Ted Bundy victim reveals how she survived bloodbath that left two friends dead

Kathy Kleiner Rubin says it is about time we stop glamourising him and remember the women whose lives he stole.

Ted Bundy victim reveals how she survived bloodbath that left two friends dead
Surviving Ted Bundy original
Kathy Kleiner Rubin survived a brutal attack at the hands of infamous serial killer Ted Bundy and went on to give evidence against him (Picture: AP/Getty)

January 1978 was turning into a really good month for Kathy Kleiner Rubin.

Then 20 years old, she had not long returned from her Christmas break to Florida State University, where she jokes frat parties were occasionally interrupted by classes.

Saturday, January 14, started slowly thanks to a hangover from the night before, but a friend was getting married that afternoon so she shrugged off the bitter cold, got dressed and headed out.

The bride was a student nurse from her church and the celebrations wrapped up early as she had a shift at the local hospital that evening.

After a potluck dinner at another friend’s apartment, Kathy went back to her room in the Chi Omega sorority house, in Tallahassee, for a relatively early night to study for a calculus test on Monday.

While Kathy slept, Ted Bundy, then 31, was watching young women dancing at the nearby college bar, Sherrod’s.

Bundy, a decade older than most people in there that night, had a brief spin with one of them, who joked with her room-mate that she was about to go with an ‘ex con’.

What she didn’t know was that her dance partner had murdered at least 30 women and girls in Washington State, Oregon, Utah and Colorado – where he had escaped from jail a month earlier.

Kathy graduating high school (Picture: Kathy Kleiner Rubin)
Kathy graduating high school (Picture: Kathy Kleiner Rubin)
Pictured in 1977 (Picture: Kathy Kleiner Rubin)
Pictured in 1977 (Picture: Kathy Kleiner Rubin)
(Original Caption) Suspected murderer Theodore Bundy, charged with the killings of FSU coeds Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy who were beaten and strangled at the Chi Omega House in January, is shown in this photograph.
Theodore Bundy having been charged with the killings of FSU coeds Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy (Picture: Bettmann Archive)

Once the bar closed, he followed three of the Chi Omega sisters back to the sorority house and watched them go inside, spotting the door’s broken keypad lock.

After waiting in the dark for them to go to bed, he picked up an oak log from a pile of firewood near the door and slipped inside.

He crept up the stairs and silently began trying door knobs before entering the rooms of Margaret Bowman, 21, and then Lisa Levy, 20, where he used the log to beat them both to death.

Margaret was also strangled with a pair of pantyhose and placed back under the duvet as if sleeping. Lisa was violated with a hairspray bottle, and Bundy almost tore her nipple off with his teeth before sinking them into her buttocks.

On the other side of the wall next to Margaret’s bed, Kathy didn’t hear a thing, until her bedroom door brushed over the carpet as it was opened.

‘That kind of woke me up,’ she tells Metro.co.uk. ‘It was like a swish.

‘The next thing I heard was something or someone had kicked the little footlocker between mine and my roommate’s beds.

‘I couldn’t tell what it was, but then I knew it was the figure of a person standing right next to my bed and as I’m looking at this, I see an arm raised up over his head.

‘It was the piece of firewood he had just attacked Margaret and Lisa with. The next thing I know, he slams that log right in my face.’

American serial killer Ted Bundy (1946 - 1989) at the Leon County sheriff's office in Florida, shortly after after his arrest on a charge of theft, 19th February 1978. He later confessed to over thirty murders and was executed in 1989. (Photo by Donn Dughi/Bride Lane Library/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)
Bundy at the Leon County sheriff’s office in Florida, shortly after after his arrest (Picture: Donn Dughi/Bride Lane Library/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

The force of the blow ripped a hole in Kathy’s cheek, later mistaken for a gunshot wound by police officers, broke her jaw, shattered her chin and nearly tore her tongue in half.

Her attacker then went and smashed her roommate twice over the head, before turning back at the sound of Kathy’s dazed mumbling.

‘Ted Bundy didn’t leave any survivors,’ Kathy says. ‘So he came back across the room and went to attack me again.

‘At this time I’m scrunched up into the smallest little ball I could be in because I figured if he couldn’t see me he wouldn’t hit me again, and I knew he was coming back for me.

‘So as I’m laying there in a little ball, all of a sudden the room shone up bright. There was a white light that came into the bedroom. It was really bright and this person got spooked and ran out.’

The rampage lasted barely 15 minutes. His appetite for killing women unfulfilled, he broke into a college house nearby and attacked another. She too survived when Bundy was scared off again.

The Chi Omega pledges in 1976 (Picture: Kathy Kleiner Rubin)
The Chi Omega pledges in 1976 (Picture: Kathy Kleiner Rubin)
FILE - In this Jan. 15, 1978 file photo, an unidentified woman peers through drapes on the second story balcony of the Chi Omega sorority house at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla. Two sorority sisters, Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy, were brutally beaten to death by Ted Bundy. (AP Photo/Mark Foley)
A woman peers through drapes on the second story balcony of the Chi Omega sorority house (Picture: AP)

As she was carried outside, the haze from the blow to Kathy’s head was heightened by the freezing cold and flashing lights from the police cars and ambulances.

