While there may be renewed interest in and fascination surrounding Ted Bundy three decades years after his execution, there’s no forgetting that he was a serial killer, responsible for the deaths of 30 young women across the country. Amazon’s five-part docuseries, Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer, reframes the narrative around the infamous serial killer with women in his life or affected by his crimes opening up on camera for the first time.
Anchored by Bundy’s longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kendall, and her daughter, Molly, who are speaking about their lives and experiences with Bundy after nearly 40 years of silence, director Trish Wood’s documentary also pulls together a chorus of female voices that includes Phyllis Armstrong, a student at the University of Washington and friend of victim Georgann Hawkins; and Laura Healy, sister to victim Lynda Healy. Notably, that also includes Karen Sparks, a survivor who is believed to be Bundy’s first victim and has previously never spoken on camera about her terrifying experience.
On Jan. 4, 1974, while living in the University District neighborhood of Seattle, where she studied political science at the University of Washington, Sparks was attacked and left for dead. “It was horrible,” she says.
“He came into my home, took a bedframe off of my bed and smashed my skull. And he probably used the same bedframe and smashed it into my vagina and into my bladder. My bladder was totally split,” Sparks recalls, revealing that it took nearly 20 hours before her roommate discovered her. “Bob thought I was still sleeping… It was horrible for him to find me that way.”
The extent of her injuries resulted in permanent brain damage, with significant loss to her vision and hearing. “I have a horrible ringing and roaring in my ears,” she says. “Just constant.” For a time, she also suffered from epileptic fits, but “I overcame those,” she adds.
Following her attack, Sparks says she “wanted to keep quiet. I wanted to have my own life in privacy.”
“Women like us, women that have been attacked, women that have been raped, women that are survivors, they keep their secrets to themselves. I don’t know why,” she continues. “We’re taught to get on with it.”
While Sparks’ name has previously been mentioned in books and other stories written about Bundy’s crimes, Wood tells ET she knew nothing about the woman. There were various rumors about the state of her condition and what happened to her after the attack, but nothing was confirmed in the decades since.
“Nothing was known about her,” Wood says, recalling that she eventually “called her and she answered her phone. It was amazing.”
When it came to getting Sparks as well as the Kendalls to speak on camera, Wood didn't have to do a lot of “talking people into doing things.” Instead, she says, “people were very generous and enthusiastic about being part of the series that told the story the way we were telling it.”
“In her case, she’s been waiting her whole life to tell it,” Wood says of Sparks, adding, “Her kids didn’t even know.”
In addition to being Bundy’s first victim, Sparks is also one of two victims to survive his attack. The other is Carol DaRonch, who Bundy attempted to abduct on Nov. 8, 1974 in Murray, Utah.
While she also spoke out in Joe Berlinger’s Netflix docuseries, Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes, DaRonch recounts Bundy’s attempt to kidnap her in Falling for a Killer.
“I remember him pulling out a gun and saying, ‘I’ll blow your head off,’” she says, also explaining that women at the time were told not to fight off their attackers. “I was angry at him for him thinking he could do something like that to me. I remember thinking, ‘My parents are never gonna know what happened to me.’ I might have never been found. And that was my feeling -- to fight and I just had to get away with all my strength.”
Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer is now streaming on Amazon Prime.