The relationship between Ted Bundy and long-time love Elizabeth Kloepfer was built on a series of extremes. While she reported him to police as a possible suspect in a series of mass murders terrorizing the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s, Kloepfer also kissed him on the cheek and professed her love for him after his conviction for kidnapping, visited him repeatedly in a Utah prison, and wrote to him for years while he was behind bars.
At times, she cooperated with investigators, meeting with them in secret or even handing over a book of canceled checks she had stolen from Bundy’s apartment, while other times she refused to cooperate at all.
In its most basic sense, Kloepfer continued to support Bundy for years after she and police began to suspect he was a killer for one simple reason: love.
“In spite of all the destruction he has caused around him, I still care what happens to Ted,” she wrote in the preface of the book “The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy.” “I have come to accept that a part of me will always love a part of him.”
The out-of-print book, written by Kloepfer under the pen name Elizabeth Kendall, gives readers a rare glimpse into the intimate relationship the pair shared from 1969 until his arrest for the mass murder of multiple women at a Florida sorority house in 1978. The book serves as the basis for the Netflix film "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil And Vile," which stars Zac Efron as the killer and Lily Collins as Kloepfer. The films starts streaming May 3.
Oxygen.com tracked down the book, published in 1981, to learn more about Bundy’s life behind closed doors and the powerful bond they both appeared to share.
“I loved her so much,” Bundy would later tell journalists Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth in a death row interview played in the Netflix docu-series “Conversations with A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” about the romance. “It was destabilizing.”
Her Suspicions Begin
The couple began their romance in October 1969 after they met in a Seattle bar near the University of Washington. In many ways, the relationship was much like any relationship between two young lovers. Kloepfer, a mother to a young daughter, worked as a secretary in the university’s medical department, while Bundy was a student hoping to one day go on to law school and become a lawyer.
The pair, often short on money, would find inexpensive ways to spend time together, whether it was exploring the area's lakes and beaches, visiting local taverns, making dinner at home, or hanging out with friends. Bundy often also played the role of family man, reading children’s stories to her young daughter or embarking on trips to the park or zoo.
“Talking and eating and taking care of [her daughter] and sleeping together all flowed along so effortlessly that we had become a family,” she wrote.
But as the relationship progressed, there were signs that began to trouble the young mom. At times, Bundy would become distant or would admit to going out on dates with other women.
After one such occasion, Kloepfer convinced his landlord to let her into his apartment, where she found a note from another woman. Bundy walked in and caught her there, and she rushed home in tears. Bundy then caught up with her outside her home, she said.
“I sprang out of the car so fast I think I scared him,” she wrote. “I grabbed his shirt and began pushing and pulling at him, ‘I wish I was bigger than you. I’d beat the s---out of you!’ I screamed.”
Several weeks later the pair would go out on another date and Bundy professed his love for her, telling her that being with someone else had been the “loneliest experience of my life.”
There were other troubling signs as well. Once, while Bundy was taking a bath, she discovered some plaster of Paris at the back of a drawer in his apartment and noticed a pair of crutches in his room on another occasion.
The suspect police were looking for often appeared injured in an effort to lure unsuspecting women —and the seemingly unnecessary medical equipment concerned Kloepfer.
Then, shortly after two women vanished from Lake Sammamish, one of Kloepfer’s coworkers pointed to a sketch widely circulating in the newspapers about a “Ted” seen with the women shortly before they disappeared. They mentioned the resemblance to her own Ted.
“The drawing did look vaguely like Ted. I tried to laugh, but it stuck in my throat,” she wrote. “I went back to my desk and stared at the clipping, then put it in the pocket of my backpack.”
A seed of doubt had been planted, and Kloepfer soon shared her concerns with a close friend. Together the pair called Seattle police, but after noting several discrepancies between the man police were looking for and Bundy, she let the matter drop.
Kloepfer, however, was never fully able to shake her suspicions and began to analyze Bundy’s behaviors.
“I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I would even be thinking these terrible thoughts,” she said. “Was I going crazy? Was it jealousy? Why did I try to keep building the case against Ted?”
She called authorities again — this time the King County Police — after Bundy had moved to Utah for law school and a friend told her women had started disappearing from that state as well.
She met with investigator Randy Hergesheimer in the parking lot of a hamburger restaurant and relayed her suspicions, including finding that plaster of Paris in his house several years earlier. Kloeper even gave the investigator several photos of Bundy that he planned to show a witness from the lake that day.
“Ted called several times that week. It was easy for me not to think about having gone to the police when I was talking with him. He was just Ted, nothing else. It was after I hung up that I was consumed by guilt and hoped to God he never found out!” she said.
