October 16, 2022 ~ By Shari Rose
Carol DaRonch was 18 years old when she was kidnapped by serial killer Ted Bundy in Utah
Carol DaRonch survived an attack from one of the most dangerous serial killers in American history when she fought back against Ted Bundy. At just 18 years old, DaRonch escaped from Bundy’s infamous Volkswagen and lived on to testify against him in court. As one of Bundy’s few known survivors, she played an integral role in securing his kidnapping conviction as well as future convictions of his other victims.
Ted Bundy Approaches Carol DaRonch In A Shopping Mall
On November 8, 1974, Carol DaRonch drove to Fashion Place mall in Murray, UT after finishing work. Though her older sister typically drove her through town, DaRonch had recently gotten her own car, a 1974 maroon Camaro with a black top.
“I got the car and I loved it,” she said in a later interview. “I thought it was beautiful.”
While shopping at a bookstore inside the mall, a man approached DaRonch. He introduced himself as Officer Roseland, and told the teen that someone had been caught trying to break into her car in the mall parking lot.
The officer was not wearing a police uniform, but he read DaRonch’s license plate back to her. She confirmed the Camaro belonged to her. He asked if she would follow him back to the parking lot to see if anything was stolen from her vehicle. Trying to be helpful, DaRonch agreed.
However, Officer Roseland was not a police officer at all. The man was Ted Bundy, a 27-year-old serial killer who had murdered at least 11 others before targeting DaRonch.
In the mall’s parking lot, DaRonch examined her vehicle and saw nothing had been stolen. Bundy then asked if she would accompany him to the police station because authorities were holding the man who tried to break into her car. At this point, DaRonch says she thought something was amiss.
“I was just starting to feel a little uneasy, and I thought I could smell alcohol, and that’s when he promptly pulled out his wallet and showed me a badge,” Carol DaRonch said. “And I went, ‘Oh, okay.’”
Reassured by the police badge that Bundy showed her, DaRonch agreed to ride with him to the police station. When she saw he drove a Volkswagen Beetle, she convinced herself the officer was off-duty, or even undercover. In a later interview, she said it was a bit strange he didn’t drive a police vehicle, but ultimately she wanted to be helpful and believed she could trust him.
“I probably was trying to be nice, I was trying to do the right thing, and I was trying to be a good person,” she said. “He was an authority figure.”
Just three weeks earlier, Ted Bundy had kidnapped another victim, Melissa Smith, from the same Murray mall. The daughter of Midvale’s police chief, Smith was found dead on October 27, 1974.
Believing Bundy to be a trustworthy person of authority, she got into his Volkswagen. Bundy drove them away from the mall, with the intention of making 18-year-old Carol DaRonch his 12th confirmed victim.
More stories: Enietra Washington: Only Confirmed Survivor Of The Grim Sleeper
More stories: How Mary Vincent Survived Lawrence Singleton’s Attack
DaRonch’s Kidnapping & Survival
In his Volkswagen Beetle, Bundy drove DaRonch through town for a short while. He told her to put on a seatbelt, but she refused. He suddenly turned down a side street and jumped the curb next to an elementary school. Having grown up in Murray, she knew they were nowhere near the police station. At this moment, DaRonch realized the man was not who he said he was.
“I remember screaming at him, ‘What are you doing!? This isn’t the police station. What are you doing?’ And he wasn’t saying anything. He wasn’t answering me. And I could tell he just changed,” DaRonch said.
Bundy grabbed her arm and quickly locked a handcuff onto one of her wrists, but she fought him off and prevented him from cuffing her other arm. He then pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot her in the head.
“I had never been so frightened in my entire life,” she said in an interview with Netflix’s Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. “And I know this is cliche, but my whole life went before my eyes.”
In those terrifying moments, DaRonch knew she had a choice to make. Fight back, or let this man do what he wanted in hopes that he would let her live.
“I think back then, you were told not to fight off your attacker,” she said. “If you were being raped, if you tried to fight him off it’d make him mad. Just to, you know, let it happen.”
But DaRonch thought about her parents while she sat trapped in Bundy’s car. And the pain they’d experience when their daughter never returned home.
“I remember thinking, ‘My parents are never going to know what happened to me.’ I might’ve never been found. That was my feeling to fight. And I just had to get away with all my strength,” she said.
So Carol DaRonch fought back. Because she never put on a seatbelt, she opened the passenger side door and allowed herself to tumble onto the street. Bundy came after her, now with a crowbar in his hand.
“I remember feeling a crowbar in his hand, he was trying to hit me over the head with it. And struggling for a while, and then a car came along,” DaRonch said.
The oncoming car’s passengers, Wilbur and Mary Walsh, could not believe what they were witnessing in the street. They stopped their car, and DaRonch ran over, threw open a door, and jumped inside. They drove away, leaving Bundy standing alone by his Volkswagen. DaRonch was safe, even as Bundy’s handcuffs still dangled from one of her wrists.
“I really don’t know how I got away,” she said. “I was so small, and I just think I had this strength that just came from somewhere to get away from him.”
Carol DaRonch got away, but so did Ted Bundy. And he killed a different teenage girl that night.
Utah Police Search For A Serial Killer
After DaRonch escaped, Bundy went on to kidnap and kill 17-year-old Debra Jean Kent later in the same evening. Kent was watching a high school play with her parents when she left at intermission to pick up her younger brother from an ice skating rink. She was never seen again. Her remains were eventually found in Fruit Heights, UT in 2015.
