Survivor says Ted Bundy softly told her, 'Do you know what? I'm going to kill you'

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Woman Who Survived Attack by Serial Killer Ted Bundy Speaks Out

SEATTLE -- When Ted Bundy pulled up in his Volkswagen to offer you a ride, why did you get in the car?

That's one of the first questions I asked Rhonda Stapley when I met her Wednesday morning on the UW campus in Seattle, where she was promoting her new book, "I Survived Ted Bundy," being sold on Amazon.

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"There was no reason not to get in the car," she replied. "It was Utah in 1974. He looked like a college student. I told him I was going to the university. He said he was too, hop in."

Stapley was a 21-year-old college student at the University of Utah studying to be a pharmacist when, she said, the man she later discovered was Bundy pulled up and offered her a ride.

"There were no warning signs. He didn't look creepy. He was very nice," Stapley said.

Bundy was enrolled as a first-year law student at Utah. Stapley said he told her needed to make a stop at the zoo but kept driving up into a canyon.

"I was thinking that he probably wanted to stop and park and make out," said Stapley, a naive Mormon girl.

What she didn't know is that by then, Bundy had already started his murderous Northwest nightmare. He had sexually assaulted and killed a handful of young women earlier that year in Western Washington.

Stapley said that on Oct. 11, 1974, it was going to be her turn.

Stapley had been to the dentist that day and was in pain. She said she was trying to figure out what to say to him when he stopped the car and leaned in.

"I thought he was going to kiss me or make a forward kind of advance, and he said, just very quietly, 'Do you know what? I'm going to kill you.' And he started strangling me."

She lost consciousness.

RELATED: More on notorious serial killer Ted Bundy's case

Notorious serial killer Ted Bundy
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Notorious serial killer Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy, Convicted American Serial Killer. Undated File Photo. (AP-PHOTO/HO)
Jim Simone of the Carbon County Search and Rescue team sets out near Price, Utah, Jan. 28, 1989, in search of the remains of 15-year-old Sue Curtis, whose grave Ted Bundy described less than an hour before he was executed Tuesday. Ms. Curtis disappeared from Brigham Young University in 1975 and is believed to be one of at least 23 murders Bundy confessed to in Utah, Idaho, Washington and Colorado. (AP Photo/George Frey)
Joe Ruden, from the Carbon County Search and Rescue team uses a metal detector to search for the burial site of Sue Curtis, who disappeared the summer of 1975, Jan. 27, 1989. Ted Bundy confessed to killing the girl less than an hour before he was executed today in Florida. The seachers were looking in an area that Bundy described, 10 miles south east of Price, Utah. (AP Photo/George Frey)
FILE - In this file photo of Jan. 24, 1989, the body of mass murderer Ted Bundy arrives at the medical examiner's office after he was executed at the Florida State Prison in Gainesville. Whether it's a genocidal dictator or a gunman behind a mass shooting, debate often flares over where the notorious should be laid to rest. Bundy's body was cremated. There was no public funeral. (AP Photo/Mark Foley, File)
Demonstrators rejoice as Theodore Bundy is executed in Florida's electric chair, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 1989, Starke, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark Foley)
Television crews gather equipment in anticipation of Ted Bundy's execution, Jan. 23, 1989 in Starke, Florida. The media area is directly across from the prison. (AP Photo/Mark Foley)
With Florida State Prison in the background, Florida Dept. of Corrections spokesman Bob Macmasters, right at microphones, fields questions from the media, Monday, Jan. 23, 1989, Starke, Fla. Ted Bundy is scheduled to die in Floridas electric chair Tuesday morning. (AP Photo/Mark Foley)
A tearful Ted Bundy discusses his views of violence and sex during a taped interview with Dr. James Dobson in Florida, Jan. 23, 1989. Bundy is to be executed tomorrow morning. (AP Photo/Mark Foley)
George Johnson from Jacksonville, Fla., hawks tee shirts outside the gate of Florida State Prison, Jan. 23, 1989 in Starke, Fla., in anticipation of the execution of Ted Bundy, scheduled for early Tuesday morning. (AP Photo/Mark Foley)
Theodore Bundy, right, listens intently with public defender Lynn Thompson, left, during examination of prospective jurors, Nov. 6, 1979 in Live Oak, Fla. Bundy is accused of murdering 12-year-old Kimberly Leach who was abducted from her school in Lake City, Fla. in February of 1978. (AP Photo)
Carol DaRonch testifies at a pre-sentencing hearing for convicted murder Ted Bundy as Judge Edward Cowart listens, July 28, 1979, in Miami. Bundy was convicted of kidnapping DaRonch from a Salt Lake City suburb in 1974. (AP Photo/Pool)
Judge Edward Cowart reads the sentence to Theodore Bundy and his defense attorney Margaret Good, backs to camera, July 31, 1979, in Miami. Bundy was sentenced to death in the electric chair for the murders of two Chi Omega sorority sisters in 1978. (AP Photo)
Members of the jury file past Theodore Bundy, seated right, at the defense table, after they returned a guilty verdict for Bundy in the slayings of two Chi Omega sorority sisters, July 24, 1979 in Miami. The jury, after deliberating 6 1/2 hours found Bundy guilty on all seven counts against him. (AP Photo)
Theodore Bundy gestures as he cross examines witnesses for the prosecution while members of the jury look on in the Miami courtroom, July 9, 1979, where Bundy is on trial for the murders of two Chi Omega sorority sisters. Bundy is a second year law student is assisting in his own defense. (AP Photo)
Nancy Dowdy, a Chi Omega sorority girl who roomed with Nita Neary, took the witness stand, July 3, 1979 in the Miami courtroom where Theodore Bundy is on trial for the murder of two of Ms. Dowdy's sorority sisters. Dowdy said her roommate said she had seen a man with a "protruding nose" leave the sorority house the right the two women were found slain. (AP Photo)
Assistant public defender Margaret Good, left, accused murderer Theodore Bundy, center, and analytical hypnotist Dr. Emil Spillman share similar postures as prospective jurors are interviewed during jury selection in the Ted Bundy murder trial, July 3, 1979 in Miami. A preliminary jury of 12 persons was selected, pending final approval by both sides in the case. (AP Photo)
Accused murderer Theodore Bundy stares out at the photographer during the second day of jury selection in his murder trial in Miami, Fla., on June 27, 1979. Bundy is accused in the bludgeoning deaths of two Chi Omega sorority sisters in Tallahassee, Jan. 15, 1978. (AP Photo)
Theodore Bundy gestures as he presents a motion before Circuit Judge Edward Cowart, as Bundy's murder trial got under way in Miami on Monday, June 25, 1979. Bundy's motion complained that he could not work on his defense in a 9 by 7-foot punishment cell. Bundy is charged with clubbing two young women to death in a sorority house in Tallahassee. All others in photo are unidentified. (AP Photo)
Police and trained scent dogs search the outlying areas for traces of escaped kidnaper Theodore Bundy, Wednesday, June 9, 1977, Aspen, Colo. Aspen residents leave been described as "some what miffed" as the escape and resulting search, and some have described the lax security around the accused murderer as "patently naive, and bordering on the criminally stupid. (AP Photo/SF)

