Lack of sleep wasn't a problem -- the adrenaline rush took care of that. At 22, Tisha was ready to start over. Fearing for her life, she set out to flee the violent ex-boyfriend whose stalking had escalated to death threats in the four months since Tisha had broken up with him for the last time.
As Tisha's mother, Pat Stanger, helped her daughter prepare to head across the country to Washington state, she was mostly unaware of the worst of what had been happening to Tisha that spring. She had heard some of the menacing messages Tisha's ex, "Bob," had left on the answering machine at the house the women shared. But she didn't know that Tisha was parking in a secured area reserved for doctors at Park Lane Medical Center, where she worked as an administrative assistant for doctors. She had no idea that the hospital's private security guards escorted Tisha to and from her car every day. She didn't know about the frightening notes left on Tisha's car or that someone had broken into the office where Tisha worked and had trashed it. She just knew her daughter would feel freer somewhere else.
"I understood," Pat says, sitting in the living room of the home she now shares with Tisha on 15 acres in Holden, Missouri. "I took off to Texas once in '71 or '72. Tisha was just a baby, so I packed her up and took her. I had gone through that, where you just need to get away. I knew I was going to miss her, but I had to help her."
Tisha hugged her mom, got into her car, and pulled out of the driveway. She was terrified that Bob was watching. Hurtling through far western Iowa on I-29, she kept checking her rearview mirror. She didn't shake that nervousness until she'd been on the road for more than 12 hours. Her car had 97,000 miles on it, and she hoped it would make it through the mountains without breaking down.
"I was so scared the first day, but I was determined that if he was following me, I'd lose him. I was on a mission. I was really stretching every gallon of gas, and I was going, like, 90 miles an hour," Tisha remembers. "I made it all the way to South Dakota, and I was so relieved. I called my mom from the hotel room that night and I was like, 'Mom, I'm okay!'"
The next day Tisha made it to Washington. For a few weeks she stayed with her brother, Dale Jackson, and his wife, who lived in an apartment in Tacoma near Fort Lewis Army Base. Dale was an artillery specialist, and he had encouraged Tisha to move out west where he could keep an eye on her. While Tisha stayed with them, she filled her days by scanning employment listings, interviewing for jobs, and hunting for apartments. Tisha wrote letters to her mom, telling Pat about her job prospects and the sweet, good-looking guy she had begun dating. It never occurred to her not to put her return address on the envelopes.
Only her mother, her grandparents, and her father, Gary Jackson, knew where she really was. She had told all of her friends and other relatives that she was moving to South Carolina, where a close friend of hers lived. She hoped the rumor would reach Bob, to throw him off her track.
In Washington, things finally started to gel for Tisha. She found an apartment and a job, and she was seeing her new boyfriend almost every night. "It was just great," Tisha recalls.
After a few weeks in her new place, Tisha got her phone installed. One afternoon about a week later, when she was alone in the apartment, her phone rang. She picked up the receiver.
"Tisha." It was Bob's voice. "I'm down the street."
Tisha panicked. How had he found her? Her heart pounded and she began to shake.
"I'm here. I'm right down the street," Bob sneered. "I'm at a pay phone at a convenience store down the street and I know where you live and I know who you're hanging out with. I'm gonna kill him and I'm gonna kill you!"
Tisha had disliked Bob from the moment she'd met him. In the fall of 1987 she was a senior in high school and had been raped over the summer by a stranger, a man police called the Westport rapist, who had never been caught. That fall she dropped out of Fort Osage High School. She was depressed, and all she wanted to do was sit around at home.
Eventually Tisha's best friend, Tina Faulkner, decided Tisha needed to get out of the house. She called one weekend and invited Tisha to a party. Tina was good friends with Bob's younger brother; several of the brothers were throwing the party, complete with lots of beer and about 30 kids. Bob immediately took a liking to her. He was a tall, lanky 22-year-old with closely buzzed hair, a member of the Marine Reserve Corps.
"I hated him. I thought he was arrogant," Tisha says.
In December, Bob started calling Tisha and stopping by her house, asking her to go out with him. She wanted nothing to do with men, much less Bob, and refused several times. When he threatened to camp out on her doorstep until she agreed to go out with him, she grudgingly said yes.
