Produced by Lauren Clark
In the early morning hours of Jan. 15, 1978, an assailant broke into the Chi Omega sorority house at Florida State University and sexually assaulted and murdered two women. He then made his way down the hall and attacked Kathy Kleiner, and her roommate, Karen Chandler in their room, and later went a few blocks down and similarly bludgeoned dance student Cheryl Thomas.
Although they were left gravely injured, Kathy, Karen, and Cheryl miraculously survived.
A month after the attacks, Ted Bundy was arrested. In the 1970s, Bundy is believed to have killed dozens of women across the western United States.
The media was fascinated by the then-suspected serial killer, and Bundy remains a fascination more than 30 years after he was executed. But as the FSU survivors prove, Bundy is not the only interesting part of this story.
JANUARY 15, 1978
Kathy Kleiner: In January of 1978, I was 20 years old. I lived in the Chi Omega sorority house on the FSU campus in Tallahassee.
Kathy Kleiner: I was happy. I was with my other friends. And Florida State was just a safe place to be. … When I moved into the sorority house, my roommate was Karen Chandler.
Karen Chandler: When I was at FSU, it was very laid back. … it was just a great time.
Karen Chandler: Classes had been going on for about a week. And … everyone was moved into the house.
Kathy Kleiner: Saturday, January 14th … I walked home and I got in the sorority. And there were kids talking about, you know, where they’re going tonight, what are they doing, who they’re dating, what party … And then I saw my books sitting on the trunk and I said, you know, I have a test on Monday. I’m going to go ahead and stay home and study tonight. … My roommate Karen came in at the same time and she had a sewing project she had to do. So, she sat in her bed next to mine.
Sorority sisters and roommates Kathy Kleiner and Karen Chandler at a Halloween party in October 1977.
Karen Chandler: And we talked for a little while … and then Kathy was tired … so I just went ahead and decided to go to bed. … It was maybe around midnight. Maybe a little bit before midnight.
Kathy Kleiner: That night … I heard our bedroom door slam open … I was opening my eyes a little bit because it kind of brought me into consciousness … And I’m awake enough to know someone’s there. … As I’m opening my eyes more and focusing … he raised his arm … And he had something in his hand. And I thought it was a pipe or a stick. I didn’t know what it was.
Kathy Kleiner: He came down and hit me in the face … it just felt like pins and needles and knives in my face.
Kathy Kleiner: My roommate Karen was now stirring. And he went over and hit her … I’m still awake. And I’m moving. … So, he came back to my side of the bed. … And as I see him raise his arm up, this bright light shone into our room.
Kathy Kleiner: And this light was a car from one of the sorority sisters coming home from a late date. … he got spooked. … And he left the room.
Karen Chandler: The next thing I remember is feeling like I was being lifted downstairs…. And I remember asking if Kathy was OK and them saying she’s going to be OK. You need to worry about yourself.
… while detectives tried to track a man who slipped into a sorority house …
… have left most coeds here terrified.
Kathy Kleiner: They put me on the stretcher. … And there was all this noise. There were the lights from the police cars and the ambulance. … people talking and the radios squawking … And I thought I was at a carnival because my mind went to somewhere I could understand.
Police say he simply walked in through an unlocked door …
… they say he was armed with a heavy oak log …
Kathy Kleiner: My name is Kathy Kleiner, and I was attacked by Ted Bundy.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris | Former Leon County Sheriff: The early morning hours of January the 15th, 1978, I got a call. And the call basically said, “Sheriff — there’s multiple murders and assaults, on girls.” They told me it was at the Chi Omega house … I was stunned—
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: Before I could get myself settled into criminal investigator Ken Katsaris, as my role as sheriff. I had to get over my personal thoughts about, “These could be my own daughters.”
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: I was there before Kathy Kleiner and Karen Chandler were brought out on gurneys. I — I said prayers for both of them as they passed me. … I didn’t know if they were alive or deceased at the time. They told me two were definitely deceased inside.
Karen Chandler: I knew I woke up in intensive care … I didn’t have any idea for sure why I was there, but I knew something bad had happened … I had at least one skull fracture. I think every bone in my face was broken … and my jaw was broken. I had a broken arm, and I had a couple fingers on my hand that were crushed.
“I had at least one skull fracture. I think every bone in my face was broken … and my jaw was broken. I had a broken arm, and I had a couple fingers on my hand that were crushed,” Karen Chandler said of her injuries.
