Karen Sparks

The Ted Bundy Victim

Karen Sparks

"who’s going to hurt me?”

In early January 1974, Karen Sparks was asleep in her Washington basement apartment when an intruder entered and carried out a brutal assault. The attack on Sparks, clearly sexual in nature, was a vicious and horrific act that left her with significant injuries and also long term damage from which she never recovered.

It was unknown at the time who had carried out such a savage and unprovoked attack. With no memory of what happened, police were unsure if the perpetrator would ever be caught. It be many years later, when notorious serial killer Ted Bundy was captured, that police were able to connect him to the attempted murder of Karen Sparks.

Karen Sparks: Ted Bundy’s Living Witness

During the Summer of 1973, Ted Bundy rekindled his romance with Diane Edwards, several years after she ended their first relationship. At this time Bundy was also dating his Elizabeth Kloepfer, and had recently entered Law School at Seattle University. Invigorated and happy with how his life was proceeding, Bundy seemed to have everything he wanted.

But behind the facade of courting Edwards, was a carefully constructed plan. He had never forgiven her for ending their relationship, and despite winning her back and planning a future together, Bundy abruptly broke things off in early January 1974. By this time, Bundy had been stalking and attacking women as part of a carefully orchestrated plan. All of his actions up to early January had been an escalation towards something sinister.

On the night of January 4, 1974, 18-year-old Karen Sparks was in her basement apartment in Seattle, Washington. The political science student had spent the evening reading in her bedroom at the campus home she shared with three male friends. At around 1:00am, Sparks thought she saw what looked like a man peering into her bedroom window.

An image of the Seattle home where Karen Sparks was attacked in her basement apartment by Ted Bundy.
The Seattle home where Karen Sparks was attacked in her basement apartment by Ted Bundy.

Many years later, Sparks talked about that fateful night. “I remember seeing some guy looking at me and I thought ‘Gosh, you know, maybe it was just a figment of my imagination because it was so quick,’” she recalled. “It was just a flash. And I thought ‘Well, no, nobody’s going to hurt me, you know.”

“I am living with these guys, you know, I mean who’s going to hurt me?” At some point in the night, Sparks went to bed. Unbeknown to her, an intruder had gained entry to the apartment, and snuck into Sparks room after she had fallen asleep. What happened next was a gruesome and shocking crime.

Ted Bundy: The Home Invader

The intruder, who many years later would be unmasked as serial killer Ted Bundy, carried out a violent attack against the sleeping Sparks. She would recalled the night decades later. “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,” said Sparks, who revealed it took nearly 20 hours before her roommate discovered her unconscious and bleeding. “Bob thought I was still sleeping… it was horrible for him to find me that way.” It was 7:00pm before her friend came down to check on her. “Bob came down and he saw blood on my pillow and he called 911 right away”

“And then he called my mother and he told my mother, and he says ‘Oh you know, Karen must have fallen down the stairs. It’s bad you know,” Sparks said in the show.” At the hospital, the extent of her injuries began apparent. The brutal attack left her with injuries that resulted in permanent brain damage, along with significant loss to her vision and hearing.

Ted with Carol Bartholomew in March 1975.

“I have a horrible ringing and roaring in my ears,” she said. “Just constant.” Sparks also suffered from epileptic fits, but explained “I overcame those.” She remained unconscious for 10 days. When she awoke, she found her father and roommate Bob sitting around the hospital bed. “I asked my dad, I said ‘Dad, what happened, what happened?”

“He says ‘Oh you had a little bump in your head,’” Sparks remembered. “My dad just tried to keep it as upbeat as possible.” She later learned the horrific circumstances of what happened, but had no memory of the attack and was unable to give investigators any clues about who had assaulted her.

She does remember seeing an older man staring at her at a nearby laundromat. “I’d look at him, he’d look away,” Sparks said. “I didn’t really think too much about it.” Police had little evidence to link the crime to a perpetrator. Karen Sparks was lucky to be alive, and she owed her survival to her living arrangements.

After she was violently and sexually assaulted, police believe the attacker heard Sparks roommate Chuck talking in his sleep in the next room. Following the attack, Sparks said she just “wanted to keep quiet. I wanted to have my own life in privacy.” In many of the subsequent literature on Bundy, Sparks was often referred to by a pseudonym, either Joni Lenz, Mary Adams or Terri Caldwell.

The next month, on February 1st, Ted Bundy entered the basement apartment of another young woman. 21-year-old Lynda Ann Healy was a University of Washington undergraduate who also broadcast morning radio weather reports for skiers. On the night, Bundy beat Healy unconscious, in much the same way he had done to Karen Sparks.

However, this time Bundy decided to carry Lynda Ann Healy away. He later told detectives that he had driven her in his Volkswagen Beetle to a secluded area, and there raped and murdered her before dumping the body. It is likely a similar fate would have befallen Karen Sparks, had Bundy not been disturbed in his attack.

Sparks said investigators were “kind of clueless at first,” but her father believed from the beginning that her attacker may have had multiple victims. “My dad kind of figured it out after Linda Ann Healy, you know, he thought… this was not a one-off and he thought this was just too similar,” She said

As Bundy continued his reign of terror throughout the Northwest, Sparks father collected newspaprer clippings on the other missing women from Washington, Colorado, Idaho and Utah. Up until his first arrest in August 1975, Ted Bundy is suspected of kidnapping and killing as many as seventeen women and young girls, many of whom have never been found.

Ted Bundy was finally executed in January 1989, for the murders of as many as twenty victims. Despite his confessions, police suspect he was responsible for many more crimes. Karen Sparks was one of only five or six known survivors who encountered Ted Bundy and lived to tell their story.

With the help of her father, Karen Sparks did make a recovery, regaining the ability to walk by taking slow steps down the hospital hallways. She had suffered up to a 50% hearing loss and 40% vision loss as a result of the ferocious beating she suffered, and which had been concentrated on the left side of her head.

An image of Karen Sparks bedroom, after the attack carried out by Ted Bundy.
Karen Sparks bedroom, after the attack carried out by Ted Bundy.

Sparks was nursed to health at home by her parents. “I remember talking to my dad and I said ‘Gosh you know I am just not going to be the person that I used to be’ and he says ‘No, you are going to be even better,’” Sparks said. For many years after, Sparks never spoke about the attack that almost claimed her life.

Far from being institutionalized and incapable of even speaking about the events, as had been reported in so many accounts of Ted Bundy‘s first known attack on Sparks, she actually went on to recover, and later became an accountant and had a family of her own. Despite the horrific nature of the attack, Karen Sparks gained a more positive outlook on life.

“Another good thing that has happened to me is I have never had a bad day ever since, I mean I just, I live for the day,” she said. “I never did really did think of myself as a victim, per se. I mean, sure, I was victimized, but I am no victim. If you think of yourself as a victim, you’re a victim for the rest of your life.”

Written by Nucleus

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