Their first date was at a strip-mall Chinese restaurant in Independence. Bob was polite and cordial, and Tisha discovered that she liked him -- and she even found him attractive. Feeling insecure and going through a painful time in the aftermath of the rape, Tisha quickly became hooked. This, she thought, was love. Bob was her first real boyfriend.
On their third date, Bob told Tisha she was perfect except for one thing: her weight. Bob said she was heavier than he liked. So Tisha agreed to go on a diet. In the following weeks, Bob's mother, whom Tisha barely knew, announced that she had made an appointment for Tisha to see a diet doctor.
"That was what shocked me," Tisha remembers. "She was really domineering. She didn't ask me if I wanted to go. It was like, 'You have an appointment and you're going.'"
Tisha saw the doctor, who put her on an appetite suppressant. Bob meticulously monitored her eating habits, and before long Tisha was eating nothing more than a salad and an apple each day. She lost 30 pounds in one month and soon was a frail size 3. She still wasn't thin enough for Bob. Now she recognizes that his nitpicking on her weight was one way of keeping tight control over her.
"I look back now and I think, 'God, I was sick.' I have all these pictures of me and I was like a little skeleton," Tisha says. "I was a skinny little stick that did anything he wanted. I was the perfect victim because I was naive, stupid, and controllable."
After a year and a half of dating Bob, Tisha moved into the house where he lived in Independence. Bob had his own business, working as a carpenter with electrical skills he had picked up in the military.
During the years they lived together, Bob's verbal abuse of Tisha escalated. Bob was cunning and hit her only in places covered by her clothing.
Tisha remembers clearly the day she learned how violent Bob could be.
Not long after she'd moved in with Bob, a kitten started hanging around outside the house. He was coal black with emerald green eyes, and Tisha made a habit of leaving food out for him on the front porch. Tisha could never resist a forlorn four-legged creature, but Bob didn't feel the same way. To him, that kitten was a pest.
"Bob got really pissed and said, 'If you don't get that cat out of here, I'm gonna kill it,'" Tisha recalls.
She decided she would take the cat to the Humane Society, but the cat disappeared before she could do so. Tisha assumed someone had taken it in, because she noticed that by that afternoon, its food was untouched.
"When I came home that night, Bob and his friend John were in the garage, and I went back there and there was blood coming out from under the door to the garage. I was like, 'What the hell?' and I opened it up and there was blood up by the vice grips and on the table. I was like 'Oh, my God, who got hurt?'" Tisha says, her voice trembling.
"Bob and John were just sitting there talking and drinking a beer. They're like, 'Oh, no, we're fine,' and I was like, 'Where's the blood from?' I don't remember what they told me -- they made up some shit story. And I was like, 'Oh, okay,' and I went back in the house and started cleaning up, took the garbage out. And when I took the garbage out and opened the garbage pail, I saw a tail. I moved some bags out of the way, and I saw the kitten. His head was crushed."
Tisha ran outside, bawling and screaming and throwing anything she could get her hands on. She left that night and swore she wasn't going to go back to Bob. She has no idea why, a few days later, he was able to convince her to come back -- on the condition that he bury the kitten.
She left more than a few times but always came back to Bob when he begged. "I don't know why I went back. I was young, stupid. I guess he made me feel that I would never make it on my own and nobody else would love me. I was totally brainwashed."It would be several more years before Tisha finally decided she had had enough. The final betrayal came after she and Bob had gotten engaged, when friends and relatives started telling her they had seen him around town with other women. Suspicious, she rifled through his wallet and found a list of women's names and phone numbers. She copied them down and called a few. They said they had met Bob through a personal ad in The Kansas City Star. When she confronted Bob about it, he told her his mother had placed the ad in a last-ditch effort to get him to reconsider marrying her.
Tisha didn't believe him. She thought he had placed the ad and was blaming his mother in hopes of hanging on to the relationship. Tisha decided to leave for good but wanted to do it without a confrontation, so she waited until Bob had weekend duty with the Marines. One Saturday morning in February 1993 she lay in bed, waiting until he slipped out the door. Then she jumped up and called her father and brother.
"I said, 'Get your butts over here now! We're moving me out,'" Tisha remembers. "We packed up my stuff, grabbed the cat, and we were out of there in 30 minutes."