Karen Chandler: Maybe I had been in my room for a day or two … And my parents were afraid of what was going to be on the TV. So, my dad said, “before we turn the TV, I need to tell you something.” [Chokes up] And he told me about Lisa and Margaret.
Margaret Bowman, 21, and Lisa Levy, 20, had been killed just down the hall from Karen and Kathy’s room in the sorority house. They had both been strangled, beaten, and sexually assaulted.
Karen Chandler [crying]: I can’t imagine how horrible that was for their parents … and it was very hard because I really couldn’t express my grief and my sorrow to their families.
Kathy Kleiner: My jaw was broken in three places — here, here and here [points to her jaw]. It was hanging … on this joint, the jaw. What they did was put my jaw back together and wire it shut.
Kathy Kleiner’s jaw was broken in three places.
In the hospital, Kathy could remember nothing about the attack – she says those memories have slowly come back to her over the years.
Kathy Kleiner: I remember the detectives were in my room first off before my family even showed up asking me questions. … But I was not able at all to help the detectives. … it was just a big blur, a big blur to me.
But it turned out the Chi Omega house had not been the only crime scene that night.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: We were outside that evening … when all of a sudden, I get a radio communication from the sheriff’s office that there is something going on … at a duplex. A young lady who lived there alone, and the next-door neighbor hearing some beating, some sounds. … this is going on less than six blocks away. I sent an investigator there. … And found Cheryl Thomas on the floor– in blood and had been beaten badly.
Cheryl Thomas, a dance major at Florida State University who lived off campus, suffered severe head injuries in the attack.
Cheryl Thomas was a dance major at FSU. Like the Chi Omega victims, she suffered severe head injuries, and was taken to the hospital in a coma.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: I thought, “Could this be the same individual?” And I said, “How? We’ve got such a police presence … how could that person go just a few blocks and strike again?” It was inconceivable.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: I got a call from Colorado about an escaped criminal named Ted Bundy. I was familiar with the name. They said, “Do you know Ted Bundy?” I said, “I’ve heard of him.”
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: They said … “We don’t know where he is” … And I wrote his name down on a legal pad in my car – Ted Bundy. It was the first name associated with the murders in Tallahassee. … Ted Bundy was known to lure women away with his charm and then abduct them, or pick them up at a bus stop and say, “Can I give you a ride?” … But I did not think that the method of operation of this case was anything near similar, except for an attack on girls … so I did not take that at that time as serious.
Theodore Bundy, the suspect in the rape-murder cases of at least 36 young women in California…
… Bundy was on the FBI’s 10 most-wanted list…
NINE WEEKS AFTER THE ATTACK
Cheryl Thomas: When I woke up in the Tallahassee hospital … I couldn’t really tell you who I was or where I was.
Cheryl Thomas: I know I had head pain and my face was very swollen …. My mom and dad had to tell me what had happened because I really did not know. … I couldn’t remember what happened and they had to slowly break the news to me. “Cheryl, you were attacked.”
Cheryl’s jaw was broken in two places, her shoulder dislocated, and she had five skull fractures, leaving her permanently deaf in her left ear.
Survivor Cheryl Thomas
Cheryl Thomas: I felt very grateful, because, obviously, if I had not had two neighbors next door … to call that night when they heard me crying and a beating kind of sound, I know I wouldn’t – I would not have survived.
As the news sunk in across the FSU community, Cheryl remained in the hospital, Karen recovered at her parents’ home nearby, and Kathy went home to south Florida.
Kathy Kleiner: I was flown down to Miami with my family. My parents … took me to an oral surgeon … and had to re-break my jaw because it was not going to be lined up correctly. … So now I had to be wired shut for additional nine weeks. … It was so depressing. … When you have your mouth wired shut, you have to always wear nail clippers on a necklace around your neck because if you ever start choking or anything, you have to be able to cut the wires and be able to breathe.
As Kathy and her fellow survivors healed, Sheriff Katsaris looked for ways to put the person who did this to them away … searching for clues in untraditional places.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: I did a personal examination of Margaret Bowman and Lisa Levy … when I examined both of the bodies, I found what I think was the most significant piece of evidence … and that was a bite mark … And that bite would potentially be able to be compared to whoever we found. … To me it was almost like he was leaving, whoever it was, a signature.
