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The City Journals

Recent spate of movies recall brave Murray woman who fought off Ted Bundy

Mar 05, 2019 03:11PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Carol DaRonch, in 1979, testifies against Ted Bundy in Florida. (Associated Press)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

A brave Murray woman who fought off and later testified against Ted Bundy is again being remembered after the 30th anniversary of serial killer Ted Bundy’s execution and the release of two new movies about him. This year also marks the 45th anniversary of the day when Carol DaRonch survived Bundy’s botched kidnap attempt at Fashion Place Mall.

In the fall of 1974, Utah was terrorized; young women were disappearing, and sometimes their remains were found approximately every two weeks. In October Nancy Wilcox (17) disappeared in Holladay; two weeks later, Melissa Smith (17), daughter of Midvale’s police chief, disappeared; and on Halloween Laura Ann Aime (17), from Lehi, went missing. As far as the murders went, the police didn’t have much to go on. 

At that time, Fashion Place Mall, having just opened in 1972, was the go-to spot in Murray for teenagers in 1974. 

On Nov. 8, recently engaged Carol DaRonch (18) left her home on 700 West in Murray to go to Fashion Place. Up until that point in time, DaRonch and her family were best known for running a small vegetable stand on the corner of 5300 South and 700 West.

The Murray High graduate let her family know that she was going shopping. She was in Fashion Place between Waldenbooks and Sears when an “Officer Roseland” approached her. The police officer wanted to question her regarding a possible break-in of her car. Good-looking and flashing a badge, DaRonch had no reason to suspect this wasn’t a Murray police officer, other than the smell of alcohol on his breath. 

Around 7 p.m., after trying to go to a “police substation” in a laundromat north of the mall, Bundy and DaRonch headed north on Fashion Boulevard in a Volkswagen Beetle. The Murray resident wisely surmised that “Roseland” wasn’t an officer, since they were not in a police car and not heading in the direction of the police department. 

In Netflix’s four-part docuseries “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes”, televised this year, DaRonch recalled, “He suddenly pulled over, up on the side of a curb, up by an elementary school, and that’s when I just started freaking out: ‘What are we doing?’ And he grabbed my arm, and he got one handcuff on one wrist, and he didn’t get the other one on, and the one was just dangling. I had never been so frightened in my entire life.”

Carol DaRonch in 1974 fought off Ted Bundy and testified against him to put him in jail. (Photo courtesy Carol DaRonch)

 Bundy panicked when DaRonch confronted him and, with his car on the sidewalk in front of McMillian Elementary, a fight ensued. In the car, Bundy tried to handcuff DaRonch, but she freed herself from his clutches. Jumping into the middle of Fashion Boulevard, passersby picked her up, and Bundy sped off.

Unfortunately, that encounter did not deter Bundy; he headed straight to Bountiful and killed Viewmont High School student Debra Kent (17) that night. Found in Viewmont’s parking lot was a key that matched the handcuffs Bundy used on DaRonch. She was able to give police a description of Bundy and his car, which was good enough for police officers to apprehend him, but only after he succeeded in killing five more young women in Utah and Colorado.

DaRonch was able to pick Bundy out of a police lineup, and DaRonch’s hair, along with that of other victims, was found in his VW. DaRonch’s testimony and Bundy’s subsequent conviction for kidnapping put an end, albeit temporarily, to Bundy’s killing spree.

Regrettably, DaRonch would have to be called on again to face her attacker. While awaiting trial in Colorado for murder, Bundy not only escaped once but twice from the jail holding him. He went on to kill again, this time in Florida, where he was recaptured. DaRonch was asked to testify against him in that trial.

DaRonch is featured in the Netflix documentary, and viewers will also take note of the file footage of 1970s-era Fashion Place Mall and McMillan Elementary. Along with the documentary, a movie premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile” starring Zac Efron, will again retrace some of DaRonch’s story.

DaRonch lives nearby Murray now and is a grandmother. To this day, her harrowing escape still captures the media’s attention. A Google search pulled up her story in places as far away as Ireland and Germany.