Three days later Bob tried to kill her.
She was staying with her father and stepmother in Independence. Late on Tuesday afternoon, she came home and sat down on the couch to watch TV. She may have dozed off. Suddenly she heard the sound of wood splintering and glass breaking. Someone had broken down the back door. She ran toward the kitchen and ran into Bob.
"You bitch!" he roared. "How dare you leave me? You can't leave me! You fucking whore! I'm going to kill you!"
Bob attacked her. "He was shaking me and I tried to get away from him and he threw me down to the ground and he jumped on top of me," Tisha remembers. "He had his legs so that I couldn't move my arms and he was strangling me, and I was just like, 'Oh, my God, I'm dead. I can't even tell anyone goodbye.'"
The feeling was like slipping under anesthesia, slowly drifting out of consciousness.
"I knew I was dying. I knew I was gonna die. He intended to kill me." Then Tisha heard her dad's voice say, "Get your hands off my daughter." The pressure of Bob's fingers lifted off her throat, and she started gasping for air.
"I got home and his truck was parked around back, but I didn't think too much of it," Gary Jackson says. "Then I hear Tisha hollering, so I go running into the house and he had her by the throat over by the icebox. He had already slammed her up against the wall in the hallway, broken a mirror. She was screaming, 'Dad, get him off me!'"
Gary ordered Bob to let go of Tisha and chased Bob out to the back porch, where Bob grabbed a two-by-four and began wielding it like a sword. When Gary ran back into the bedroom for his pistol, Bob got in his pickup and drove off.A few weeks later, Bob once again tried to say he was sorry. "He was leaving me flowers and cards that said, 'I love you. Come back to me.'" Tisha did not respond, and she figured Bob would eventually give up. Instead, his harassment turned ugly.
"By April or May, it had turned into 'I hate you, bitch.... Die.... Boom! You're dead.... I'm going to kill you.' He was leaving messages on my answering machine, leaving me notes on my windshield at work; he was leaving me voice mails at work, with family, with friends ... just that controlling crap."
Tisha went to the Independence police with the notes. At the time, however, Missouri had no stalking law on the books. Police told her they could talk to Bob, but because Tisha and Bob weren't living together or married -- situations that are covered by domestic-abuse laws -- there wasn't much else they could do. The police didn't even file a report.
Tisha was terrified that Bob would make good on his threats. She notified her bosses at Park Lane, and they let her pull into the secured parking area at work and honk each day. A security escort would help her into the building; the guards would also strategically plan her smoke breaks, escorting her outside and choosing a different location each time. She confided her situation to her brother Dale, who suggested she fly out to Washington for a vacation to get her mind off the stalking.
In Washington, for the first time in months, Tisha felt safe. On her second or third day there, her brother had a party. "We all sat around playing card games and drinking and talking and no one knew what was going on. Here I was with all these Rangers, and I felt really safe. It was awesome," she remembers.
That night, Tisha hit it off with her brother's friend, Chris Kozma. Despite his smattering of tattoos, she was immediately attracted to the handsome, sturdy Desert Storm veteran. He was warm, easygoing. The two saw each other almost daily for the remainder of Tisha's visit, and after a few days she told him she was running away from a stalker.
"He was wondering, 'How come you're always looking over your shoulder? How come you're always freaked out when the phone rings?' So I told him. He wanted to kick Bob's butt."
Tisha dreaded her return to Kansas City.
"When I got on the plane, thinking where I was headed back to, I was just bawling. I bawled the whole three-and-a-half-hour flight from Seattle to Kansas City because I knew once I got off the plane, my life was changing again. I was so at ease out there and I had so much freedom, and I just felt like I was coming back to hell."
Tisha talked on the phone with Chris nearly every night. Concerned for her safety, he convinced her to move out to Washington. He told her he wouldn't push her -- she could see him as little or as much as she liked. At the end of June, Tisha and her mom packed up her car for her cross-country trip.Tisha was frantic. Bob had found her in Washington and was telling her he was calling from a convenience store down the street. Of course, there was a convenience store down the street.