THE MARK OF A MURDERER
Karen Chandler: I think before, Tallahassee and FSU was a cocoon. … But that was sort of the shutting of a door in a way … That was the end of “we are safe.”
Kathy Kleiner: That type of evil that encompassed me that night … I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
Tony Cimino | Kathy Kleiner’s friend: It just seemed surreal. It didn’t seem like it was possible. … The innocence at Florida State was gone. … the university had asked the fraternities for volunteers … And if a lady needed to go to the library or to campus or anywhere … one of us would go and escort her to wherever she was going. … men started sleeping in the lobbies of the dormitories
Tony Cimino: There were police patrolling all the time … for that month, no one knew if they were sitting next to the person that committed the crime. … I mean if they couldn’t tell you who did it, how could they tell you who didn’t do it?
As January 1978 stretched on, police were stumped. Although they had the bitemark evidence, they had no one to match it to.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: Within a few weeks after the sorority sisters were murdered, we had information that a 12-year-old, Kimberly Leach, disappeared from her school … So we thought, “Could it be possible?” But … this was a 12-year-old girl. We’re dealing with college students in a sorority.
Kimberly Leach disappeared from Lake City, over an hour away – her body later found by a nearby park. Fear of the unknown attacker pervaded the area, until news broke of an arrest in Pensacola.
FEBRUARY 15, 1978 | ONE MONTH AFTER THE FSU ATTACKS
Kathy Kleiner: There was something on TV … when … the news came on.
NEWS REPORT: Police arrested this 31-year-old man after a high-speed chase Wednesday morning in Pensacola, Florida. He claimed to be a Florida State University law student.
Pensacola police had pulled over a Volkswagen Beetle that was driving slowly. The mysterious driver refused to give his name.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: Came to find out, of course, that the vehicle … was stolen from a location nearby to … the sorority house.
In that Volkswagen, they found dozens of IDs and credit cards that had been stolen from around Tallahassee in the weeks before.
On February 15, 1978, Ted Bundy was stopped while driving this stolen car in Pensacola, Florida. He would not give his name and was eventually taken to jail.
Florida State Archives
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: Then, the identification came back … it was … Ted Bundy.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: The moment I heard … Ted Bundy, I had the flashbacks, of course, of the phone call … And that’s exactly what we had. We had Ted Bundy, who came to our town.
NEWS REPORT: … if those who link him with dozens of sex slayings … are right, Theodore Robert Bundy is one of the most savaged killers in history.
Larry Simpson | Retired Assistant State Attorney, Leon County: Mr. Bundy had been a … very prolific serial killer for many, many years.
Larry Simpson: It is very unusual for Mr. Bundy to leave a survivor.
Ted Bundy’s murder spree out west ended when he went to prison in 1976, but at the end of 1977, he had escaped and made his way to Florida.Immediately after his arrest, he became a suspect in both the FSU and Kimberly Leach attacks.
Larry Simpson: … we know that he got here somewhere in the vicinity of January the 8th … he rented a boarding room in a boarding house … adjacent to the Florida State University campus.
Bundy was at home on a college campus. Around the time of his crimes out west, Bundy had attended college, and even law school.
Larry Simpson: When Mr. Bundy was in school … he took jobs working for political campaigns, and apparently did an extraordinarily good job. … There was absolutely no indication that he was the serial killer that he ultimately turned out to be.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: … his charm, his wit, his intelligence, his charisma, everything about him … made him different than all the other serial killers.
Kathy Kleiner: The first photo I saw of Ted Bundy after they arrested him … he didn’t look like a serial killer. He looked normal.
Ted Bundy had been convicted of an attempted kidnapping in Utah in 1976, and was charged with a murder in Colorado. In late 1977, he escaped from jail.
King County Archives
The survivors learned more about who Ted Bundy was, and the brutality of the crimes he was suspected of committing.
Karen Chandler: His history was a shock. … I think when I learned about those women, it’s just an immense sadness. … There are all these families, that are devastated.
In the months after the attacks, while the Florida authorities were building their case, the survivors slowly began to move forward with their lives. For Karen Chandler, that surprisingly meant moving back into the Chi Omega house.
Karen Chandler: When I came back, I think they gave me space. They didn’t — it wasn’t like they treated me as a special china doll that they couldn’t talk to. I felt like everyone treated me pretty much like they had treated me before. … So life … just sort of continued on like I had never left.
