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Carol DaRonch met Ted Bundy at a Utah shopping mall on November 8, 1974 — only then, she didn’t yet know who, or what, he was.
DaRonch was only 18 years old when Bundy, a man who viciously killed more than 30 people, tried and failed to abduct her. DaRonch recounted her terrifying encounter with the famed murderer for the recently released Netflix documentary, “Conversation With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.” The four-episode series features the interviews journalists Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth conducted with Bundy in 1980 while he was on death row, as well as interviews with those who came face-to-face with him at the height of his crimes — like DaRonch.
DaRonch, now 62, recounted her story again for PEOPLE this week, telling the outlet, “It’s still really scary to me that I survived, that I was even able to survive.”
She was an “extremely shy teen” back then, she said, and it later made her angry “to think that he thought he could just take me like that.”
Bundy first approached her at a shopping mall, and lured her into his vehicle by claiming that someone had broken into her car and that he was a police officer investigating the crime, DaRonch told PEOPLE. Once inside the car and on the road, Bundy’s facade soon fell away — he tried to handcuff her, but only succeeded in getting a cuff around one wrist, and she was able to fight her way out of the car, she recalled.
“I was able to open the door on my side and get out, and he came out after me over the seat, and we just fought outside of the car,” DaRonch told PEOPLE.
She was able to reach safety by getting the attention of an oncoming vehicle. Bundy, enraged at having failed in his attempt to capture DaRonch, went on to abduct and presumably murder 17-year-old Debra Kent mere hours later, the Netflix doc revealed.
“I was very lucky and it was really shocking to find out later that he was so angry that I had gotten away, he just drove somewhere else and killed someone else,” DaRonch said during her Netflix interview.
Preying on young women became habitual for Bundy, and many have theorized that Bundy’s supposed good looks and charm are part of what allowed him to get close to his victims. However, DaRonch reiterated in her interview with PEOPLE that she does not feel that Bundy possesses any of the so-called charming qualities that his fans would later become obsessed with.
“I thought he was kind of creepy. … I thought he was a lot older than he was,” she said.
DaRonch’s near miss would prove to be Bundy’s fatal mistake; she was able to identify him in a lineup the following year, which led to his first conviction. He would later be linked to dozens more murders, and executed in 1989.
DaRonch, who bravely testified against Bundy and repeatedly faced him court, proved an invaluable witness in the battle to get Bundy behind bars.
“She never wavered at all,” retired district attorney David Yocom, who prosecuted the case against Bundy, told PEOPLE. “She obviously didn’t like the idea of testifying, but she knew it was her duty.”
DaRonch told PEOPLE of her decision to testify, “I was totally happy to do it. I thought that the sentence he got [for kidnapping], the one to 15 years, I thought it wasn’t enough.”
“I thought, ‘This monster tried to murder me, and he might be out in two years.’ I thought, ‘I will go and help them get a murder conviction and have him put away.’ So I never felt that I wouldn’t testify. I thought it was really important that I do,” she said.
DaRonch’s role in Bundy’s legal saga isn’t the only reason “Conversation With a Killer” director Joe Berlinger felt it was important to include her story in the Netflix documentary. DaRonch’s brush with Bundy also exemplified just how quickly he was able to abduct and kill, Berlinger told PEOPLE.
“She represents that rare person who was able to get away,” he said. “I thought was very important for people to understand the horror of who this guy is and how he is a master deceiver and manipulator.”
“He generally was able to kill people before they even knew what was going on,” he said.
Despite going through such a traumatic event, DaRonch said that her life went on “normally” afterward, even though she did become “more cautious around strangers, more aware of my surroundings and less trusting,” PEOPLE reports.
“I’m really happy and healthy and just live a normal life,” she said.
[Photo: Getty Images]
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