"She called and she was hysterical," Pat Stanger remembers. "She said, 'Mom, you have to go to Bob's house and see if he's still there!' So I went over there immediately, and I saw that his vehicle was still there. I wasn't sure if he was, but I thought so."
In August, Tisha sent her father and one of her brothers to watch Bob's house and make sure he was still in town. The two men tailed him for a few weeks, until they were satisfied he wasn't going anywhere. They called Tisha to let her know she was safe for the moment.
Tisha had moved into a rundown apartment, which was all she could afford on her salary as a waitress at the Non-Commissioned Officers' Club at Fort Lewis. Her apartment building faced the fence that surrounded McCord Air Force Base, and the scads of military personnel who were her neighbors made Tisha feel safe, even when Chris was away doing maneuvers for the Army. Tacoma was beautiful, and the frequent rain watered lush flowers and abundant trees. Tisha enjoyed shopping at thrift stores to decorate her apartment. For the first time she was on her own. Recovering from Bob's abuse about her weight, Tisha would run to the store and charge up her credit card buying chocolate, potato chips -- all the "forbidden" food. Her happiness was marred only by the frequent threatening phone calls from Bob -- even though the phone company changed her number twice and kept it unlisted. She would jump every time the phone rang.
After a few months, Tisha found a new job as a secretary in the mortgage division at the First Community Bank of Washington. Just before Christmas, she and Chris found a nicer apartment and moved in together. Through their living room window, if the time of day and the clouds were just right, they could see Mount Rainier more than 100 miles in the distance. Chris helped her recover from the psychological damage of her previous relationship. She remembers a day when the two were arguing, and she ran into the closet and started crying. He went after her, and she was afraid that he would get violent, as Bob had. Instead, he grabbed her and hugged her and cried.
Tisha came to feel that Chris was the one for her. A "city boy" from Long Island, he spoke with an accent that Tisha loved. In the Army, he specialized in field artillery -- or "shooting big cannons," as Tisha liked to say. He was her brother's best friend. On weekends, Tisha and Chris would drive to Mount Rainier to go skiing or tubing. They finally had some peace too: After they put the phone in Chris' name, Bob's calls stopped.
But in the spring of 1994, Tisha started missing Kansas City and her family. Since she hadn't heard from Bob in months, she and Chris started talking about moving east. Finally, Chris was able to take an "early out" from the Army, so they packed up everything in a U-Haul and enjoyed the trip back, stopping to relish the parks and scenery.
The couple stayed with Tisha's mother in Independence. In June, a week after they returned, Bob left a message on Stanger's answering machine: "Tisha -- I know you moved back here and I know you brought a man with you. I'm going to kill you and I'm going to kill him!" Frightened and exasperated, Tisha's mother called Bob's home and told him to stop harassing Tisha. She then called Bob's mother, told her about the phone calls, and told her to "get control of her son and put a stop to this."
The calls stopped. Bob stayed out of Tisha's life for more than three years. During those years when Bob did not bother her, Tisha and Chris ended their relationship. Tisha got a job working for Sprint and moved with her mother to Holden in August 1997. She had her GED, and her goal was to get a college degree. She started taking classes at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg and doing volunteer work at Wayside Waifs, a Kansas City no-kill animal shelter.
And she did something she regrets. Thinking the stalking was finally over, she threw away the stacks of notes and gifts she had saved from Bob as evidence of the harassment. In September 1998, Tisha got a phone call from her aunt, Kaye Stanger. Bob had called her, wanting to know where Tisha had moved. Tisha's aunt refused to give out Tisha's phone number or address but offered to pass along the message. Alarmed, Tisha wrote a short letter to Bob, telling him to leave her and her family alone. She mailed it with no return address to Bob's last known address. She does not know whether he received it. Six months later, on March 25, 1999, at about 8 p.m., Bob showed up at the home of Tisha's cousin, Rhonda Hotter. It was an 80 degree evening, but, Tisha says, "He showed up at my cousin's door and he had a heavy winter coat on, black leather gloves on -- like it's 12 below nothing out."
Bob started off the conversation by asking about a roof he had installed for Rhonda years earlier, while he and Tisha had been dating. He wondered whether there were any problems with the roof. Then he started telling her Tisha had been coming to him in his dreams, that she must have put a spell on him.
