Ted Bundy Doc: Former Girlfriend Tried to Warn the Police and More Shocking Revelations
By Stacy Lambe
Ted Bundy’s longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall, and her daughter, Molly, are opening up for the first time after nearly 40 years of silence. The two are speaking out in the five-part Amazon docuseries, Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer, chronicling their relationship with the serial killer, which overlapped with his murdering spree from 1974 to 1978.
One of America’s most infamous killers, Ted has confessed to killing 30 women across seven states during a four-year period. His murders first began in and around Seattle, Washington before Ted moved to Utah, where he was eventually arrested and charged with kidnapping. Despite being sentenced to one-to-15 years, in 1976, he managed to escape twice while on extradition for a Colorado trial. Following his second escape, Ted ended up in Florida where he started killing again. It was there he was eventually arrested and convicted of murder. He died by execution in 1989. And three decades later, interest in Ted has been reignited thanks to a few recent projects recounting his side of things.
“This story has been told so many times by men. Now it’s time to talk about our own story from beginning to end because we lived and so many people didn’t,” Elizabeth says. In addition to sharing new, unsettling details about their time with Ted, the mother and daughter also have numerous never-before-seen photos of them with a man whom they did not suspect to be a murderer at the time.
“They portray what feels and looks like an authentic love, which adds a layer of mystery to the theories I wasn’t anticipating. You can’t look at those and not think that maybe he really did love her,” director Trish Wood tells ET about discovering their trove of photo albums.
Speaking on camera, Elizabeth and Molly detail what kind of man Ted was before he started killing, realizations about him they put together after the fact, and eventually cutting him out of their lives for good. “She was still trying to work out some things about why she stayed and why she didn’t leave sooner. The process of researching some theories may have helped her with that too,” Trish says of Elizabeth’s journey during the interviews.
“There were times in that she was sort of reliving moments. I would watch her go back in time to tell these incredible stories,” Trish continues in amazement, adding that for Molly “to share with the depth and honesty that she did was really very, very moving for me. I think that’s why she comes across so well in the film because she’s so dignified and authentic.”
While there is no shortage of shocking revelations, here are some of the biggest takeaways from Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer with additional insights from The Phantom Prince: My Life With Bundy.
Ted was a doting boyfriend and caring father figure.
For Elizabeth, being with Ted “was like everything that I ever wanted,” she says. “I was hooked.” She also says she “fell in love with him from day one.” And both Elizabeth and Molly say that Ted was a welcome addition to their lives early in their relationship with him. “We were like a family. That’s what I remember,” Molly says of them spending time together, with Elizabeth adding that “Ted seemed to really like being a family unit.”
“He took part in raising me,” Molly says of growing up with Ted around. He even taught her how to ride her bike without training wheels.
Elizabeth wanted to get married, but Ted wouldn’t “commit.”
Despite them being a happy family unit, Ted refused to accept any of Elizabeth’s proposals. One time, she even got a marriage license, which he promptly tore up in a fit of rage. “Ted didn’t want to get married even though I was bugging him all the time,” Elizabeth says.
Their relationship started to unravel when he got accepted to the University of Utah, where he was planning to study law. It was unclear if Elizabeth and Molly were going to move there with him. “I was really perplexed about what was going on,” Elizabeth says before Ted decided to go on his own.
Ted was very close to his younger brother, Rich.
In addition to being close with Elizabeth and Molly, Ted was also really close to his younger brother, Rich, who would spend time in Seattle. “I would go live with him for most of summer vacation,” Rich Bundy says. And all four would frequently spend time together, rafting in nearby rivers and camping.
Later on, while visiting Ted in Utah, Rich remembers his trip was abruptly cut short. “I remember that we were at the airport,” Rich says, recalling a look on his brother’s face he had never seen before: “He was horrified and disgusted about something.”
Molly once found Ted “completely naked” during a game of hide-and-go-seek.
“He hid under a blanket,” Molly says, and when she pulled it off him, he was lying there unclothed. “It just devolved from there,” she adds. Unable to understand what happened, Molly says that the “charitable childhood explanation I wanted to give him was that he got carried away with the fun of the game.”
“It wasn’t until many years later that I told her,” Molly says, adding, “I didn’t want Ted to get in trouble.”
Elizabeth lived near some of Ted’s first victims.
Georgann Hawkins, Karen Sparks, Lynda Healy, Phyllis Armstrong all lived in the University District, a Seattle neighborhood where the University of Washington was based. All of their homes at the time were within blocks of where Elizabeth lived.
Elizabeth remembers reading a newspaper headline, “a college co-ed abducted from her bedroom,” and realizing it was “just a few blocks from where I was living.”
Ted failed to show up to Molly’s baptism the same day that Brenda Carol Ball went missing.
At eight years old, when Mormons traditionally baptize children, Molly was set to go through her own ceremony. “My dad was going to do the baptism,” Elizabeth says, recalling that the night before Ted treated everyone to pizza. “The next day he didn’t show. He completely missed the baptism. He was two hours late,” Elizabeth remembers.
“I was mad because he was making me look bad in front of my parents, but we never thought in our wildest dreams he was out abducting people,” Elizabeth says, adding, “I wasn’t aware that Brenda Ball had been abducted that night until many years later.”
Both Elizabeth and Molly felt their lives were threatened at least once by Ted.
They often went floating down the Yakima River, where Elizabeth experienced a darker side of Ted. “I was sitting on the edge of the raft and without warning, he popped up and pushed me off the raft,” Elizabeth recalls about being stranded in the water. Luckily, she grabbed hold of a rope so she didn’t float away. But she remembers looking him in the face. “He looked just vacant,” Elizabeth says, adding, “I was mad at him for what he did.”
In Elizabeth’s memoir, Molly writes about a similar incident involving her and Ted that took place at Green Lake. “As my hand touched the edge of the raft, Ted made two small strokes with the oars, sending the raft backwards a couple of feet. All the while watching my eyes with his own dead, hate-filled eyes. This was the first time I ever saw those eyes,” she recalls about being stranded. She attempted to reach the raft again, but Ted did the same thing, “watching me begin to struggle."
Elizabeth tried warning the police about Ted, but they said they already had ruled him out as a suspect.
After Ted abducted two women from Lake Sammamish State Park on the same day, there were enough witnesses to put a description together. After seeing it in the paper for the first time, “Liz turned white,” her friend, Robert Smyth, says of Elizabeth. “It looked like my Ted,” she says, adding, “I was really gripped by fear.” Soon after, Elizabeth met up with a friend and they called the police. But when the details about his car didn’t match up, she believed he wasn’t the suspect.
Later, when the killings started in Utah shortly after Ted moved there, Elizabeth was tempted to reach out to the police again. “I called King County in Seattle,” Elizabeth says. “They said they already looked at him and he just didn’t think he looked like a good candidate.” Despite that, a detective took photos of Ted for further investigation. “I finally called him back and asked him if he had a chance to show the photos to the witness,” Elizabeth says. Apparently, the detective didn’t remember who she was and that a witness said he looked too old. From then on, Elizabeth recalls telling herself, “Stop trying to convict your boyfriend.”
Elizabeth stood by Ted’s side during his kidnapping trial in Utah.
“I had such grief about it. It was so terrible to see him accused of these things,” Molly says of learning that the man she knew had been charged with such horrible crimes.
Soon after he was arrested, he started writing Elizabeth letters and calling her to ask her to be by his side during the trial. “I wanted to say goodbye without really wanting to say goodbye,” Elizabeth says despite the fact that she went along with his wishes. “Waiting for the judge to come in was agonizing.”
Ted also called her before he made his escape in Colorado. “I had no idea he was going to leave,” Elizabeth says, adding, “I was mostly afraid that he was going to come back and help him remain free, which I couldn’t do.”
Molly doesn’t judge Carole Ann Boone for falling in love with Ted.
After Ted was arrested in Florida and put on trial for murder, he began a relationship with a fan named Carole, whom he eventually married on the stand. “I am just glad it wasn’t me,” Elizabeth says, recalling that “this isn’t going to end well for her.”
“You know, all the facts of the case, I don’t know how she made it through all of that and still believed in him,” Molly says of Carole. “But I do believe she believed in him.” Despite her issues with Ted, Molly says she “can’t judge her… we all did the best we could.”
Ted eventually confessed to Elizabeth, who didn’t feel free until he was convicted.
Elizabeth hung onto a lot of guilt and felt confused and responsible about the murders. “I should be dead too,” Elizabeth kept thinking at the time.
“I didn’t really start rebuilding my life until he told me the truth from Florida when he called me in the middle of the night,” Elizabeth says of finally learning everything about what he did. “To know he was out killing people when we were still in a relationship was a really hard idea to incorporate to integrate into my life.”
Molly burned the last letter Ted ever wrote Elizabeth.
“I came home from school one day and there was a letter from the jail,” Molly says. “There was no way I was going to let him have that hook into her again.” She then put the letter in the fireplace and burned it without ever telling her mom that it had arrived. “I didn’t want to see her exploited again,” Molly adds.
Elizabeth eventually found out about the letter after Ted’s execution, when his lawyer called to see if she ever got it. Molly then told her the truth of what happened and Elizabeth “accepted it very quietly.”
“It hurt her heart that I robbed her of this closure,” Molly says, while adding defiantly, “I’m definitely not sorry he went to his death wondering why she never wrote back.”
The docuseries is the last time Elizabeth wants to speak about Ted.
“For me, I’m hoping this is the end of my participation in anything related to Ted,” Elizabeth says in the end.
In addition to the Kendalls’ many revelations, they are joined on camera by a chorus of women who were once in Ted's life or affected by his crimes, including KUTV reporter Barbara Grossman, King County detective Kathleen McChesney, University of Washington student Phyllis Armstrong, Bundy’s first-known victim and survivor Karen Sparks, as well as other friends and family members of his victims.
“We don’t tend to see women over the age of 60 either behind or in front of the cameras as much as we should,” Trish says of the significance of these women who participated in the documentary. “Women of all ages have important stories to tell.” And all of them share unique perspectives, unnerving details and provocative insights about what it was like to interact with or have their lives forever changed by the serial killer.