LIFE & CULTURE

What Happened To Ted Bundy’s Girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer ?

According to her, he tried to kill her once too.
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Ted Bundy is one of the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century, confessing to 30 murders in the US (and suspected of more). Those who have watched Netflix’s biopic, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile or the limited series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes would also be aware of Ted Bundy’s girlfriend during at the time, Elizabeth Kloepfer. 

The entire case has a lot of question marks around it, but one of the biggest ones is how Elizabeth Kloepfer managed to live with Ted Bundy years without being murdered herself. She dated Bundy between 1969 and 1974, and has said she had no idea of his murders until the end of their relationship.

“I still have a sense of disbelief that this man that I loved could go out and do such horrific things,” Kloepfer said in a 2020 interview published on the US broadcaster ABC News’ YouTube channel.

Much of her experience is depicted in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, which is based on Kloepfer’s 1981 memoir The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy. Kloepfer, who is also known as Elizabeth or Liz Kendall, is played by actress Lily Collins, and makes it through the film relatively unharmed (physically speaking, that is), while her domestic partner murders dozens of women.

Aside from one very creepy scene involving a torch under the sheets, the Netflix version of Bundy doesn’t make any attempt to take his girlfriend’s life. However, the real-life version is another story entirely.

Ted Bundy and his girlfriend at the time, Elizabeth Kloepfer

Did Ted Bundy try to kill Elizabeth Kloepfer?

In her memoir, Kloepfer recalled asking Bundy whether he’d ever tried to kill her in a phone call following his 1978 arrest.

Following a long silence, Bundy admitted he had felt the urge to end her life “coming on” one night.

“I closed the damper so the smoke couldn’t go up the chimney,” Bundy apparently told her. “And then I left and put a towel in the crack under the door so the smoke would stay in the apartment.”

Bundy also threatened Kloepfer when she questioned him about women’s underwear she had found in their home.

“She said ‘what is this?’ And he said to her, ‘if you ever tell anyone this I’ll break your effing head’,” Kloepfer’s close friend, Marylynne Chino, told media.

Lily Collins as Elizabeth Kloepfer and Zac Efron as Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

How did Elizabeth Kloepfer survive when she was Ted Bundy’s girlfriend?

It was likely sheer luck that led to Kloepfer’s survival. In her book, she said she remembers the night Bundy tried to kill her.

She said she woke up in a panic after a night of drinking and was unable to breathe, so she ran to the windows to open them as the apartment filled with smoke.

 

Did she believe him?

Kloepfer wrote in her book that she didn’t exactly buy Bundy’s claim that he only tried to kill her once when she was his girlfriend.

“I almost didn’t believe him,” she wrote. “It didn’t fit in with the murders. I thought that maybe he wasn’t willing to talk about any more serious attempts to kill me.”

Ted Bundy (Efron) and girlfriend Liz Kendall (Collins) in 'Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile'

Why didn’t Bundy try to kill his girlfriend again?

There are plenty of theories as to why Ted Bundy’s girlfriend didn’t become one of his 30 victims (and that’s just the number of murders he confessed to).

From Kloepfer’s perspective, she believed he may have used her as his one link to normalcy in between his killings.

In a post-arrest phone call, Kloepfer asked Ted Bundy whether he used her to “touch base with reality”, given he often spoke or reached out to her before or after killing someone.

“Yeah, that’s a pretty good guess,” he responded, according to her book. “I don’t have a split personality. I don’t have blackouts. I remember everything I’ve done… The force would just consume me. Like one night, I was walking by the campus and I followed the sorority girl. I didn’t want to follow her… I’d try not to, but I’d do it anyway.”

Ted Bundy

Some believe Bundy used the relationship as cover in order to maintain his image of regular, non-dangerous suburban guy. Another reason she might have been safer as Ted Bundy’s girlfriend is that if she was found dead, he would automatically become a prime suspect. That would have placed him at risk of being discovered for his other killings.

Finally, it’s believed Bundy genuinely loved Kloepfer and this made her distinct from his other anonymous victims. By Bundy’s own admission, he loved Kloepfer to the point of imbalance, and had even got a marriage license in 1970 (which Bundy later tore up after a fight).

“I loved her so much it was destabilising,” Bundy once told journalist Stephen G. Michaud. “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 much in common.”

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