The Moment Ted Bundy's Teenage Survivor Realized He Was Trying to Abduct and Murder Her
Editor’s Note: On Friday, Netflix began streaming a biopic on serial killer Ted Bundy, titled Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. The film, which stars Zac Efron as Bundy, captures the terror wrought by the man who kidnapped, raped and killed dozens of young women and girls in the 1970s across seven states.
Utah teenager Carol DaRonch was attacked by 1974 — and managed to escape with her life. The following article about DaRonch’s ordeal was originally published on Jan. 23, 2018.
To start, he’d told her he was a police officer — and he had the badge to prove it. Her car had been broken into while she was shopping at the mall, he said, and then he asked if she could come down to the station with him to make a complaint against the suspect?
The situation seemed a little off somehow to DaRonch, 18, and her instincts were right: Bundy was trying to abduct and murder her — a harrowing encounter she survived and then some, later going on to testify against him at trial, leading to his first conviction in his years-long spree of kidnappings, sexual assaults and murders.
DaRonch’s story and others are recounted in Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, a four-part docuseries on Netflix.
In an exclusive clip above, she recalls the moment it all went wrong in Bundy’s car, after she agreed to join him for a ride to the police station:
“He headed down a side street and then he suddenly pulled over up on the side of a curb up by an elementary school and that’s when I just started freaking out: ‘What are we doing?’ And he grabbed my arm and he got one handcuff on one wrist and he didn’t get the other one on and the one was just dangling. I had never been so frightened in my entire life.”
DaRonch, without knowing who had targeted her, realized what fate could await her.
She says in the clip: “I thought, My god my parents are never going to know what happened to me.”
But she fought Bundy off — one of his few survivors and the first to be able to identify him afterward. Later, she told PEOPLE how she had tried to move on with her life.
“I’ve decided to try and block it from my memory,” she said in 1989. “You can’t live in fear forever.” (Perversely, Bundy went on from his encounter with DaRonch to kill that same day — 17-year-old Debra Jean Kent.)
Conversations with a Killer includes interviews with DaRonch, the people who investigated, prosecuted and defended Bundy and Bundy himself, in the form of about 100 hours of never-heard audio recorded during death row interviews he gave in Florida while awaiting execution.
It was the fall of 1974 when Bundy tried to take DaRonch. He’d already killed over and over again, the women often vanishing from public spaces at night: a girl near her sorority house, another leaving a bar. Two others during the day in a crowded park.
His arrest in DaRonch’s abduction was not the end of his story. He twice escaped from police custody, then went on to represent himself at the two murder trials for which he was prosecuted with rapt TV cameras recording.
He insisted until right before he was executed that he was innocent. He was articulate, he was handsome, he was a law school student. How could he be a serial killer?
Docuseries director Joe Berlinger, who is also releasing a fictionalized account of Bundy’s crimes starring Zac Efron, tells PEOPLE it’s that incongruity about Bundy’s character that he wanted to explore.
“Why is Bundy considered the serial killer that everybody seems to know something about and why he is a source of endless fascination?” Berlinger says. Listening to tapes of Bundy’s prison interviews changed his perspective.
“I wasn’t sure until I started listening to the [tapes] and listening to the stuff, it burned and deepened some of the troubling aspects of Bundy’s story that I felt were worth putting on screen which I hadn’t yet seen before, which is this deep dive into the mind of a killer and the personality of a killer,” he says. “Because I think the thing that’s most chilling, interesting, fascinating to me about Bundy is that he defied many of the stereotypes of the serial killer.
“The thing that I really wanted to drill into is: Why was he so believable?”
Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes is available on Netflix.