Cheryl, the former dance student, was now suffering from balance issues, and didn’t know what her future would look like.
Cheryl Thomas: I knew I couldn’t hear again … But I asked the neurologist, “would I ever be able to dance again?” … He said, “that’s totally up to you.” So, then I knew that I had an option of, you know, train my body all over again or I won’t dance again. … I made my decision. I was going to go back and get my degree.
Cheryl moved to Texas and studied ballet at another university. But for Kathy, life took a different turn.
Kathy Kleiner: Life totally changed for me. I did not go back to college. I was married six months after the attack. … my parents thought I needed someone to take care of me and to be sure that nobody came in the middle of the night and attacked me again … And I was OK with that.
But as much as they wanted to, they couldn’t put Bundy behind them. To bring him to justice, they needed to come face-to-face with their attacker.
Karen Chandler: We wanted more than anything to make sure if this was the guy that did it, we want him locked up. … that he never has the opportunity to hurt another woman.
QUESTIONING BUNDY’S M.O.
With every passing day, the media grew increasingly fascinated with alleged serial killer Ted Bundy.
NEWS REPORT: FBI agents and Florida police are questioning a man by the name Theodore Robert Bundy … He will remain in Pensacola under tight security until authorities can determine if he will be charged with the Florida State University murders.
Cheryl Thomas: I feel like they were so focused on Ted Bundy, which I’m sure Ted Bundy enjoyed the media, that they forgot about the women.
As Florida authorities investigated Bundy, they first questioned why his method of attack would have changed.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: He typically was organized. He would plot, pick up … and then abduct the young lady, and … Here, it was obvious that he had gotten disorganized.
They developed a theory that Bundy had originally stalked and targeted Cheryl Thomas.
Investigators developed a theory that Ted Bundy had originally stalked and targeted Cheryl Thomas.
Cheryl Thomas: There had been a guy … that I’d seen ride his bicycle by my house. …Ted Bundy looked similar … So, I sometimes wonder if maybe that was him.
Larry Simpson: He had no doubt cased that place out. …and, we believed that Mr. Bundy went to Cheryl Thomas’s residence … and when he got there apparently there was a car that had broken down right in front … And there was a man there working on the car. … he found that, kinda got spooked … He then went … to the Chi Omega house.
And when his attack at the sorority was interrupted, Bundy returned to Cheryl’s.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: You know, I compared Ted Bundy to a killing machine, like a shark, because the shark is just feeding in a frenzy off of whatever is available. … Just like the shark has the need to eat, he had the need to murder.
Their case intensified with an eyewitness who put Bundy at the sorority house.
Larry Simpson: One of the Chi Omega sisters, Nita Neary, came home that night after being out on a date. She came in through the back door of the sorority house and … she saw a man coming from the upstairs area down the stairway.
Karen Chandler: That would have been unusual for Nita to see a man because no men were allowed upstairs in the sorority house …
Larry Simpson: She did not see him full face on, but she saw a profile of him… He opened the front door and immediately exited the — sorority house.
Neary identified Bundy from a lineup. And as the case came together, investigators still had that key piece of evidence to analyze.
Larry Simpson: We crafted a search warrant to use to search Mr. Bundy’s mouth and obtain models of his teeth … to compare against the bite mark impression that was left.
Investigators obtained a search warrant to compare Ted Bundy’s teeth to this bite mark from one of the victims.
Florida State Archives
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: The search warrant for his mouth probably was the first in the nation’s history. … So, I went to his cell one evening, I told him he’s coming with me. … And he went with me to my dentist’s office … The doors opened up; he saw that we were in a dental office. … He immediately started screaming, “Where’s my attorney? I want my attorney! You can’t do this!” … he knew exactly what we were going to be doing. … Once we read him the search warrant for his mouth, he realized that we could use force … he sat down in the dental chair. He opened his mouth, said, “Do what you have to do, Ken. You know I’m not a violent person.”
The state asked four dental experts to compare Bundy’s molds to the marks.
Larry Simpson: All four of them concluded that Mr. Bundy was the one that left the bite mark.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: We were confident going to the grand jury with the evidence we had.
JULY 27, 1978 | SIX MONTHS AFTER THE FSU ATTACKS
NEWS REPORT: There was an indictment last night in the aftermath of a brutal crime in Tallahassee, Florida. And what was unusual about the indictment was how it was delivered …
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: We had print media, radio media, television media and… they were able to view the indictment reading that night.
SHERIFF KATSARIS: I have copies of the indictment to give each of you.
SHERIFF KATSARIS: Step out Mr. Bundy
TED BUNDY: What do we have here, Ken? Let’s see … Oh, it looks like an indictment. All right why don’t you read it to me? Let’s read it. Let’s go.
SHERIFF KATSARIS [reading indictment]: Theodore Robert Bundy, you are charged – indictment, two counts burglary, two counts murder in the first degree, three counts attempted murder in the first degree.
Ted Bundy, left, listens the Leon County Sheriff Ken Katsaris reads the indictment against him.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: He was obviously not very happy … I did not let it deter me.
SHERIFF KATSARIS [reading indictment]: Said Theodore Robert Bundy did make an assault upon Karen Chandler and/or Kathy Kleiner …
Not surprisingly, the former law student took an active role in his defense.
Larry Simpson: Mr. Bundy took depositions from the witnesses in the case himself. … it’s very unusual … but Mr. Bundy did have legal training.
Karen Chandler: I think he was acting as the lawyer that he always wanted to be … Since I didn’t remember anything about the attack, I think that was helpful. But my feeling at that time was I don’t want to show him any fear because I don’t want him to think that … anything about him bothers me, is under my skin, scares me.
Kathy Kleiner: He was sitting there looking at me. And I looked at him and I didn’t take my eyes off of him. … and he had this smirk on his face and … it kind of made my stomach sick. But also, I knew I was walking out and he wasn’t. And that gave me some power.
Karen Chandler: I felt like I had done my job. … I had answered his questions, and I hope I gave him absolutely no satisfaction.
Months passed as the case wound its way toward trial. Down in Miami, Kathy Kleiner struggled to put herself back out in the world.
Kathy Kleiner: After I got attacked, I was afraid of men … It was something … that I didn’t want to have control me. … and I went to work at a lumber yard … because I figured that’s where I’m going to see the most men … And it worked. … that experience helped me a lot.
Kathy would soon need that newfound confidence. The survivors were set to testify against Bundy, but this time his life was in their hands.
Kathy Kleiner: To know I was gonna have to testify, I think I just needed to build up my resolve … and know that this was going to happen and … be prepared as much as I could for it. … We locked eyes once again and I stared at him.
THE CASE AGAINST TED BUNDY
Karen Chandler: I think I always knew that … I was going to have to testify in court if it went to trial.
JULY 7, 1979 | BUNDY’S TRIAL BEGINS
Larry Simpson: There was a total media circus … and it was the first major case that actually was broadcast live as it was actually going down in the courtroom.
NEWS REPORT: Only one camera fixed on a tripod tapes the courtroom proceedings. … as 20 television crews from around the country have been covering the trial …
Larry Simpson: I think Mr. Bundy was playin’ to the cameras.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: He got a real kick out of it.
Ted Bundy participated in his own defense, along with a team of public defenders.
At trial, Bundy again took an active role on his defense team.
NEWS REPORT: By participating in his own defense, Bundy and his attorneys hope to convince this jury that he was intelligent articulate and innocent – a victim of circumstances.
Larry Simpson: Bundy had a lot of interaction with the judge. … he argued his own motions. … as good as a lawyer could, I think.
Young women packed the courtroom every day to see the star defendant.
NEWS REPORT | Young woman interviewed: Every time he turns around, I kind of get that feeling, “Oh no. He’s gonna get me next.
As lead prosecutor, Larry Simpson felt pressure to make sure Bundy was put away forever.
Larry Simpson: The cases out west were not particularly strong cases. … We needed to finish the job in Florida.
The survivors felt that pressure too, as Cheryl, Karen, and Kathy each took the stand.
Cheryl Thomas: I felt it was important for the jury to see a real person … who had been subjected to what Ted Bundy did.
CHERYL THOMAS [in court]: I had five skull fractures and multiple contusions on my head …
Karen Chandler: It was just my mission to tell my story. … I just really didn’t want to look at him, didn’t want to talk to him, didn’t want anything to do with him.
Survivors Kay Kleimer, pictured, Kathy Chandler and Cheryl Thomas testified at Ted Bundy’s murder trial.
