Ann Rule, true-crime author, dies at age 83

Ann Rule signed a contract to write a book about an unknown Seattle serial killer six months before he was identified as her co-worker Ted Bundy.

Known for profile The Stranger Beside Me, about co-worker Ted Bundy

True-crime author Ann Rule, who wrote more than 30 books, including a profile of her former co-worker, serial killer Ted Bundy, has died at age 83. (Betty Udesen/The Seattle Times/Associated Press)

True-crime writer Ann Rule signed a contract to write a book about an unknown Seattle serial killer six months before he was identified as her co-worker Ted Bundy, who shared the night shift at Seattle's Crisis Clinic.

The woman credited by her publisher with reinventing the previously male-dominated true crime genre by focusing on the victims has died at age 83.

Rule wrote more than 30 books, including The Stranger Beside Me, which profiled Bundy.

Rule and Bundy met in 1971 and their relationship was mostly a grim coincidence, except that he later confessed to eight murders in the state of Washington.

The FBI says Bundy started to kill attractive college students in Washington state around 1974 and was first arrested in 1975, but he later escaped and continued killing.

Bundy was executed in Florida's electric chair in 1989 for the 1978 rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl. He had been found guilty of two other 1978 killings and suspected in 20 to 40 others. Authorities said he confessed to at least 23 of them in the hours before his execution.

Rule's book on Bundy — her first and most famous — was published in 1980. She said she corresponded with him until his death.

Writing focussed on victims

Rule died at Highline Medical Center at 10:30 p.m. Sunday, said Scott Thompson, a spokesman for CHI Franciscan Health. Rule's daughter, Leslie Rule, said on Facebook that her mother had many health issues, including congestive heart failure.

"My mom died peacefully last night," Leslie Rule wrote. "She got to see all of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren."

Ann Rule, who went to work briefly at the Seattle Police Department when she was 21, began writing for magazines including True Detective in 1969. A biography on her author website says she has published more than 1,400 articles, mostly on criminal cases.

Rule said she was fascinated by killers' lives, going back to their childhood to find clues about why they did what they did. But her books focused on victims, and she became an advocate for victims' rights.

"By deciding to focus her books on the victim, Ann Rule reinvented the true crime genre and earned the trust of millions of readers who wanted a new and empathetic perspective on the tragic stories at the heart of her works," Carolyn Reidy, president and chief executive officer of Simon & Schuster, said in a statement.

After attending numerous workshops on crime topics from DNA to arson, local law enforcement, the FBI and the Justice Department started turning to Rule for her expertise on serial murders.

She aided the Green River Task Force as that group sought another Seattle-area serial killer, passing along tips that her readers shared. She wrote a book about the case, Green River, Running Red.

Rule was born in 1931 in Lowell, Michigan, to a schoolteacher and a football, basketball and track coach. They moved around a lot when she was a kid, traveling from Michigan, to Pennsylvania, Oregon and California because of her father's coaching career.

She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Washington in creative writing, with minors in psychology, criminology and penology.

She was the mother of five children and the grandmother of five.