In the seventies, America had to witness one of its most notorious serial killers, Ted Bundy, who startled the world with his heinous crimes against young women. Numerous young souls lost their lives at the hands of a monster, but some of them were fortunate enough to survive those attacks. A few of these women shared their experiences during the trials and in the documentaries made years later.
Trigger warning: Sexual Assault, Severe Physical Assault, Murder
Even after all these years, the case of Ted Bundy remains a matter of curiosity among the masses, catering to which, numerous documentaries and movies have been created. Some of those include Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, Ted Bundy: Serial Monster, and Ted Bundy: An American Monster. One of the most famous movies made on him is titled Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, gaining its reference from the remarks of the judge at his trials. During the court hearings, many women across America supported him as he looked too charming to be a killer.
He lured young women mostly by pretending to be in dire need of help, using it as a facade to gain their trust. He drove a Volkswagen across the Pacific Northwest, in which he used to stalk and abduct his targets. His victims were young women, conventionally pretty, and were long-haired brunettes, indicating the preference he had for his targets. Kimberley Leech was the only child he killed. He was a necrophile who raped the distorted bodies of many of his victims after they died and would often keep a few of their body parts as souvenirs. Bundy spent several years in prison before being executed in the electric chair on January 24, 1989. Before his execution, he confessed to killing at least 30 women.
Karen Epley was his first victim and one of the few survivors of his crimes. On January 4, 1974, she was sexually assaulted and beaten down to a pulp. She was taken to the hospital after shuddering in pain for 18 hours. As a consequence of the attack, her bladder was severely injured. She had permanent brain damage and lost half of her hearing as well as forty percent of her vision. For many years, she experienced panic episodes.
Kathie Kleiner was attacked on January 15, 1978, at her sorority house in Florida at midnight. After killing Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy, sorority girls in the adjoining room, Kathie and her roommate were attacked with a golf club, which resulted in Kathie’s shattered jaw line and a torn cheek. When Bundy realized Kathie was still alive, he smashed the golf club against her face for the second time. Ted fled the crime scene, leaving three dead women and one severely injured. After spending a week at the hospital, she was sent back to her room to check if the killer took any of their belongings as a souvenir, but all she could see was blood and his fingerprints on black dust. She stood as one of the witnesses at the trial.
On the evening of November 8, 1974, Ted Bundy approached Carol DaRonch at a bookstore, claiming to be a police officer, and asked her to accompany him to the police station, justifying that he had caught a guy who tried to break into her car. She tried to cooperate with the police and sat with him in his car. He drove them away and pulled them over to a curb, pulled out a gun, and held it over her head, threatening to shoot her. That’s when her defense instincts got activated. She fought for her life, and eventually pushed him back and got out of the passenger seat. She escaped by chance in an approaching car. She was the only victim who survived the Utah abductions and was even responsible for his detention later on. She realized it was Ted who tried to abduct her because the person shown on the TV had the same cold, lifeless eyes as her kidnapper. She also stood as a witness against him at his trial, which infuriated him quite a lot as shown via the tapes.
Though Lizzy was not a survivor of his attacks, she did survive the emotional trauma caused by the reality of the love of her life. Lizzy, a single mother of her daughter Molly, met Ted Bundy at a club. Given the charming and smart man that he was, she was smitten from the get-go. Being deeply in love with him, she dated him for five years. She recalls he was an absolute gentleman and never, in her wildest dreams, could she have imagined he was capable of something so brutal. Ted even shared a special bond with Molly, who adored him and perceived him as a father figure in her life. It was the year 1974 when Lizzy started noticing certain changes in his behavior, which she suspected was because he was seeing someone else. Little did she know, this was the time he was initiating a heinous journey of the bloodbath.
There were accounts of several women going missing in Seattle. On July 14, 1974, Ted Bundy abducted Denise Naslund and Janice Ott from Lake Sammamish State Park. Their bodies were later found dumped in the woods. With the help of park footage, a sketch of a man who drove a Volkswagen was circulated in newspapers. That is when one of Lizzy’s co-workers brought a copy of the newspaper to her. Lizzy also noticed the uncanny similarity and called the police through a tip line they had issued, but it wasn’t received seriously by the cops. She was afraid of confronting him because of the possibility of it being true. Ted fled Seattle and killed a hitchhiker within 12 hours of his journey to a different state. He set off on a killing spree in a few other states of the Pacific Northwest. Lizzy came to realize the murders were now transpiring outside of Seattle, which reinforced her doubts against Ted. She tried to reach out to the police, but it went in vain once again.
In the year 1975, he was halted for a traffic violation in Utah, where the cops found a few questionable belongings in his car. He was taken into custody and was later on identified by Carol DaRonch, the survivor from Utah. He got out on bail and went to visit Lizzy for the last time. Molly believes they were spared because of his apparent existence in their lives which would have created problems for him if he did harm them. Elizabeth recalls she was always confused as to why he didn’t contact her even before his execution, but she was unaware that he did send her a letter before being electrocuted, stating his love for her, which was burnt down by Lizzy’s daughter as she didn’t want her mother to be manipulated once again. She stated he didn’t deserve closure after what he did to all those innocent women. Molly, to date, has been deeply disturbed by the fact that Kimberly Leech, Ted’s last victim, was 12, the same age as her when she was raped, killed, and dumped beneath a pig shed.
Several women were fortunate enough to survive and several families got the closure of their tragedies. However, the actual figure of the victims slain by Ted died with him. It is speculated that it could be more than a hundred.
Ashna Arif is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Shoa Falak