Kloepfer made several other attempts to alert authorities, confiding in her bishop and reaching out to investigators in Utah as well.
But while she had noted several troubling signs, she still struggled to reconcile the heinous murders of women in Washington and Oregon with the man she knew as her boyfriend.
“He was not a violent person,” she wrote. “When we argued he was always calm and reasonable; I was the one who lost control and yelled. I could count on the fingers of one hand the times that Ted had lost his temper since I’d known him.”
Her concerns consumed her as she combed through all the details she could find about the murders.
“I could no longer get a whole night’s sleep. I would wake up about two or three in the morning and toss and turn until the sun came up,” she wrote.
But authorities also told her they had already looked into Bundy, giving her some peace of mind, and she decided to continue her relationship.
“I still watched his every move, but what I saw was Ted playing games with (her daughter), carrying my niece on his shoulders, helping my mom in the kitchen. Hardly the actions of a madman,” she wrote. “The shadows were lifting and I thanked God for the peace of mind I was beginning to feel again.”
Bundy is Arrested
Kloepfer’s peace of mind would soon be shattered after she learned from the King County Police that Bundy had been arrested in Utah.
Bundy had been stopped by a Utah Highway Patrol around 3 a.m. on August 16, 1975 after a sergeant had seen him sitting in his car outside a home in a subdivision. The car took off after the lights of the highway patrol car hit it. When the Volkswagen was eventually pulled over, the sergeant would find Bundy inside along with a crow bar, panty hose, ice pick, ski mask and handcuffs, the Associated Press reported.
Kloepfer went to talk with the King County Police and met with Kathy McChesney to discuss the intimate details of their relationship that had concerned her, including his habit of stealing.
“I kept saying ‘Oh, God,’ over and over, not knowing whether I was praying or swearing,” Kloepfer said of learning details of the arrest.
Despite her frequent chats with police, including the Salt Lake City Police, Kloepfer also continued regular contact with Bundy.
“He wanted to talk about us and how we could have avoided some of the mistakes we made. I didn’t have much appetite for that kind of discussion, so he did most of the talking,” she wrote. “Always after he called I felt emotionally blitzed.”
Eventually, as the guilt ate away at her, she decided to tell Bundy that she knew he had been arrested. He told her the tools investigators found were just “a bunch of stuff I’d collected.”
The case against him would soon grow, however, after investigators arrested him and charged him with kidnapping in the attempted abduction of Carol DaRonch, a young woman who had managed to escape and flee from the car of her attacker in Utah. The man had approached her pretending to be a police officer and convinced her to come with him to the police station. She began to panic after he tried to handcuff her and bolted from the car.
After the arrest, Bundy wrote Kloepfer a desperate love letter, pledging his devotion to her.
“What can I say except that I love you,” he wrote, according to the book. “What can I do except want to touch you and hold you. What can I hope for except to hope that somebody we can be together forever.”
Kloepfer was torn between what she perceived as a betrayal of her long-time love and her suspicions, and she ultimately confessed on the phone to Bundy that she had been talking with police. However, Bundy was quick to write off the conversations she had with authorities.
“It’s OK,” he said, according to the book. “You did what you had to do. If you told them the truth then no harm has been done because the truth is good enough. The truth will prove me innocent.”
While investigators were beginning to piece together Bundy’s crimes — including looking into his possible association to several murders in Colorado — Kloepfer was struggling with her conscience and the feeling that she’d “double-crossed” Bundy. She decided to go see a psychiatrist, who recommended that she stop communicating with both police and Bundy.
While she told police she wasn’t going to cooperate, she wasn’t able to sever the strong bond she had developed with Bundy over the years.
After Bundy was released on bond on the kidnapping charges, he even showed up to surprise her on Thanksgiving Day. Despite protests from her friends, Kloepfer agreed to meet him for a drink later that night and after an awkward start the pair soon fell back into their old patterns.
“As we walked out into the cool night air, Ted gathered me in his arms and we kissed for a long, long time,” she wrote. “He was part of me and I was part of him. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen to us together.”
During their late night date, Kloepfer told Bundy that she loved him and wanted to be with him forever. They went home and made “drunken love,” according to the book.
Despite the serious allegations against him, Kloepfer continued to support Bundy during his trial for attempted kidnapping. The couple decided she should not attend the trial in case she got called to testify — but she was in court when the verdict was read.
A judge found Bundy guilty of the kidnapping and he was given just a few moments with his family before he was led off to jail.
