'Ted Bundy: The Survivors': Rhonda Stapley believes her silence resulted in assault and killing of more victims
Stapley was attacked by Bundy in October 1974 after he offered her a lift in his Volkswagen Beetle. In Reelz’s two-part documentary she explains the guilt she feels for having kept quiet about her ordeal
October 11, 1974, it was a normal evening for a young woman, Rhonda Stapley - a pharmacy student at Utah university -- who was waiting for a bus to take her back to her university campus. But when the bus got late and a charming young man stopped near her in his Volkswagen Beetle while offering her a lift, she could not deny it. “I felt like a college student helping another college student,” Stapley said, but she had no idea this was going to be her life’s biggest nightmare, according to Reelz’s two-part documentary -- 'Ted Bundy: The Survivors' -- which focuses on Bundy’s survivors.
Stapley is one of the very few survivors who lived to tell of their horrific encounter with him. After the then 21-year-old Stapley got into his car, they chatted and Bundy told her he was a first-year law student. “But soon Bundy changed the way, he also stopped talking to me and took the car to an isolated place. I thought he's looking for a place to pull over and make-out. Instead, he came very close to my face and said, ‘You know what, I'm going to kill you',” the woman recalled.
Bundy started strangling her, they had a battle in the car. He beat and sexually assaulted her. Stapley was going in and out of consciousness. “He was standing over me, slapping my face. He told me, ‘you don't have the right to cry and whine at me, you should be thanking me that you are even still alive. I can kill you whenever I want. You should be thanking me that you are even breathing air',” Stapley said in the documentary.
The documentary revealed how over the next three hours, Bundy raped, beat, and resuscitated the young student. Stapley said when she regained consciousness, she found herself out of the car and on the ground. “I cried and begged him to stop,” she added. After hours of abuse, Bundy thought Stapley was dead but miraculous she survived and awoke only to find Bundy distracted by something in his car. Without wasting a second, Stapley ran away from the place, and due to the darkness and as her pants were around her ankles, she tripped and the river water swept her away from her attacker. “That is what probably saved my life,” she stated.
Stapley continued: “I came out of the river, the road kind of follows the river and I was afraid to walk on the road. So, I walked on the edge.” Hours later she returned home. “My roommates were gone, so I did whatever to help myself and feel better. Then I slept, was exhausted and trippy. I slept all night and day,” she said, adding: “Then I woke up, threw away my river ravaged clothes, had fast food, and hung out till my roommates went to bed. I returned after that so I did not have to explain my injuries to them.”
For Stapley, her life kind of stood still after the incident, she had anxiety issues and began going outside at night for a run, but Bundy did not stop. He continued to prey on women. Just a week after attacking Stapley, he abducted a 17-year-old daughter of a chief of police. Two weeks later, he again kidnapped another 17-year-old who was last seen leaving a Halloween party around midnight. After the Stapley incident, Bundy also tried to assault an 18-year-old girl, Carol DaRonch, who later identified him after which he was found guilty of aggravated kidnapping in 1976, and faced up to 15 years in jail. But he managed to flee.
When Bundy was detained, Stapley said she felt guilty and not happy. She mentioned if she could have approached authorities earlier the other women might not have been victimized by him. He could have been arrested early and the numerous cruel attacks by him could have been stopped.
Stapley gave the reasons in the documentary why she did not speak out for decades. “I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and stupid for getting into such a situation,” she explained. She also stated that she feared she would have to leave her studies and return home, sacrificing her ambitions. Stapley was afraid if she broke her silence, she would be defined as a rape victim and excluded from her friends' group and family members. “The teachings in the LDS church [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] at that time was that your virtue and your chastity were the most important thing a young woman could have, and if you come to a point giving up your virginity or your life you are better off eternally if you die,” Stapley added.
Part 1 of 'Ted Bundy: The Survivors' titled 'Eyes of Evil' releases on Reelz Saturday, October 3, at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT while Part 2, named 'Ending the Evil', will premiere October 10 at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT.