Survivor Squashes the Bundy Mystique

Attacked by Ted Bundy in 1978, Kathy Kleiner has finally begun telling her story
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2024 8:18 AM CST
Survivor Squashes the Bundy Mystique
In this 1979 file photo, Ted Bundy is photographed during jury selection in his murder trial in Miami, Florida.   (AP Photo/File)

When Kathy Kleiner was a student at Florida State University, she was attacked by serial killer Ted Bundy, who murdered two of her sorority sisters that same night. She recounts her experience at the Guardian with writer Ann Moore, delving into what measures she took to never let that night define the rest of her life, and how she objects to the media's portrayal of Bundy. During the night of his gruesome spree at Kleiner's sorority house, she was a sophomore, loving the freedom of college life. Bundy, meanwhile, was on the run after escaping from jail in Colorado, and had made his way to Florida.

She woke to someone entering her room in the dark. Bundy struck her in the face with a piece of wood so hard that it shattered her jaw in three places, the impact causing her to nearly bite off her tongue. When her roommate stirred, he struck her with the wood, too, but as he returned to Kleiner's bed, he became startled by a car's headlights outside and fled. After Kleiner spent a week in the hospital, her family encouraged her not to go back to school, though returning to her room to retrieve her belongings became a healing moment. "I walked away from that bed knowing I'd been in it, as small as a ball could be, and I was standing now," she said. "I was going to walk out the door away from all this and go somewhere better."

From there, she set out to heal, sometimes by enjoying small moments like painting her nails, other times facing her fears head on. She took a job at a lumber yard when she realized men made her uncomfortable—her version of immersion therapy. When she first saw Bundy at his pretrial, she was unimpressed. "He's remembered as handsome but he was just an average person—you'd pass him by. He was sitting there, impatient, arrogant, like a bored middle manager, like we were wasting his time," she recalled. The media mystique that came from his televised trial, painting him as an "evil genius," didn't add up to her. From there, Kleiner lived a quiet life. After publishing a memoir in 2023, her adult son was shocked to learn the full story about where the scars on her face came from. (Read the full story here.)

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