Ted Bundy Survivor Cheryl Thomas Describes Terrifying Encounter in New Documentary


On the night of January 15, 1978, 21-year-old Florida State University dance major Cheryl Thomas got dolled up and met her friends at a popular disco club in downtown Tallahassee.

They spent the evening doing the hustle and the bump all over the dance floor, before heading home just after midnight. Thomas retired to her off-campus apartment near the FSU football stadium, where she fixed herself an open-faced peanut butter and honey sandwich, and plopped down in front of the television—totally unaware that moments later, she’d be staring into the eyes of one of the country’s most notorious serial killers.

After Ted Bundy bludgeoned two women to death at the FSU Chi Omega sorority house, he wandered a few blocks over and climbed into Thomas’s apartment through a kitchen window. She barely escaped with her life.

On the heels of the 30th anniversary of Bundy’s execution, ABC is airing a new 20/20 special on Friday, featuring a new interview with Thomas, who recounts terrifying details about her encounter with the murderer.

“He wore [panty] hose over his face, he pulled that off and dropped [it] on my floor,” Thomas says in a clip from the special, premiering exclusively on ELLE.com.


Cheryl Thomas

Courtesy ABC

According to reports, Bundy broke her jaw and severed a nerve leading to her left ear, which left her with hearing loss and balance problems.

A neighbor, Debbie Ciccarelli, heard the commotion and called Thomas to make sure she was safe. “I woke up to this loud banging sound,” Ciccarelli says in the 20/20 clip. “And then we could hear Cheryl moaning, whimpering. I called Cheryl and we could hear the phone ringing because the walls were so thin.

“But she wasn’t answering.”

Close Up Portrait of Ted Bundy Waving

Ted Bundy

Getty ImagesBettmann

When police arrived at the scene, Thomas was lying on the floor, bloody and badly beaten. “If I didn’t have my neighbors calling, I don’t think I would have survived,” she says in the 20/20 special.

“He left her for dead,” adds Ciccarelli.


Hose found at the crime scene

Courtesy ABC

Thomas woke up a few days later in the hospital, with little recollection of what happened. “Every day of my life I thank God for her life,” her mother, Anne, told the Associated Press in 1989.

The injuries Thomas sustained effectively ended her dream of becoming a professional dancer. Thomas never returned to FSU, and went on to teach ballet and work with the deaf, according to AP.

Ted Bundy survivor Cheryl Thomas

Cheryl Thomas

Courtesy ABC

Bundy was 42 years old when he was executed for his heinous crimes on January 24, 1989. His final words were, “I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends.”

Thirty years later, his story is getting the Hollywood treatment. Netflix recently released their new documentary Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes. And Zac Efron will play Bundy in the upcoming film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.

The new ABC 20/20 special airing Friday will feature rare video footage of Bundy, audiotapes, diaries, letters, and FBI documents that have been declassified in the past decade.

Bundy airs Friday, 15 February at 9 P.M. ET on ABC.


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