Ted Bundy brutally murdered dozens of women across the country in the late 1970s. Around the time he began his killing spree, he started dating a young secretary named Elizabeth. But it wasn’t until years later that Elizabeth first realized her boyfriend might be connected to a string of unsolved kidnappings and murders. In 1974, she saw in a local newspaper a composite drawing of the primary suspect, a man who shared the name “Ted” with her boyfriend.
She wrote about her haunting experience with Bundy under the pseudonym Elizabeth Kendall in a little-known memoir called The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy, which was published in 1981, years before Bundy was executed on January 24, 1989 for his crimes. That book is the inspiration for the new Netflix movie Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile in which Zac Efron plays Bundy and Lily Collins plays Elizabeth.
So, while we’ve known bits and pieces of Elizabeth’s story, she and her daughter are now stepping forward to break their silence about their lives with the serial killer. The women are the subject of the new Amazon series Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer, which premieres January 31 and takes the focus of the Bundy story off of the man and onto the victims and survivors he abused. Elizabeth and her daughter Molly are also sitting for an accompanying interview with Amy Robach on 20/20 which airs on the 31st, as well.
Here’s what we know about the Elizabeth:
Elizabeth and her daughter broke their silence in January 2020.
After being out of print for decades, Elizabeth’s memoir was rereleased on January 7 by Abrams Press with a new introduction, a chapter written by her daughter, Molly, and personal photos of the women with Bundy. “I still cared deeply for Ted when I wrote the original book,” Elizabeth writes in the new introduction. “It took years of work for me to accept who he was and what he had done. I still felt lingering shame that I had loved Ted Bundy. It was healing for me when women started telling their stories of sexual violence and assault as part of the Me Too movement. I could related to keeping experiences secret for fear of being judged.”
It was for that reason, and because of the swirl of renewed interest in Bundy with the Efron film, that Elizabeth decided to participate in the Amazon series, as well.
She wrote under a pseudonym.
Elizabeth originally published her book under the name “Elizabeth Kendall.” But when Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile premiered at Sundance, the press materials said the story is told from the point of view of Bundy’s girlfriend “Elizabeth Kloepfer,” though now, the credits Netflix is promoting read: “Based on the book: The Phantom Prince; My Life with Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall,” and the character’s name is listed as “Liz Kendall.” In the 2020 re-release of her memoir, Elizabeth writes, “I hadn’t gone by old married name of Kloepfer for years, not since Molly was a child. Unfortunately, some still link the name to Ted Bundy … For these [new] projects, I have used my original pseudonym, Elizabeth Kendall, to spare Molly’s father’s family name further association with Ted’s crimes.”
She was the mother of a young daughter when she met Bundy.
When they met, Elizabeth was recently divorced, working as a secretary at the University of Washington medical department, and raising her 2-year-old daughter Molly, who she calls Tina in her book. The 24-year-old had graduated from Utah State with a degree in Business and Family Life and had recently moved to Washington.
She met Bundy at a bar.
Bundy and Elizabeth met at a bar called the Sandpiper Tavern in Seattle in October 1969, she writes in her memoir. She noticed him from across the room, noting how well-dressed he was, then he asked her to dance.
“The chemistry between us was incredible. I was already planning the wedding and naming the kids,” she writes. “He was telling me that he missed having a kitchen because he loved to cook. Perfect. My Prince.”
She brought him home that night, and he made her breakfast the next morning. The next weekend, they went on a weekend trip to Vancouver.
The relationship became serious quickly.
In her book, Elizabeth describes meeting Bundy’s parents after a few months of dating. She had dinner at Bundy’s childhood home with his father Johnnie Bundy, a cook at an army hospital, and his mother Louise, a secretary at their Methodist church.
“I loved her so much it was destabilizing,” Bundy told journalist Stephen G. Michaud about Elizabeth. Michaud’s interviews were recently released in the Netflix docu-series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. “I felt such a strong love for her but we didn’t have a lot of interests in common like politics or something, I don’t think we had in common. She liked to read a lot. I wasn’t into reading.”
They applied for a marriage license.
“I had never been so happy, but it bothered me to be practically married to a man I wasn’t married to,” Elizabeth writes about their relationship. “When I talked to him, he agreed now was the time to do it.” They went to the courthouse for a marriage license in February 1970, but after a fight a few days later, Bundy ripped up the document. Kendall’s book editor, Sara Levant, tells me she went to the Seattle courthouse to confirm the couple applied for the license.
In spite of that fight, Elizabeth and Bundy continued dating. And in early 1972, Elizabeth became pregnant, she writes in her memoir.
