Evolution of End Stalking In America
On March 11,1999 Judge James H. Keppel, Superior Court in Mesa, Arizona sentenced my stalker to 2.5 years in prison for stalking. I've been told that this case was one of the worst stalking cases in Maricopa County and that this is the first time that a maximum sentence of 2.5 years was given without going to trial. On December 2, 1998 my stalker was also sentenced to 6 months in jail through the City Court in Chandler. In addition to this, he pleaded guilty to several other non-related charges. Total jail and prison time - over 3 years in relation to my case.
Although this stalking continued for over two and a half years, I will only refer to the time frame of May 21, 1998 through November 17, 1998.
During this period hundreds of phone calls and threats were recorded, countless reports were written by officers, attempts on my life, and a one-hour stand off between the police and my stalker. A total of 7 warrants were issued out of Chandler, Payson and Mesa, 5 arrests were made, and stakeouts were put in place. A total of 29 charges were filed against my stalker. A total of 18 officers were involved, one sergeant, three detectives, 6 prosecuting attorneys and Silent Witness.
KTVK, Channel 3, in Phoenix, covered the court proceedings on March 11th and it was aired that evening. Since that time, I have received an overwhelming amount of telephone calls from law enforcement officials in the East Valley and Tucson. I was told by many officers, that the next time they are dispatched and write an initial report for annoying phone calls, harassment, or a violation relating to a restraining order or condition of release, that they will now look at it from a new perspective - that of the victim. If you only knew what that means to a victim. Many times, in the beginning, my reports were not taken seriously, even though my stalker had five previous victims. I have received calls from other stalking victims who have been to terrified and intimidated to file charges but are now willing to do so as they now know they are not alone in their quest to survive.
I wanted justice and my freedom back, but beyond that I wanted people to wake up, realize and start understanding that stalking can happen to anyone. My case is not unique. There are hundreds and thousands of cases just like mine happening everyday.
Stalking is now being classified as "The New Epidemic of The New Millennium", something that all cities in the United States should be aware of and start implementing task forces to deal with it now.
Until you are a victim, there is no real understanding of what stalking is, or the physical and emotional devastation, and impact it has on not only the victim but also, family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Many people and police officers tend to believe you're fabricating, overreacting, or that it's simply to bizarre to be real. If only that were true. All of a sudden tires on my vehicles were slashed, damage to my home, unwanted gifts, flowers, pictures and decapitated dead animals were left at my door or sent by other means, not to mention the hundreds of phone calls, and threats on my life.
Simple things in life, that many take for granted, were soon taken from me. I could no longer answer my phone or drive in my car without constant fear. I soon learned that I couldn't meet family members or friends for lunch or dinner or even stop to talk to someone outside my home or office, as I was putting everyone in immediate danger. Although I was fortunate to have support from family and friends, I started pulling away for fear that the stalker would take revenge on them. A stalker only sees other people as an obstacle in his/her way and will stop at nothing. There were times my stalker would make threats to kill whoever he saw me with.
In essence, stalking is more than just harassment and threats - it's an act of terrorism that a victim faces every hour of every day.
When an officer is dispatched on a call relating to domestic violence there is physical evidence (pictures of injuries, overturned or damaged property and excited utterances of the parties involved). What do the majority of stalking victim's experience when an officer responds to our calls? It's left entirely up to the victim to convince the officer that you are in fear for your life and that the phone calls, recorded messages, cards, letters, dead animals, unwanted flowers left at your door, etc. is far more than just harassment. Stalking victims don't have the physical bruises to show. Day after day we're mentally raped. Can pictures prove our anguish or our fight to survive? No. Are our stalkers there when the police arrive? No.
The first thing a victim is told is to obtain a restraining order. Does anyone ever tell the victim that it can do more harm then good or that it can put your life in more danger - NO. A restraining order is nothing more than a piece of paper that gives many victims a sense of "false safety." When you're sent a copy of the defendant's conditions of release do you believe it helps protect you? Yes. In all actuality it's a piece of paper that in no way helps nor does it protect the victim. Restraining orders and conditions of release are merely tools for the police and at whose expense?