"Then he would slap my face and revive me a little bit and then he would strangle me again," said Stapley.

The abuse went on for an hour or two, where he would cut off her air and the bring her back to consciousness.

She said she remembers his eyes to this day -- "dark and scary ... just evil. At one point, I was crying and begging for my life sitting on the ground and he said, 'You don't have the right to cry and whine at me. You should be thanking me that you're even alive cause I can kill you anytime I want.'"

Stapley said she lost consciousness again after he raped her on a picnic table. When she came to, he was over by his car with the dome light on. That's when she made her move.

"I jumped up and fell in the river and the river kind of swept me away from him," Stapley said.

Four miles downstream, she climbed out of the water and walked another 12 miles back to campus, freezing and in pain. She hid the injuries from her friends and family and never told anyone what happened.

Stapley said she felt guilt every time she heard about another missing or dead woman and suffered years of PTSD.

"I'd have nightmares almost every night," she said.

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[Bundy confessed to 30 homicides, but the true total remains unknown. Published estimates have run as high as 100 or more. He was electrocuted at Raiford Prison in Starke, Florida, on January 24, 1989]

After decades of emotional struggle, Stapley started getting counseling and began keeping a journal. That led to her book that she hopes will help women understand sexual assaults are not their fault.

"The physical injuries will heal eventually. The emotional scars need to be taken care of too," she said.

Stapley went on to work as a pharmacist, got married and had kids. She brought her 16-year-old granddaughter with her to visit Seattle.

"It's kind of surreal because I didn't really know what had happened and I didn't know that she was hiding these feelings," said Jade Gordon, who added that she tries to pay attention to her surroundings because of what happened to her grandmother. "I tend to try and not look at my phone or if I'm reading a book or something, I try to be less distracted when I'm out and about."

Stapley wants all young women to be aware there are still predators among us and that silence is one of their greatest weapons.

"The crime isn't over when the assault is over. It goes on forever," she said.

In the forward to Stapley's book, true crime author Ann Rule wrote that not only is Stapley "a credible witness, her story checks out."

"It in no way contradicts the FBI's timeline report on Bundy for the fall of 1974," Rule wrote. "The little known report tracks Bundy's activities, using things like gasoline receipts and telephone records to pinpoint his whereabouts on any given date. By all calculations, Bundy was indeed in Salt Lake City on October 11, 1974, when Rhonda was offered a ride by a handsome young man in a Volkswagen."

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