Rhonda Stapley is a wife, daughter and author who now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, near the location where she escaped serial killer Ted Bundy in 1974. Stapley was a pharmacy student at the University of Utah when she missed her bus, and Bundy offered her a ride.
“This didn’t feel like hitchhiking, what I did. This felt like a friendly college student helping another college student, and that seemed normal and not out of place,” she said during an interview for the four-hour documentary, Ted Bundy: The Survivors.
It would be decades before Stapley shared her story publicly, but today she is an author who regularly attends book signings for her book, “I Survived Ted Bundy: The Attack, Escape & PTSD That Changed My Life.” She also recently shared her story in a podcast published in June, 2020, and has appeared on Dr. Phil. Stapley is a wife of more than 41 years.
Ted Bundy: The Survivors is airing in two parts on REELZ. Episode 1, “Eyes of Evil” airs Saturday, October 3, 2020 at 8 p.m. Eastern time and Pacific time. Episode 2, “Ending Evil,” airs Saturday, October 10, 2020 at 8 p.m. Eastern time and Pacific.
Here’s what you need to know:
Rhonda Stapley Celebrated Her 41st Wedding Anniversary in May & Has Been Visiting With Her Mother Through a Window Due to the Coronavirus
Rhonda Stapley has been married for more than 41 years, and she celebrated her anniversary to her husband in May. In May, 2019, she shared a photo of her wedding day, along with a current photo of the couple for their 40th anniversay.
“Happy 40th to my sweetheart,” she wrote on Facebook.
More recently, she was dealing with the effects of the pandemic and separation from her mother, who turns 87 in October. She shared a photo of her mom on Facebook and wrote about visiting her through a cracked window, several feet apart.
“I visited Mom today,” she wrote on Facebook. “Had to stand outside 6 feet back from window that was cracked open about 3 inches. They sat her in a chair 3 feet back from the window. I shouted but she could barely hear what I was saying. We mainly just waved to each other.”
Her mother has great-grandchildren, and Stapley commented in the post that she was considering organizing a parade with them to visit her mother. While she acknowledged it was difficult being unable to hug her mother or talk to her in person, she said in a comment it is for the best to keep her mom safe during the pandemic.
“I totally agree that keeping our aging loved ones safe is best,” Stapley wrote.
Stapley Is Author of ‘I Survived Ted Bundy: The Attack, Escape & PTSD That Changed My Life’ & Was Recently Featured in a Podcast
Stapley wrote a book about her harrowing escape from Bundy, which was published in 2016. “I Survived Ted Bundy: The Attack, Escape & PTSD that Changed My Life,” should be “mandatory reading at all police academies,” a review written by a private investigator and author said.
“The author’s story of survival, and struggle with PTSD is incredible,” the review said. “This is one person’s description of how trauma influenced her decision-making process. From an outsider’s point of view, it was enlightening, terrifying, awe-inspiring and educational. I encourage all law enforcement officers to read and study this book.”
The book is available for purchase on Amazon. She conducts book signings near her home of Salt Lake City, Utah, according to her Facebook page.
“She was an innocent Mormon girl. He was America’s most notorious serial killer,” says the book’s foreword, written by Ann Rule. “When their paths crossed on a quiet autumn afternoon, he planned to kill her. But this victim had an incredible will to survive and would live to tell her story nearly three decades after he met death in a Florida electric chair. Ted Bundy brutally attacked Rhonda Stapley in a secluded Utah canyon in 1974. She miraculously escaped and hid her dark secret until now. This compelling real story of triumph over tragedy is both shocking and inspiring and told with the true courage of a victim turned survivor.”
Stapley also told her story on a podcast, “Prevail Beyond,” published in June 2020. The 32-minute podcast, “She survived Ted Bundy,” opened with a discussion of the public’s fascination with serial killers.
Stapley Most Recently Shared Her Story on a 4-Hour Documentary, Ted Bundy: The Survivors
Stapley was one of at least seven women to escape Bundy. She encountered the serial killer when he approached her in his Volkswagon Beetle after she missed her bus to school, she says in a trailer of the documentary.
“Just as it passed me, it stopped and he put it in reverse and backed up,” Stapley recalled. “He rolled down the passenger window and he says, ‘Hey where are you going?'”
She said she was headed to the University of Utah. He was too, he told her, and asked if she wanted a ride.
“This didn’t feel like hitchhiking, what I did. This felt like a friendly college student helping another college student, and that seemed normal and not out of place,” she said.
She became suspicious when he turned off the easiest route to the university.
“He turned a way that wasn’t the normal route to the university. You could get there that way, but it wasn’t the normal route and I questioned him about that,” Stapley said on the documentary. “I said, ‘Where are we going?’And that was when the ride started to become strange. He just had both hands firmly on the steering wheel and was just driving. He turns in his seat so he’s almost facing me in the car, and leans in really close, and then, very, very quietly, he says, ‘I’m going to kill you.'”
She ran away from Bundy in a desolate area, and fell into a stream.
“As soon as I jumped up and started to run, I fell into a fast-moving mountain stream, which is probably what saved my life,” she says on the documentary.
“The real heroes are the victims,” she says.