Netflix’s 4 part docuseries Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes is reacquainting America with one of her best known serial killers. Ted Bundy killed at least 30 young women in the 1970s and was executed for his crimes decades ago.
However, the reason he was caught is largely due to the few times he did not successfully murder his victim.
His original arrest was on attempted kidnapping charges in Utah, where he accosted Carol DaRonch. She escaped and identified him in a lineup, putting him behind bars for the first time. However, Bundy eventually escaped prison, moved across the country, and landed in Florida where he brutally murdered two sorority girls in their sleep – Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman – before entering the room Kathy Kleiner Rubin shared with a girl named Karen Chandler.
Bundy tripped over a trunk and woke Kathy around three in the morning, but without her glasses, she was unable to see well enough to defend herself against the repeated blows from the heavy log he’d used to bludgeon her sorority sisters. She recounted that horrifying night to Rolling Stone:
“I remember the noise of the trip and something falling off the trunk, and that woke me up. The room was dark, and I didn’t have my glasses on, but I remember seeing a black mass. I couldn’t even see that it was a person. I saw the club, saw him lift it over his head, and slam it on me.
“The first time, it didn’t hurt. It was pressure, like someone pressing on your arm. And then he hit me again. And I think that’s where he hit me in the face and broke my jaw in three places and I passed out. but that’s what I remember the most: him lifting the club and bringing it down on me.”
But before Bundy could knock Kathy’s roommate Karen unconscious, too, one of their other sisters pulled into the parking lot. The headlights from her car briefly illuminated their room, startling Bundy and causing him to flee.
The woman, Nita Neary, saw him running away and provided the only eyewitness testimony at the trial that sent Bundy to the electric chair. But he wasn’t caught and remanded to prison until about a month after the incident.
Kathy’s jaw was shattered, her right cheek was torn, and her tongue was almost completely severed…but she survived, and even attended her attacker’s trial that summer.
“He was just staring me down. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t angry, so much as a …throwing-up feeling. It was so bad. It was disgust.”
She’s now married and living in New Orleans, but the incident sparked a lifelong interest in true crime novels and literature about Bundy himself – an obsession she sees as healthy, because it lets her feel as if she has some control over what happened to her.
Bundy admitted to a whole lot of murders before he was executed, but we’ll probably never know exactly how many women died by his hand – or why he killed them. And that’s perhaps the scariest part of the whole story.