‘I thought I was at a carnival,’ she says of her dazed state.

‘When I got to the hospital I was scared. I was in this sterile environment on a stretcher and I didn’t know anybody and I was laying there and everyone was looking down at me.

‘And the next thing I know, I see this face that I recognised and I heard this voice that was like an angel to me at that point.

‘She touched my cheek and she looked at me. She says, “Kathy, you’re going to be okay. We’re going to take care of you”.

‘It was the bride who got married on Saturday afternoon. That was my little angel that took care of me that night.’

Kathy’s ordeal is chronicled in a memoir released last month, ‘A Light in the Dark: Surviving more than Ted Bundy’.

‘I call myself the serial survivor,’ she says.

Kathy’s is the first book by a confirmed Bundy survivor (Picture: Kathy Kleiner Rubin & Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi/Chicago Review Press)
Kathy’s is the first book by a confirmed Bundy survivor (Picture: Kathy Kleiner Rubin & Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi/Chicago Review Press)
(Original Caption) Tallahassee, FL: Suspected murderer Theodore Bundy (l) leans on the Leon County jail wall as an indictment charging him with the murdersof two FSU coeds at the Chi Omega house is read by Leon County Sherriff Ken Katarsis. 7/27/1978
Bundyleans on the Leon County jail wall as an indictment charging him with the Chi Omega murders is read by Leon County Sherriff Ken Katarsis (Picture: Bettmann Archive)
Kathy’s first Christmas after the attack (Picture: Kathy Kleiner Rubin)
Kathy’s first Christmas after the attack (Picture: Kathy Kleiner Rubin)

Just over a year later, Kathy found herself in the same room as Bundy again – but able to see his face this time – first at a deposition, then before a grand jury and finally at his trial.

By then she had been cut off by Chi Omega having dropped out of FSU to recover back home in Miami.

‘I walked in, and there was a long conference table, and there were defence attorneys on one side and the prosecution attorneys on the other side,’ she recalls.

‘I sat at the head of the table, and I looked down and there was Ted Bundy looking at me. I’m not sure what I thought, because I wasn’t expecting to see him.

‘I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t scared at all. I was just really mad. I thought what a stupid guy for doing this to me, and for hurting my sorority sisters.’

By the time the grand jury came around, she says Bundy treated the whole procedure as a waste of his time, adding: ‘He looked very cocky.’

Kathy Kleiner DeShields, who survived the savage beatings at the Chi Omega sorority house 18 months ago in which two girls were murdered, takes the witness stand to testify that she could not identify her attacker. Mrs. DeShields said she doesn't recall awakening during the attack which left her face crushed. DeShields and another girl who survived the beatings were called as witnesses in the murder trial of Theordore Bundy. Miami, Fla., July. 10, 1979. (AP Photo/Pool)
Kathy Kleiner survived the savage beatings at the Chi Omega sorority house and later took the witness stand to testify (Picture: AP)

That arrogance only increased, with Bundy playing up to thee groupies who packed the courtroom at the Dade County Metropolitan Justice Building, waiting to catch his eye.

‘He was sitting there with his chin in his hand and his arm folded over and he was laughing and kidding with the defence attorneys, acting like “they’re never going to convict me”,’ Kathy says.

‘His eyes were black to me. I couldn’t tell you what colour they were. He just seemed so cocky and so flippant, and laughed a lot like he wasn’t taking anything seriously.

‘He had killed girls and he had mutilated girls, and he knew what he had done. And yet here he was in the trial, just wasting his time he thought.’

(Original Caption) Murder suspect Theodore Bundy (center) looks back in the court room as Assistant Public Defender Ed Harvey (left) says a few words to him. At the right is a Leon Co. deputy assigned to watch Bundy during the trial.
Bundy (center) looks back in the court room as Assistant Public Defender Ed Harvey (left) says a few words to him (Picture: Bettmann Archive)

Kathy was confident she could help ‘put Bundy away’, but the fact she was unable to point him out as her attacker when asked on the witness stand weighed heavily on her.

‘It’s something I’ve had to live with, my testimony was not the one that was going to convict him – it was everyone else’s,’ she says.

In addition to the mountain of circumstantial evidence against Bundy, it was the bite marks he left on Lisa’s body which ultimately sealed his fate.

During the trial and his decade on death row following his convictions for the ‘Chi Omega killings’ and other attacks, Bundy was glamorised as a handsome, charming, intellectual law student who flitted seamlessly between boy next door and serial killer.

His supposed MO became legendary – approaching beautiful women, usually under the pretext of needing help, gaining their confidence, luring them off, rendering them unconscious and disappearing with them, all seemingly within a matter of seconds.

Millions of TV sets across the US tuning into the trial also watched Bundy question witnesses as part of his own defence team and smile at the public gallery.

Even the judge appeared to have fallen under his spell, telling Bundy: ‘You’d have made a good lawyer and I would have loved to have you practice in front of me, but you went another way, partner.’

