken recalled, “there was no cracked skull or anything, but there really wasn’t much to autopsy. There was no evidence of anything [traumatic] happening.” Bundy’s signature murder style probably would have left at least some sort of injury to her bones—particularly broken hyoids and skull fractures.
In another intriguing coincidence, according to a Seattle Times interview with Kerry’s mother in 2011, her daughter had mentioned living “upstairs from a crisis clinic” in “about 1970” (before she was married). Famously, Bundy did once work (with his eventual biographer Ann Rule) for a late-night suicide crisis hotline. The newspaper queried Ann Rule about this possibility, but she recalled no other tenants in the building on Capitol Hill, nor did the clinic’s previous night supervisor, Bruce Cummins.
Even stranger, Ted Bundy and Kerry Hardy had at least one mutual acquaintance. In 1968 a 21-year-old Ted actually dated Seattle Police Captain Herb Swindler’s daughter Cathy, whom he’d met while volunteering for the Nelson Rockefeller presidential campaign. Amazingly, Kerry, Ken, and Cathy Swindler had all attended Lincoln High School together in Seattle, one year earlier. Cathy and Ken were both seniors that year; Kerry was one grade younger. Ken and Cathy were even in the same school singing group called “The Chanters.” In our conversation, Ken remembered Cathy quite clearly. But would Kerry have known Cathy? Ken replied, “Yeah, probably. She would have known Kerry enough to say hi to her and know who she was.” When reached for comment in 2022, Cathy unfortunately declined to provide any information.
While several interesting coincidences leave open the possibility of another Bundy murder, many can be attributed to the simple fact that Kerry, along with thousands of Seattleites, lived in the same city as a budding serial killer in 1972.
For instance, while there were several crisis clinics in Seattle at the time, neither address listed on the Mays’ wedding announcement in 1971 was near any such clinic, much less upstairs from one. The timing for the crisis clinic connection doesn’t quite match up either—Ted didn’t start work at the clinic until the fall of 1971, according to Rule, and was no longer employed there by June 1972. If Kerry had lived nearby in 1970 and moved to a new address by the time of her marriage in May of 1971, he never would have seen her. Ken told me that she was living in the “Capitol Hill and Ballard area” of Seattle at the time of her disappearance, while Ted was working at Harborview, not the crisis clinic.
The potential for a previous social connection is enticing. Perhaps Cathy introduced her to Ted while they were a couple, or ran into her around town while out on a date. Physically, Kerry’s appearance would have been striking and memorable. What if Ted had approached a hitchhiking Kerry a few years after dating Cathy, and lured her into his girlfriend’s car with that famous veneer of charm? “Hi Kerry, I’m Ted! Remember me? We met through Cathy, do you need a ride somewhere?” Of course, without Cathy’s confirmation, this entire scenario is pure speculation, and could merely be an eerie coincidence.
According to her brother, Kerry’s husband John May seems a likelier suspect. As our interview drew to a close, Ken told me, “I’m pretty sure, I’m pretty confident in my assumption… I think you can rule the Bundy thing out.” However, much like Bundy, there is no direct evidence of May’s involvement—only suspicious context. According to Ken, the location of her remains was near May property, dug with heavy machinery, which the family owned. A records search confirms that story– John May’s father did indeed own substantial property in the Kittitas County area. Perhaps most incriminatory is Ken’s allegation that May was physically abusive to his wife. And of course, a husband is typically the first suspect when his wife turns up missing or murdered; the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. But circumstantial and character evidence are always difficult to prosecute. In the case of John May, the sum value of these circumstances, while compelling to laymen, probably would not hold up in court. Without any telltale trauma to her bones, her body itself offers no clues. A third possibility—that Kerry’s murder was a random attack by an unidentified perpetrator—also remains. Sadly, without DNA evidence to analyze, and short of a confession, it seems unlikely that Kerry Hardy-May’s murder will ever officially be solved.
Ken still remembers and misses his sister; he grew emotional as he spoke of her. “She was musically and artistically talented. Whatever she had decided to do in her life, it would have been cool and she would’ve been recognized for it. I often wonder, how would my life have been different, if Kerry was still here?”
Kerry May Hardy-May
Rest in Peace
This was an installment of my ongoing “unconfirmed” case study series. All of these cases have been connected to Ted Bundy in some way, whether by active investigation or later speculation, but never officially linked to him. As they are all still unsolved, generally police will not release the case files. However, using newspaper archives and other works for reference, I have written the most exhaustive summary of each case as I can. I also include my own analysis based on my research and personal knowledge of Bundy’s timeline and modus operandi.
*The name of Kerry’s former husband has been changed for privacy. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty and all opinions are my own and not that of law enforcement unless otherwise indicated.