I can't blame all of the officers involved in my case for not taking my reports seriously. I can only blame them for lack of education. Stalking in Arizona is a felony but it is still very mistakenly looked upon by officers as mere harassment and annoying phone calls, or a "lovers quarrel" (my relationship had been over for two years). A handful of officers did take my case seriously but at one point or another their hands were tied.
I have had the opportunity to speak with many stalking victims and in every case I hear the same thing. "It would be so much easier if he/she would just shot or rape me - then officers would act immediately and take my case seriously." OR "How can I prove that I'm being mentally raped over and over and over?"
Stalking victims live with constant acts of terrorism and mental rape. Is stalking an act of terrorism and mental rape? The following is a statement, taken from court transcripts, relating to my case. After you read it, I'll let you answer the aforementioned question.
One of the largest frustrations that I encountered was that there was very little support in my area for stalking victims. Yes, I was given brochures to call domestic hotlines but what happened when I called? After about the ninth call I gave up. As soon as I requested to speak to someone who could give me information or help me relating to stalking I was always given the same response "we haven't really dealt with that here but we'll give you another number to call." When asked if anyone could refer me to a psychologist who had dealt with stalking the answer was "sorry we don't know of anyone." It took my company's mental health line six weeks to locate a psychologist. Unfortunately the psychologist they found had only dealt with one stalking victim, was not on my mental health plan, and was an hour a half drive from my home. Once again I was left on my own.
In all honesty, I had given up all faith in restraining orders, the local law enforcement and the judicial system. If it had not been for the efforts of one officer, three prosecuting attorneys and one sergeant I would have given up again, like I had so many times before. But, because of their belief in me, their understanding, their compassion, their professionalism, and the encouragement they continually gave me to keep going, their dedication, and willingness to prosecute, I can now say, "I survived." They have also restored my faith in local law enforcement and the judicial system and they have proven to me that the system can and does work. Each of these five individuals went the extra mile for me and yes they did save my life.
I would like every potential victim or current victim to understand that in the beginning I made every mistake that any victim could have possibly made and then some.
In the beginning I was totally convinced that I could reason with my stalker. There were times I would break down and meet with him after hearing over and over threats how my children would be killed, or how I could be buried alive in the desert, and how no one would ever find me if I didn't meet with him.
Often times I would receive 20-30 phone calls in a day and I was in fear that if I didn't meet him or speak with him on the phone that he would show up at my home or at my office putting other individuals in danger or that damage to my home or office would occur like it had in the past.
Other times I would receive calls from hospital personnel saying that he was in the emergency room from an apparent suicide attempt (he knew just how far to go before it became life threatening) or that he was having symptoms relating to possible heart problems. This person had no known heart condition but knew how to "fake heart attack symptoms."
Always remember that a stalker will play on your sympathy and believe me they do know how to get to you mentally. Don't fall into the trap I did.
After I would meet with him for a few minutes I wouldn't hear anything from him for days or weeks, each time praying that all would end, but it never did - it just got worse. Unfortunately, it was the only way I knew how to survive and protect the ones I loved. Was I wrong? You better believe it! In hindsight, it's very easy to look back and see every mistake I ever made.
Please don't ever think you can reason with a stalker like I did in the beginning. Say "NO" once and only once no matter how many phone calls or threats you receive. File those police reports, prosecute and under no circumstance back down.
I have been asked many times what it took for me to finally wake up and do whatever I could to stop the situation I was in. The last time I met with my stalker he had once again tried to convince me that he would leave me alone for good. As I was leaving that day, he turned to me, pulled a knife and held it to my throat, saying "I'll never let anyone else have you, I'll kill you and your kids first, don't ever turn your back cause I'll be there, and I'll burn your car to the ground." He then removed the knife from my neck and said "remember this (referring to the knife) c--- it can get you at anytime."
Before I go any further, I would like to mention that during our last conversation he continually blamed his mother, his father, and myself for the things he had done all his life and that we would all pay. Sound familiar to anyone? The following morning, I received a call from a hospital informing me that my stalker was in the ER room for smoke inhalation. I asked the ER nurse what had happened. She told me that his father's home had just burned to the ground. Was it just a coincidence that just hours before he had threatened to burn my car to the ground and that we would all pay? I'll let you answer that one. I knew then (in my own mind) that every threat he had ever made was no longer just "verbal threats." He was now carrying them out.