“Both of us knew it would be impossible to have a baby now. He was going to start law school in the fall, and I needed to be able to work to put him through,” she writes. “I was distraught. I knew I was going to terminate the pregnancy as soon as I could. Ted, on the other hand, was pleased with himself. He had fathered a baby.”
Bundy was abusive.
Throughout the book, Elizabeth describes Bundy being emotionally and verbally abusive. Once, after confronting him about his habit of stealing, he threatened her, “If you ever tell anyone about this, I’ll break your fucking neck.”
Elizabeth suspected Bundy was involved in unsolved kidnappings in Seattle while they were dating.
Elizabeth began suspecting Bundy was involved in a string of disappearances when she read news reports that said the suspect’s name was “Ted,” drove a Volkswagon similar to Bundy’s and issued a police sketch which resembled him. Reports also said the suspect’s arm was in a cast—though Bundy didn’t have a broken arm, Elizabeth recalled she’d once seen plaster of Paris in his desk drawer that he said he’d taken when he worked at a medical supply house. “He said that a person never could tell when he was going to break a leg, and we both laughed. Now I keep thinking about the cast the guy at Lake Sammamish was wearing—what a perfect weapon it would make for clubbing someone on the head,” she writes.
Soon after, she found a hatchet in Bundy’s car. He said it was there because he’d chopped down a tree at his parents’ cabin the week before.
She tried to alert the police.
On August 8, 1974, Elizabethcalled the Seattle Police Department to tell them her boyfriend matched the description of the suspect, who had used crutches to attack a victim. She’d noticed crutches in her boyfriend’s room, as well, she explained. But after she was told, “You need to come in and fill in a report. We’re too busy to talk to girlfriends over the phone,” Elizabeth hung up. Two months later, after Bundy moved to Utah and the kidnappings began happening there, she called the King County Police, but she was told they’d already looked into Bundy and cleared him.
After Bundy was arrested, they communicated through phone calls and letters.
Though Elizabeth had initially suspected Bundy’s involvement in the crimes, she believed Bundy when he told her he was innocent. He sent her passionate letters and she visited him in prison. She even sat with Bundy’s parents in the courthouse when he was on trial for the attempted kidnapping for Carol DeRonch in March 1976.
Bundy admitted he tried to kill her.
After Bundy was tied to more kidnappings and murders—and after Elizabeth became sober after joining Alcoholics Anonymous—she began distancing herself from Bundy. But while in a Florida prison, he called her to admit, “There is something the matter with me … I just couldn’t contain it. I fought it for a long, long time … it was just too strong.”
Elizabeth writes in her memoir that when she responded by asking if he ever tried to kill her, Bundy told her that the urge took over one night when he was at her house, and he closed the damper so the smoke couldn’t go up the chimney, then he left after putting a towel under a door so the smoke wouldn’t escape. Kendall writes that she remembers waking up coughing after a night of drinking.
Elizabeth signed off the Netflix film.
Joe Berlinger, the director of Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, says he sought Elizabeth’s permission before agreeing to make the film, and she hesitantly agreed. Berlinger and Lily Collins, who plays Elizabeth in the film, met with the real Elizabeth before filming.
“She was willing and passionate about meeting me—her and her daughter, too,” Collins told E! News.
But Berlinger says that in spite of signing off on the film, Elizabeth still wanted to stay out of the spotlight.
“She was very ambivalent,” Berlinger told me. “I think that’s why the book continues to be out of print. She does not want the spotlight. For example, she didn’t want to come to Sundance. She doesn’t want to participate in the press. She wants to remain anonymous. She trusted us with her story. She agreed to do the movie, obviously, so it’s not being done without her cooperation. I think she’s very ambivalent because she doesn’t want attention to herself today.”
Elizabeth writes in the new introduction to her memoir that Efron and Collins “got it right,” but in the dramatization, a lot was left out of the story, which is why they decided to speak out.
Bundy reached out to Elizabeth and Molly right before his execution.
After he was executed in 1989, Bundy’s attorney reached out to Elizabeth to pass along a message.
“Ted had asked her to call us and make sure he knew that he loved us,” Elizabeth says in the Amazon documentary series Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer. “She also wondered why I never responded to his last letter.” Molly explains she had intercepted Bundy’s last letter from death row—and burned it. Molly says, “I could tell it hurt her heart that I had robbed her of this closure, of this last interaction. I’m not sorry at all. And I’m especially not sorry that he went to his death wondering why she never wrote back. Good.”
Elizabeth talks about her life today in the documentary.
Elizabeth has been sober for 42 years, she explains in the Amazon series, crediting sobriety with saving her life. She talks about what it’s like to be one of Bundy’s few survivors, and says, “As much as I can, I’ve forgiven myself. I hope this is the end of my participation with anything related to Ted.”