Kathy Kleiner: The defense asked … ‘Is this the man you saw attack you that night in your room at Chi Omega?” And I had to say, “I don’t know because I never saw his face.” … I wanted to help put the nail in the coffin, to put him away, to help the other girls who couldn’t do it. … I couldn’t help.
Though the survivors couldn’t identify Bundy from that night, someone else could — sorority sister Nita Neary:
LARRY SIMPSON: Do you recall the man that you saw at the door at the Chi Omega house on the morning of January 15, 1978?
NITA NEARY: Yes, I do.
LARRY SIMPSON: Would you point him out for us, please?
NITA NEARY: [Points to Ted Bundy]
LARRY SIMPSON: Man in the dark suit with the red tie?
Perhaps the prosecution’s most damning evidence was that bite mark left on one of the victims.
Larry Simpson [demonstrating with a dental mold against the bite mark photo]: This is a photograph of the bite mark. And, as you can see, there’s a ruler in place. … and this is what the … forensic dentist did in court … [places the model right on the photograph] … And then he turned his head slightly and did it again…. it fits like a glove.
The bite mark was a crucial piece of evidence in the case against Ted Bundy.
But bite mark analysis was a new and relatively uncertain science, and the ever-smiling Bundy seemed confident as the trial came to a close.
Kathy Kleiner: Of course, I was worried when it went to the jury. … but I knew in my heart and by the evidence that was there, that he is the one that actually murdered my friends.
JULY 24, 1979 | 18 MONTHS AFTER THE FSU ATTACKS
Larry Simpson: The jury was out a little less than seven hours. And — returned a verdict. … The verdict was guilty as charged on all counts.
Kathy Kleiner: He was convicted, and now whatever sentence he got couldn’t be bad enough as far as I was concerned.
Larry Simpson: It is ironic that he ended up in Florida because … we were a very active death penalty state.
Survivor Karen Chandler
Karen Chandler: He was sentenced to death on my birthday … I don’t believe the death penalty should be a willy-nilly kind of thing, but … if he had gotten out, there were women that were going to die. I have no doubt in my mind.
Following the FSU trial, Bundy was also found guilty of murdering 12-year-old Kimberly Leach, and received another death sentence.
Cheryl Thomas: After the trial was over … I felt that it was just going to be all over. And no more in the news or anything. But that didn’t happen. It was probably just crazy for me to think that.
As Bundy sat on death row, his notoriety only grew. Books and TV programs came out, focusing on his good looks and charm. Instead of rejecting it, Kathy decided to embrace it.
Kathy Kleiner: I read as much as I could about Ted Bundy … watched all his movies because … I think by learning about him, it has helped me move forward because … I wanted to just disassociate myself so that he wasn’t part of me anymore.
In 1981, three years after the attacks, Kathy had a son, Michael.
Kathy Kleiner: I didn’t want him to know that I had been scared, that I had been attacked. … I just wanted to be a normal mom with a normal kid … one night I was putting him to bed. … And he looked up at me and he touched my face. And he said, “Mommy what happened to your face right there?” And I told him that a bad man came into my house one night … and had hurt me.
Michael DeShields | Kathy’s son: You just don’t grasp that at a young age … you don’t really get it, but you kinda do – and you just feel like, you know, “I’m not gonna let anybody hurt you.”
Michael DeShields: I felt that it was important to keep her safe. She was such a loving person. How could somebody do that to — [emotional] — Sorry.
Kathy Kleiner: And I think in his mind, he always carried that, that it could happen again. And “would I be there,” you know, “to help my mom?”
For most of the 1980s, Ted Bundy sat on Florida’s death row appealing his convictions. In that time, Kathy Kleiner went through a divorce, and focused on her young son, Michael.
Kathy Kleiner: I was a single mom for 5 years and he and I grew up together. We were very, very close.
Michael DeShields: Growing up, my mom was the most loving, caring, affectionate, happy person … She never let what happened to her get to her.
Kathy had grown accustomed to projecting a tough exterior, but that softened in 1987 when an old high school friend came back into her life.
Scott Rubin | Kathy’s husband: Over the years I thought about Kathy now and then. … Kathy’s very special, and you could tell she was very special back then.
Kathy Kleiner: So, I called him and came over one day for lunch on a weekend and basically never left.
Scott Rubin: I felt energy from Kathy right away when we first saw each other … It was just her smile and she really looked in your eyes, and but happy eyes … all that together just was like “boom.”
