Woman Who Escaped Serial Killer Ted Bundy Shares Her Story

You might not know the name Ted Bundy, but to Americans, he is what Ian Brady, Fred West and Harold Shipman are to us Brits.

As serial killers go, he's one of the worst: he killed at least 30 people - all female - in the mid-1970s, often engaging in depraved acts with their corpses after he had buried them.

He was captured in 1975, escaped from jail twice and was eventually recaptured in 1978 before being executed in 1989. His crimes shocked America, and almost more shocking still is this account from one of his victims who managed to escape.

Rhonda Stapley was abducted and raped by Bundy in 1974, at the start of his spree, at the University of Utah. A large part of Bundy's MO was to trawl college campuses looking for young, single women - often with centre-partings, which he preferred as a previous girlfriend had that hairstyle - and feign injury so that he could entice them into his car.

He approached Stapley as she was waiting for a bus that was late. "This tan Volkswagen drove by and the driver offered me a ride, and I accepted it and got in," she later recounted.

"He was very nice, polite, well-dressed. He looked like a college student and he presented himself as a college student... He told me he was a law student, he was going up to the university too and it was just right on his way, it wouldn't be out of his way at all to drop me off.

"And then he turned a way that didn't seem like the normal route to go to the university, and I asked him about that and he said, 'I hope you don't mind, but I have a little errand to run up by the zoo,' and so then we went up the canyon."

Bundy continued to drive around and Stapley realised that he was looking for a secluded place, presumably so that he could make a pass at her.

"He pulls in finally to a picnic area that's kind of deserted," said Stapley. "He pulls back into the trees a little way and stops the car and turns it off.

"And then he turned in his seat so he was almost facing me, and leaned in really close. I thought he was going to kiss me. But instead he said, 'You know what? I'm going to kill you.' And he put his hands on my throat and started squeezing and shaking me."

Credit: Florida Department of Corrections (Public domain)
Credit: Florida Department of Corrections (Public domain)

There, Bundy strangled and sexually assaulted Stapley repeatedly. He would choke her, then revive her over and again - "I was kind of in a state of going into unconsciousness for most of the evening," remembered Rhonda.

"The last time I regained consciousness... the passenger door was open and the dome light was on. So I could see him, that was the only light in the whole canyon... I could see him standing over there, facing away from me, doing something in the backseat of the car."

Bundy kept his kit - balaclavas, rope, screwdrivers and gloves - in the back of the car and was presumably preparing to murder Stapley.

"I just jumped and ran in the other direction, into pitch blackness. I just took a couple of steps because my pants had been pulled down around my ankles," she said.

"So I tripped...and tumbled, but I fell into a mountain river that wasn't really deep, but it was really, really swift. There were boulders and bushes and tree limbs sticking out ... the water swept me away from him, and it's probably what saved my life.

"It could have been moments. It could've have been a long time. I had no idea. I remember thinking, 'I'm still going to die. I was going to die before, and now I'm still going to die.'"

Luckily, she washed into a storm grate and was stopped in the water. She managed to climb out and walk the full 15 miles back to her home.

Rhonda sat on the story for over 30 years, traumatised by the events. She only told her story in 2016 after suffered a post-traumatic episode brought on by an incident at work.

She's got in touch with other Bundy survivors and has now published a book of her experiences, available on Amazon.

Featured Image Credit: Florida Department of Corrections (Public Domain)

Mike Wood

Mike Meehall Wood is a freelance journalist and translator. He writes for LADbible, VICE and countless sports publications, focusing on rugby league, football and boxing. He is a graduate of Leeds University and maintains a fizzy pop obsession. Contact Mike at [email protected]

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