“We entered the judge’s chamber where Ted was frisked and his hands cuffed behind his back. I put my arms around him and told him I was sorry. He was drenched with sweat and stiff with tension. I kissed him on the cheek and whispered, ‘I love you,’” she wrote.
Post- Kidnapping Conviction Feelings
Even the formality of a conviction didn't convince Kloepfer of his guilt. She confided to her therapy group after his conviction that she felt she was dying from “terminal loneliness” and admitted to a nightly habit of getting drunk, crying, and writing notes to her jailed boyfriend.
With the encouragement of some of the people in her therapy group, Kloepfer decided to stop drinking and got sober — an achievement Bundy praised her for in his letters, telling her, “You have every right to be proud of your success.”
Bundy, behind bars in Utah at the time, and Kloepfer exchanged passionate love letters. In one, he wrote she was the woman he “loved exclusively for years.”
Six months after he was sent to prison, she arranged to visit him at the Utah State Prison, the first glimpse the pair had of one another in months.
“At first I couldn’t see Ted. Then he grabbed my arm and pulled me to him and hugged me tight,” she wrote. “He led me to some chairs in a corner and we sat down, facing each other, holding hands, our knees mixed up together. He looked so handsome.”
The two talked about their lives and “kissed a lot” during the brief visit, but after their meeting she drove to the mall where DaRonch had been kidnapped from and retraced what had happened.
“I tried to find the school where the man had stopped and slammed the handcuffs on DaRonch,” she wrote. “I could almost see her fighting off her attacker, and I could feel her fear. But I could not see what he looked like.”
She was so shaken by the experience that she decided not to return to the prison the next day as she had planned and went home to Seattle without seeing Bundy again.
But the letters continued between the two.
“We filled a need in each other—still,” she wrote. “The letters flowed back and forth, amusing, comforting, understanding. But most of all, Ted’s letters made me feel loved.”
She then visited him in prison one more time in Utah before Bundy was moved to Colorado to face murder charges.
As Bundy’s time in jail stretched on, Kloepfer began to think about other romantic interests, celebrated a year of sobriety, and “no longer hated myself every minute of every day,” but still wasn’t able to pull away from Bundy. The pair started a book club together and continued to share phone calls and letters as he spent his days in jail.
Just before he escaped for the second time from a Colorado prison, he wrote to her telling her that whatever happened, he wanted her to know that he always loved her, the book said.
Bundy escaped the Garfield County jail in December of 1977 by slipping through a light fixture hole in his cell’s ceiling and traveled to Florida where he went on a murderous rampage, killing two women and brutally beating two others at a sorority house, according to the Glenwood Post Independent. He also kidnapped and murdered a 12-year-old girl before getting captured by the police.
The escape left Kloepfer feeling on edge. She admitted in the book that she might be afraid of Bundy.
“I pushed the thought out of my mind. Ted loved me. He wasn’t capable of murder,” she wrote.
After he was captured by police, Bundy initially gave authorities a fake name, but later agreed to give them his real name if he was allowed to call Kloepfer.
He called her crying and refused to give her the details of what he had been accused of, but told her it would be “bad when it breaks.” During their nearly hour-long discussion, Kloepfer asked whether he was trying to tell her that he was “sick,” but he got angry and didn’t want to talk about the murders in Florida.
He later called again in the middle of the night one Saturday and admitted he was sick, telling her he was controlled by a force that he wasn’t able to contain.
“I love you,” she said after his initial admission. “I just don’t know what to say…”
She told him she would only be able to visit him once or twice and that she would pray for him before they hung up.
“I stared at the floor while scenes of the good times and the bad times played in my mind like a desolate slide show,” she wrote. “I had prayed for so long ‘to know’ and now the answer killed a part of me.”
The pair would talk only sparingly after that, and although their long and complicated relationship had come to an end, Kloepfer would still refuse to testify against her onetime love in the trial in Florida.
“I couldn’t be a part of it,” she wrote in the book. “They saw Ted Bundy as a murderer. I knew him as a lover and friend. I was threatened with extradition if I wouldn’t cooperate, but finally the matter was dropped and I never heard from the Florida prosecutors again.”
Kloepfer eventually began to realize her feelings of insecurity and desire to be loved may have helped drive the complicated relationship. She also questioned whether the moments when she felt alone in the relationship were the same moments Bundy had tried to stay away from her as his urges grew too strong.
“I suspected it was other women, and it often was, but he was also hiding a terrible secret,” she wrote in the final lines of the book. “He loved life and enjoyed it to the fullest. The tragedy is that this warm and loving man is driven to kill.”
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