Stalking can also affect your place of employment and the people you work with. In 1996 I was asked to resign due to the problems with my stalker. It was the only way my local superior knew how to handle the situation. He viewed it entirely as a personal problem, not a problem our company should deal with, even though the stalking was something I had no control over. I refused to resign and thanks to some very understanding individuals, at our corporate office, I am still with the same company.
In 1998, when the stalking escalated, my company went to bat for me -- all the way! Our Corporate Security Office, on the East Coast, stayed in direct contact with me and our local police department, here in Arizona. My employer went to great lengths to insure my safety and the safety of my co-works as my stalker had also threatened many of them when my calls were not put through to me. He was often seen driving by our office, leaving notes, dead birds on my car, and threatening anyone who confronted him. He would bombard our office daily with calls, often times impersonating police officers and detectives to get through to me, or to obtain information from fellow employees. He had also shattered our French glass doors going into our office. Magnetic coded locks were installed on our office doors and additional security was installed in our office, an expense that no company should have to endure because of one sick human being. I was also offered a panic alarm which would activate our security alarm, in the event something were to happen in the parking lot, restroom, or common areas of our complex.
I will forever be grateful to my employer for their concern, understanding and help. On February 14, 2000 my employer announced the implementation of a Threat Management Program for our company nationwide, something that every company (large or small) should consider doing if a program has not yet been established. Does stalking affect just the victim?
One question that I am frequently asked is - how did your family and friends react when this was going on? It wasn't easy for any of them.
For over a year my two sons (20 and 23 at the time) often blamed me. Why? My stalker would leave messages on our home answering machine saying things like - "Your mother should be home soon, we've been in bed together the last two hours and if you don't like it, deal with me." Since my stalker knew every move I made (by following me without me ever realizing it), it was very easy for him to call my home with perfectly timed messages. In the aforementioned message that was left, I had gone to the mall to finish some last minute Christmas shopping.
Other times flowers and paintings would be left on my front door with notes attached saying "Thank you for loving me," Polaroid pictures of himself, and other unwanted gifts. When your friends and family hear and see things, such as this, it can leave doubts in anyone's mind. He saw my children as an obstacle in his way and made every effort possible to tear our family apart.
It's extremely hard for anyone to understand, especially your loved ones, what a stalker does and the impact it has on everyone. It took a considerable amount of time for my children to understand. However, we are now a strong family again and I don't think anything or anyone could ever pull us apart.
Although I had the support of many friends and co-workers, I pulled away as I was in fear for them. My stalker had threatened to kill anyone I associated with or spoke to. Many of them wanted to help in anyway they could but unfortunately there wasn't to much anyone could do except keep their eyes and ears open for me. In essence they felt helpless. When tires on two of my vehicles were slashed in my driveway, it did scare my neighbors, as they had no idea what this man would do to them.
Another question I was continually asked by friends and family was - if this is so serious why aren't the police doing anything about it, other than writing a report? How could I explain what was happening when I couldn't even understand it myself?
This brings me to another very common problem that stalking victim's experience and that is with the local law enforcement. It's virtually impossible to try and explain a case to a new officer every time you file a complaint. In my case that involved 18 officers, many of which took more than one report. If I had filed a report each day that messages were left there could have very easily been an additional 30 reports written. How many more officers would have been involved in the case? I will never know the answer. Very often I would wait 2-3 days to file a report and then combine the calls on one report.
Every time an officer made phone contact with my stalker the situation escalated. What good are warnings to the stalker (even after restraining orders are served) if they aren't carried through with? Only another victory for the stalker and more immediate danger to the victim. Every time my stalker was arrested it went to a higher degree. After each arrest within 24 hours the phone calls, threats, and drive-byes would start again, although the conditions of release stipulated "no contact, etc." For months, it was considered only harassment or violations of restraining orders and violations in his conditions of release. In the meantime I, like so many other victims, was left to defend myself and live in fear that each day could be my last. Was I being melodramatic? No - just facing reality.
