For decades, people all over the world have harbored an unsettling fascination with one of the most notorious American serial killers of the 20th century, and with the recent casting of Zac Efron in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, our interest in Ted Bundy is only expected to peak.
The role of the sickening killer — who was executed in Florida's electric chair in 1989 after confessing to the rape and murder of more than 30 women — will be a definitive departure for the former Disney star who has recently been seen prancing up and down the beach in the Baywatch comedy remake. However, whereas previous adaptations of Bundy's harrowing behavior have often been portrayed from his viewpoint, this upcoming horror flick will be different with the events of Extremely Wicked captured from the perspective of Ted's longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth "Liz" Kloepfer.
So, what does this novel take on the serial killer's story mean for the film's narrative? Ahead of more information on the Joe Berlinger-directed psychological thriller, familiarize yourself with the true story behind Ted Bundy and the woman brave enough to date him for seven years:
The True Story Behind Ted Bundy In Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Who Was Elizabeth Kloepfer?
When Ted Bundy and Liz first met in 1969, she was a divorcee from Ogden, Utah, who was working as a secretary at the University of Washington Medical School and desperately looking for a relationship with a someone who would be the necessary father figure to her young daughter. From the moment she set eyes on Bundy, she adored him — as a woman suffering from severe emotional anxiety all of her life, Ted suddenly gave her the self-worth she lacked.
Over the course of their relationship, they separated many times but always ended up back together. During this period, Ted reportedly had numerous affairs, as well as occupying much of his free time with raping and killing scores of young women across at least seven states, including Washington, Utah and Florida in the mid '70s — often, he did this by luring his victims to his car by feigning sickness, pretending to be injured or a police officer. A 1992 report directed by the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed that a lot of planning went into his crimes:
"His planning included preselection of a body disposal site, discreet research regarding his victim, preparation of necessary paraphernalia, and complete planning of the assault to include flight, evidence disposal, and alibi. Only then would he approach the victim and put his plan into action. He would feign an injury and indicate he needed assistance or he would portray an authority figure such as a police officer. He thus persuaded the victim to voluntarily accompany him to his Volkswagen, [where] he would retrieve the crowbar and strike the victim over the head, rendering her unconscious."
'I Found Things I Couldn't Understand'
After years of remaining oblivious to her partner's true nature and believing he was a true and tender lover, Liz began to increasingly doubt the man behind the charming facade. According to her later statements to the Salt Lake County Sheriff Office, she questioned how he obtained several expensive items in their home and found his appetite for unconventional sex unsettling — for example, he often asked to tie her up in aggressive acts of bondage that resulted in choking. In addition to this, Kloepfer recalled numerous occassions in which she would wake up in the middle of the night with Ted under the covers silently inspecting her genitals.
Finally, after the violent murders of Janice Ott and Denise Naslund in July 1974, Liz went to the police in 1975, reiterating that she held concerns over Bundy's lengthy absences and increasingly bizarre behavior. She told detectives:
"Ted went out a lot in the middle of the night. And I didn’t know where he went. Then he napped during the day. And I found things, things I couldn’t understand."
When probed, Liz revealed what these "things" were, saying:
"A lug wrench, taped halfway up, under the seat of my car. He said it was for my protection. Crutches. He had an oriental knife in a kind of wooden case that he kept in the glove compartment of my car. Sometimes, it was there; sometimes it was gone. He had a meat cleaver. I saw him pack it when he moved to Utah."
Growing anxious about the recent disappearances and the composite pictures of a man bearing Ted's resemblance in the papers, Kloepfer tried to account for her boyfriend's whereabouts but couldn't:
"After I saw the composite pictures of 'Ted' in the paper in July of 1974, I check back through the papers n the library to get the dates the girls disappeared, and I check my calendar and my canceled checks, and he just... well, he just was never around then."
However, as the police force was swamped with hundreds of tip-offs regarding the sketch at the time, Liz's appeals weren't taken seriously. In their eyes, a clean-cut gentleman who had gone to law school and had no prior criminal record was not capable of such horrendous crimes.
The Kidnapping Of Carole DaRonche
Then, while driving in Utah, Ted was pulled over. Following a full search of his vehicle, a number of items mentioned in Liz's report were discovered in his trunk. He was arrested and became heavily linked to a series of other, more serious crimes.
From that moment on, his luck started to run out. Remembering a similar Volkswagen car description from months ago, detectives put Ted on a police lineup before a woman who claimed to have been assaulted (Carole DaRonche). Immediately, she identified Bundy as "Officer Roseland," the "cop" who had kidnapped her before she managed to miraculously get way.
As a result, he was charged with aggravated kidnapping and attempted assault, however no ties to the other murders were brought against him. Released on a $15,000 bail (paid for by his parents) Bundy returned to Kloepfer's house, where he was kept under strict surveillance. Later, Liz — who continued to live in a state of denial — would write:
"When Ted and I stepped out on the porch to go somewhere, so many unmarked police cars started up that it sounded like the beginning of the Indy 500."
On June 30, 1976, he was sentenced to 1 to 15 years in the Utah State prison. Two years later, he was also indicted on further murder charges — a death of a young woman in Colorado.
However, Ted did not spend much time behind bars, escaping out of a window during a trip to the courthouse library to prepare his own defense on the case. And despite being caught eight days later, he managed to get out once again after losing 30 pounds and fitting through a hole he made in the ceiling of his cell. He was missing for 15 hours before his absence was discovered by the prison guards, by which time he had already travelled to Florida and attacked four girls living in the Chi Omega sorority house, murdering two of them. After finally getting caught again in February 9, 1978, he was sentenced to the death penalty twice after his dental records matched the deep bite marks on one of the bodies.
Over the next few years, Ted would continue to taunt the police by revealing tiny snippets of information about his other, unconfirmed victims. Finally, with all of his court appeal avenues exhausted, he confessed to eight more homicides. Before his execution in 1989, he even shockingly revealed that he had incinerated the head of Donna Manson in his girlfriend Liz Kloepfer's own fireplace, saying:
"Of all the things I did to [Kloepfer], this is probably the one she is least likely to forgive me for. Poor Liz."
In his last conversation with Elizabeth Kloepfer, he also told her why it was that she got away, saying how he purposefully stayed away from her "when he felt the power of his sickness building in him."
'Even In Death, Ted Damaged Women'
To this day, American true crime author and Bundy's former co-worker Ann Rule remains an expert on the depraved mind that brought about the harrowing deaths of so many young women in the '70s.
And after Ted's execution in 1989, she shockingly revealed that numerous "sensitive, intelligent, kind young women" have written to her to say they are incredibly depressed that Bundy is dead. In a bizarre outpouring of grief, several claimed that they had even suffered from severe nervous breakdowns "each believing that she was his only one."
Just like Elizabeth Kleopfer — who stayed with Bundy for so many years and refused to believe that he was a killer — they chose to live in denial, brainwashed by the charming and compassionate man that he appeared to be. Rule writes:
"Even in death, Ted damaged women. They must realize that they were conned by the master conman. They are grieving for a shadow man that never existed."
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is currently in pre-production, with the release date yet to be confirmed.
Were you already familiar with the true story behind Elizabeth Kloepfer's relationship with Ted Bundy?
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