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Ted Bundy victim shares her story after four decades of silence

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Posted at 8:17 PM, Apr 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-28 11:17:41-04

OGDEN, Utah — After four decades of silence, Rhonda Stapley is finally telling the story of how Ted Bundy attacked, and nearly killed her.

It happened on October 11th, 1974.  Stapley, then in her fourth year of pharmaceutical school at the University of Utah, was waiting for the bus at Liberty Park in downtown Salt Lake City.

"This tan Volkswagen drove by," she describes. "It slows down and the driver asked me if I would like a ride, and I got in."

Stapley didn't know it at the time, but the driver, she would later recognize as Ted Bundy, who would later confess to 30 murders in seven states.

"It was a real normal conversation," Stapley said of the drive. "He told me his name was Ted and that he was a first-year law student."

Stapley said that Bundy told her he had to run an errand on the way to campus, but she says he kept driving all the way to Big Cottonwood Canyon, and that's when conversation and things got awkward.

"About halfway up the canyon, he stopped talking to me," Stapley said. "He had both hands on the steering wheel and didn't even acknowledge me.  Then, he started looking for parking places and turnoffs."

Stapley said he did turn off, and things shifted from awkward to deadly.

"He leaned over and said, 'You know what? I'm gonna kill you.' Then he put his hands on my throat and started squeezing.  He choked me until I was unconscious and then drug [sic] me out of the car," Stapley said.

Stapley said Bundy both physically and sexually assaulted her.

"I woke up and was laying on the ground.  He had moved away from me and had grabbed something out of the back of the car, and I just jumped and ran."

Stapley said she ran along the river for 4 miles to the mouth of the canyon, and then roughly another 12 miles back to the U of U campus.

She said she didn't tell her friends of family about the experience out of fear that no one would believe her.

Sometime after that, she saw Ted Bundy's face on the television for the first time.

"Chills," she described the moment of first recognizing her attacker. "And guilt because I thought that if I had come forward, maybe he would have been arrested."

Stapley said all this new information is coming to light now because of a recent incident at the work place.

An argument between her and her boss led her to seek counseling.

She said it was her counselor that suggested she start writing out her feelings, and helped diagnose her with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"What I've learned about PTSD is that one of the main risk factors for developing it is not dealing with the emotional pain from a traumatic event.  Writing helps."