Victims of stalking are so often led to believe that it's nothing more than harassment, annoying phone calls, or minor criminal damage. I want other victims to know what I had to do before my reports were taken seriously, how long it can take for a case to be assigned to a prosecutor and what you can do to expedite it. Do people honestly understand how long it takes from the time a report is written, to the amount of time it takes the DA's office to file charges, to the amount of time that elapses before a court date is set, or how many reports have to be filled, and how many arrests made before you finally hear a "stalking charge" has been filed or that a warrant has been issued?
How many people know how easy it is to get a warrant quashed? My stalker was able to have 3 warrants quashed in less than a half-hour by merely walking into a courtroom. Was the Judge aware of the entire case? Absolutely not! The same day, the same Judge had to issue a fourth warrant. My stalker was "once again" arrested the following day and released three days later, for the fourth time, on "another higher bond." End result of the fourth arrest - more threats and phone calls. It took a fifth arrest and a high bond before my stalker was finally stopped. What reaction did this Judge have when confronted and what does it say about the average courtroom? This Judge admitted and apologized to me for the system failing me. I've also received apologies from two other Judges. Although, these Judges admitted that there are flaws in the judicial system, the last thing any victim wants to hear is "apologies how the system has failed." Again, how many lives have to be lost because the system fails?
I want other victims to understand the importance of the behind the scene activity that a victim has to do, which pretty much for me meant doing my own background investigation. You can't wait for the police and prosecuting attorneys to obtain information on your stalker - a lot is left up to the victim and if you don't do it, no one will.
How many victims realize that the majority of the charges will be dismissed during plea-bargains in order to obtain a guilty plea and why they are dismissed or grouped together? These are all very simple matters but rarely is a victim made aware of it ahead of time.
Yes, we victims need counseling and support groups but far beyond that we need a place to turn to for in-depth knowledge. Stalking victims need to know what to expect from the onset of the harassment and stalking, through the duration of the stalking, safety tips, how to document, obtain evidence, how to deal with officers, district attorneys, arraignments, witness advocates, pre-trials, trials, sentencing, etc.
Often times the nightmare of stalking does not end for the victim when the stalker is incarcerated, awaiting trial, or even after sentencing. Yes, we are finally given time to go on with our lives but for how long? Does the stalker sit in jail or prison thanking the victim for putting him/her there or does the stalker take the time to plan a retaliation when released or while incarcerated? What protection is offered to a victim when the stalker is released from jail and or prison?
Why are stalking victims forced daily to relocate, go into hiding and live the life of a fugitive? Just ask any victim.
I have been advised by many experts to relocate but I have chosen not to. No victim should be forced to give up his/her home, family, and friends, and live the life of a fugitive. Instead, I am going forward with my life in new ways.
Due to the frustrations I encountered during my stalking, the lack of understanding the judicial system and officers have for stalking victims, the intimidation and constant fear for not only my life but the lives of my family, I soon saw a real and desperate need for a place that victims of harassment and stalking could turn to for information, help and most of all understanding. Thus End Stalking In Arizona was formed. Due to the overwhelming response our name was changed to End Stalking In America, Inc. In 2000 we became a nonprofit organization.
I know I will have many obstacles to overcome when my stalker is released from prison, but my immediate goal is to open a stalking center in Maricopa County that deals exclusively with stalking.
In essence, I have learned that a tragic situation can be turned into a positive situation. I am one of the lucky few who have survived.
Stalking is something that can happen to anyone and until the law enforcement and judicial system understands that then a lot of lives will be lost for nothing more than lack of education. Until higher bonds are set and stiffer sentencing in all states are given, stalkers will be allowed to continue without any remorse.
Bottom line, End Stalking In America is here to help any victim, in any way we can, as I know, what it's like to live in fear for your life minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, and day-by-day.
I want to personally thank you for visiting our website. If we can be of any assistance to you or your company, please feel free to contact us. All correspondence, phone calls, and e-mails are considered confidential. We welcome your comments and suggestions.
"I wish for all of us to have hope and faith that this nightmare will end and we may live in peace."
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
UPDATE FEBRUARY 2002
UPDATE - JULY 2002
UPDATE - FEBRUARY 2003
UPDATE - MARCH 2004