Scott Rubin: When Kathy told me a little bit about the attack by Ted Bundy, it just kind of blew me away. … she would cry about it … I wanted to take away all her pain. And you couldn’t take away this pain.
Kathy Kleiner’s story of survival
In her family, Kathy found happiness, and she leaned on them for support as Bundy’s appeals finally ran out.
Sheriff Ken Katsaris: At the end, he was bargaining for his life. He started confessing to murders. He confessed to 30 murders … And now he was trying to give information, but it was vague.
Kathy Kleiner: “I’ll tell you where more women are buried. Please don’t kill me.” And I can imagine those being the last words that he heard from his victims. “Please don’t kill me.”
JANUARY 24, 1989 | BUNDY’S EXECUTION
NEWS REPORT: Serial killer Ted Bundy scheduled to die in Florida’s electric chair at 7 o’clock…There was the atmosphere of a public hanging as hundreds of singing, chanting death penalty supporters gathered… “bye bye Ted Bundy, goodbye.”
Kathy Kleiner: When it happened, we got a call … We had TV on and at that point, we saw the white flag that they hold and wave when someone has been electrocuted. Scott and I were sitting on our little sofa in my condo, and I cried. And I cried. And I cried for all the victims that could not see this.
Long after surviving Ted Bundy, Kathy is speaking publicly about her experiences, hoping it might help others.
Kathy Kleiner: I think by telling my story it has helped to heal me. … but I feel that it also helps people to hear that I have been through something so horrific, and I’ve come out the other side. … I want people to know … no matter what they’ve gone through, that they too can do it.
There is no one way to heal from trauma. Karen and Cheryl feel like they’ve talked about Ted Bundy enough.
Karen Chandler: I was a victim until I walked out of that hospital. I was a survivor until he was executed. … We gotta come up with something that’s after that. It’s not part of me anymore.
Cheryl Thomas: I want to be more than Cheryl Thomas that was attacked by Bundy. I want to just be Cheryl Thomas. … I got married and I had two wonderful children. … I got my masters at Gallaudet University and worked with the hearing impaired in dance.
Karen Chandler: I’ve had a 40-year marriage … I have two wonderful, self-sustaining children. I have three wonderful grandchildren. … I really don’t think about Bundy anymore.
Kathy’s journey takes her back to Tallahassee for the first time in over 40 years. She’s come, in part, to thank former sheriff Ken Katsaris.
Kathy Kleiner: He’s someone I’ve thought about over the years. And someone who is a good memory.
KEN KATSARIS: Kathy… You’re here, I’m seeing you again. I can’t believe it!
KATHY KLEINER: Thank you so much
KATHY KLEINER: I’m looking forward to doing this. This is something I needed to do.
Kathy Kleiner says her first visit to Tallahassee in over 40 years was, in part, to thank former sheriff Ken Katsaris.
Together, Kathy and Ken returned to the Chi Omega house.
KATHY KLEINER: It;s weird. The sorority house looks so different it doesn’t bother me like I thought it would … it’s OK to be here. I’m OK and I’m with Ken so he’s giving me strength.
KEN KATSARIS: Well, thank you.
KATHY KLEINER: Through everything, life goes on. You have to keep it going.
Larry Simpson: This case is about probably over 100 victims that lost their lives because of Mr. Bundy.
As time moves forward, the hope is that it will be the women – not Bundy – who are remembered.
Larry Simpson: He’s not to be glorified. He’s to be damned.
Cheryl Thomas: They were important people. They were people just like me.
Karen Chandler: … living, breathing people that had futures. … And they’re gone. And we’ll only remember this inhuman thing.
For Kathy and Karen, the sorority sisters they lost are always with them.
Florida State University students Lisa Levy, 20, left, and Margaret Bowman, 21, were murdered by Ted Bundy at the Chi Omega sorority house. They had both been strangled, beaten, and sexually assaulted.
Karen Chandler: I think about them occasionally when I’m with my grandchildren or when I had children. I wonder what their lives could’ve been like, what they would’ve done.
Kathy Kleiner: I feel that because I survived Ted Bundy and there were so many victims that didn’t … I don’t want to take that — that opportunity I was given and not do good with it. I want to be sure that … I keep going for them.
Ted Bundy confessed to at least 30 murders.
But it is believed he may have killed over 100 women in at least six states.
Produced by Lauren Clark