Kathy, with the help of co-author Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, goes to great lengths to debunk the Bundy myth.

Emilie says: ‘When I first started researching this book, that’s what I had heard of him. But when we dug into it we found that he was a terrible student.

‘He wouldn’t have been a top lawyer because he couldn’t perform in law school. He was eventually accepted to the first one he attended because it was brand new. They were basically doing open enrolment.

‘But he did terrible and people who knew him have said his thinking was very scattered and he wasn’t that intelligent. He just kind of had the benefit of being a white male in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States.

‘He did go to college campuses and he did wear a sling or use crutches and smile at women and say “Can you help me?” But the vast majority of women he ever encountered said no.

(Original Caption) Tallahassee, Fla.: Suspected mass killer Theodore R. Bundy, with legal files in hand and a puzzling smile on his face, is escorted from the Leon County Courthouse after a Circuit Judge refused today to order him to furnish hair, blood, saliva and handwriting specimens to the prosecution.
Bundy with legal files in hand and a puzzling smile on his face (Picture: Bettmann Archive)
FILE - In this June 13, 1977 file photo, Ted Bundy appears in cuffs after being recaptured just outside of Aspen City limits. He was pulled over by the sheriff's department for driving erratically. The officers did not know it was him until they approached the car. He offered no resistance. (AP Photo)
Bundy in cuffs after being recaptured from his first jailbreak (Picture: AP)

‘The reality was that he attacked most women like he did Kathy, when they were sleeping in their beds, or he actually just physically yanked them into his car.

‘So of the 36 women and girls he killed or attacked, we only see two instances outside of hitchhiking, which was common in the US at that point, in which women agreed to help him willingly.’

Kathy adds: ‘He had this persona around him and he liked that. But he needs to have that face taken off to show the monster he really was.’

The tables were eventually turned on Bundy on January 24, 1989, when he was strapped into the electric chair – ironically made of oak, the same wood he used in the Chi Omega attacks.

In the hours before his execution, he is said to have sobbed, terrified of the agonising death he faced and pleaded with guards not to kill him.

‘I thought those were the last words those girls must have said to him when he was attacking them and they were crying, “Don’t kill me”,’ Kathy says.

‘So that was befitting to me that he was saying that and he was scared.’

Remembering all of Bundy's victims

Kathy says in her book that Bundy was put to death in the names of Margaret, Lisa, herself and her roommate, along with the woman attacked that same night and his last victim, 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, who he kidnapped and murdered weeks later.

‘These were the names that were acknowledged in court and associated with the death sentence. We now know there were many more, and we don’t know all their names,’ she writes.

‘In addition to the nameless women never identified by law enforcement, the electricity was being activated on behalf of Anonymous hitchhiker (age 15), Brenda Ball, Caryn Campbell, Debra Kent, Denise Naslund, Denise Nicholson-Oliverson, Donna Manson, Georgann Hawkins, Janice Ott, Julie Cunningham, Laura Aime, Lynda Healy, Lynette Culver, Melanie ‘Suzy’ Cooley, Melissa Smith, Nancy Baird, Nancy Wilcox, Roberta ‘Kathy’ Parks, Shelley Robertson, Susan Curtis, and Susan Rancourt.’

Although not attacked by Bundy, Kathy also includes her sorority sisters Valerie Duke, ‘whose survivor’s guilt pushed her to suicide’, and Suzy White, ‘whose kind heart could not sustain the violence she knew her friends had suffered’, among his victims.

Kathy describes how the attack by Bundy was only one of three ‘death sentences’ of her own which she would have to overcome in her life.

She writes about her first brush with death, a battle with lupus aged 13.

Things had looked bleak until her mother accepted a Cuban doctor’s offer of experimental chemotherapy.

Kathy describes in heartrending detail missing most of seventh grade and being so lonely at times she picked up the phone and dialled 0 for the operator just to have someone to talk to.

Two decades later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and endured nine more months of chemotherapy, also undergoing a radical mastectomy to ensure it never returned.

Kathy describes how the attack by Bundy was only one of three ‘death sentences’ she would have to overcome (Picture: Red Door Photography Studio, Fort Myers, Florida)
Kathy describes how the attack by Bundy was only one of three ‘death sentences’ she would have to overcome (Picture: Red Door Photography Studio, Fort Myers, Florida)

On her recovery, she says: ‘I was so scared. I felt like there was a black cloak wrapped around me. I looked out, and this black thing was all around me.

‘But far in the distance I could see a little island, and it had one palm tree and one little sand chair sitting on it.

‘And I wanted to get to that island because it was sunny and breezy, and it looked so pleasant.

‘So I took little baby steps to get to that island, and it took me weeks to get there.

‘Slow baby steps. And I turned around and I looked behind me and this black mass was a couple baby steps behind me.

‘As I approached the island, it was sunny and it had a breeze, and I sat in a chair and I put my toes in the sand and I looked up and that black mass was completely gone. I couldn’t see it anymore.

‘It disappeared as soon as I got to my island, and I knew I was gonna be okay.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

For more stories like this, check our news page.