When she heard that Kent’s disappearance occurred the same night of her attack, DaRonch knew the culprit was her kidnapper. DaRonch went to her local police station and informed the authorities of her kidnapping. By the time of DaRonch’s attack, Utah police were already looking for several teens and young women who had disappeared in the autumn of 1974. They suspected her kidnapper was the same man who had killed others. And they weren’t the only authorities looking for a serial killer.
In Washington state, Seattle police were investigating the disappearances of 7 different young women, mostly college students, who had gone missing throughout the year. Those victims were kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and murdered by Ted Bundy as well, but it would be another year before his arrest in DaRonch’s kidnapping.
More stories: How Kara Robinson Outsmarted A Serial Killer
More stories: Whitney Bennett: A Teenage Survivor of Richard Ramirez
More stories: Teka Adams’ Survival After Fetal Abduction Attempt
Bundy Charged In DaRonch’s Kidnapping
On August 16, 1975, Ted Bundy was pulled over in his Volkswagen by Utah Highway Patrol. The officer discovered his murder kit in the trunk. It contained a crowbar, handcuffs, trash bags, an ice pick, and other suspicious items. The officer arrested Bundy after making the discovery.
The following month, Carol DaRonch picked Bundy out of a lineup, and he was charged in her abduction. A trial date was set, and DaRonch prepared herself to testify against Bundy.
On February 23, 1976, the trial began in Salt Lake City. As Bundy sat across from her in the courtroom, DaRonch identified him as her kidnapper. DaRonch says she remembers the expression on his face while she sat on the witness stand.
“Bundy, he was down there sitting with a smirk on his face, always really arrogant, kind of laughing when I’d answer the questions,” she said.
DaRonch faced many questions from his defense lawyers, who sought to poke holes in her story and convince her that Bundy was not her attacker.
“I remember being on the witness stand for hours,” DaRonch said. “Being questioned by his attorneys, trying to say that I didn’t have the right man, of course, and how did I know that he was the right man. That I was mistaken.”
One of Bundy’s attorneys, Bruce Lubeck, was particularly aggressive in his convictions that his client was innocent. During a 1976 television interview, Lubeck questioned DaRonch’s story.
“You know, we have our theories as to how it happened and why she did make an identification,” Lubeck said. “But I don’t conclude that it was because she got a good look at her abductor and was able to remember him. I don’t think that happened.”
In fact, even after Bundy was convicted for multiple murders and executed in January 1989, Lubeck still held onto his belief that Bundy was innocent in DaRonch’s kidnapping. Now an assistant U.S. attorney, he said in a 1989 interview with Deseret News that “Bundy shouldn’t have been found guilty in the DaRonch case.”
In 2001, Lubeck was appointed a U.S. district judge in Utah, and continued in that role for 16 years. One of his most famous cases occurred in 2017, when he denied a transgender boy’s request to change his birth certificate. Lubeck called the request akin to “someone asking to change their name to Hitler.”
But in spite of Lubeck’s best efforts, Ted Bundy was found guilty of aggravated kidnapping in Carol DaRonch’s case.
Bundy Escapes From Police Custody
After the trial, Bundy was extradited to Coloado to be tried in the murder of Caryn Campbell, a 23-year-old nurse who was murdered in Snowmass Village. DaRonch traveled to Colorado to testify against him in the trial. However, instead of facing off against Bundy’s attorneys on the witness stand, DaRonch would have to interact directly with Ted Bundy. The serial killer was representing himself in court, which meant he could cross-examine his victim.
In a 2019 interview with People Magazine, Carol DaRonch spoke about their exchanges in the courtroom.
“He was so arrogant,” she said. “I just think he thought he was going to get away with everything.”
And, for a time, Bundy nearly did get away with everything. Because before Caryn Campbell’s family could see justice in her killing, Bundy escaped police custody.
On June 7, 1977, he jumped out a window of the Pitkin County Courthouse and disappeared into a nearby forest. Police arrested him six days later in Aspen and placed him back into custody. However, Bundy escaped his prison cell in Garfield County Jail six months later. He fled first to Chicago, then to Ann Arbor and Atlanta before stopping in Tallahassee. Bundy killed three more victims while on the run in Florida: two college students and a 12-year-old girl.
More stories: How Cindy Paulson Escaped Serial Killer Robert Hansen
More stories: Jennifer Morey’s Survival After Brutal Knife Attack
Bundy was finally arrested on February 15, 1978 in Pensacola, FL. The following year, he was convicted in the murders of Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy at the Chi Omega sorority house. In 1980, he was found guilty of murdering 12-year-old Kimberly Leach. In all three of these murder convictions, he was sentenced to death by electrocution.
While on death row, Ted Bundy confessed to killing 30 girls and young women from 1974 to 1978. Crime experts suspect his actual victim count to be much higher, as they believe there are many killings he refused to admit committing. He was executed on January 24, 1989 at the age of 42.
Carol DaRonch Today
Today, Carol DaRonch lives with her partner, Michael, near the same area she was abducted in Utah. After surviving Bundy’s kidnapping and attack, she said she learned how to “detach” herself from the experience and move forward with her life. After high school, she went to college and earned a degree in business management.
Though hesitant at first, she agreed to participate in the Netflix series, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes after her adult son convinced her to share her story again. When asked about interviewing for the series, DaRonch said, “I realize that it is an important story to tell, and if someone can benefit in a positive way from it, then that’s what I want.”
Carol DaRonch today remains active in the true crime space on social media. On her Facebook page, she shares articles about serial killers and their victims, including stories about Ted Bundy and her case against him.
More stories: How Tiffany Taylor Survived Serial Killer Khalil Wheeler-Weaver
More stories: A Hitman Came for Susan Kuhnhausen. He Didn’t Survive.
More stories: Jennifer Holliday: A Story of Survival in East Texas