Although Rhonda declined to speak with PitchWeekly for this story, she did provide Tisha with a written account of that evening. "Bob continued his stories of how he believed ... Tisha was part of the devil ... she was hunting him down."
"It was really weird, off the wall stuff," Tisha says, now looking at her accordion folder filled with court documents, information on Bob, letters to family and friends. She has learned to keep meticulous records.
Tisha decided she needed a gun to protect herself, so she bought a Smith & Wesson .38 special with hollow-point bullets, designed to rip a large exit wound in the flesh. "If I was going to get a gun, I didn't want a little .22 that was just gonna piss him off. I wanted something that would do the job," Tisha explains. She bought an identical gun for her mother, who had grown up in the country and knew how to shoot.
In April, Bob called Tisha's father's house and left a message for Tisha to call him. Tisha's brother Dale, who was now living with his father, intercepted the message. Dale told Tisha she must be doing something to encourage Bob, and he told her she should call him and demand that he leave her alone. Tisha agreed on the condition that Dale listen in on the call. At the last minute, Tisha hit the record button on her answering machine and was able to get 15 minutes of the call. Sounding agitated and defensive, Bob tells Tisha on the tape that she has been trying to contact him by appearing to him in his dreams. "You shouldn't forget your past," he says. "It's what makes you who you are." Tisha tells Bob to leave her alone, to stop contacting her family and stop trying to locate her. Bob insists that on a subconscious level, Tisha has been seeking him out.
"You've got to understand, you know, just because you're at the top of the, you know, corporation that you call your body doesn't mean it's yours. Maybe Tisha is washed down in there somewhere." Bob continues to insist she is coming to him in his dreams and says, "I didn't ask for these dreams." Tisha again tells him to leave her alone and stop contacting her family.
"I have no intentions of pursuing this any further. All I wanted to do was contact you and find out if you were okay," he says. "From talking to you, you don't sound okay; you sound stressed out."
Despite his promise not to "pursue this" anymore, Tisha knew she was still in danger.
In June of 1999, Tisha found in her mailbox a large, ceramic unicorn with "Tisha" written on the bottom in black marker. The next month she received a smaller unicorn that said, "Tisha figure I (sic) out yet."
In August, she and her mother were getting three to five calls a day in which the caller would breathe into the phone, then hang up. In September, it was down to one to three such calls. Tisha called Bob from a pay phone and again told him to leave her alone. In November, he called her house screaming that he did not know her phone number or where she lived and that he wanted to talk in person. In February, Bob showed up at the home of Tina Faulkner, the mutual friend who had invited Tisha to the party where she'd met Bob. Tina hadn't seen Tisha in five years.
Tina wasn't alarmed -- she knew nothing about the stalking, so she invited Bob in. But she grew frightened when he asked to peek in on her sleeping baby, then casually commented that babies are evil and demonic. Then he began to ramble about Tisha. He admitted putting the unicorns in her mailbox and said he knew she lived in Holden and that he had her phone number; he also knew she was working at Timberland Steakhouse. He said he had been watching Tisha and that she'd gained her weight back. And worse, he insinuated that he planned to harm Tisha.
"I don't get mad, I get even -- even if it means having to do away with somebody," Bob told Tina.
Bob also showed her a diary he kept with musings about witches and gargoyles and drawings of dragons. The book had Tisha's name in it. He told Tina he had sent away for a card to become an ordained minister, to keep evil spirits out of his house. Certain that Bob was mentally unstable, Tina knew she had to find Tisha's new phone number and tell her about the visit.
"I didn't think he knew where I lived, so I had been kind of dismissing the weird happenings, the hang-ups, the unicorns," Tisha says. "When I heard he knew where I worked, I just flipped out."
Tisha quit her job at the steakhouse. On February 26, Tisha's friend Keith Kozma (the brother of her ex-boyfriend Chris) called Bob's house and left him a message ordering him to leave them all alone. On February 27, Tisha, who was visiting Keith and his girlfriend, Candice, answered their phone. It was Bob. He immediately recognized her voice.
"Tisha." She slammed down the phone. He called back. Candice then took Tisha home. While the two were gone, the Liberty police, who had been contacted by the Independence police, showed up at Keith's house. They told Keith to get down on the floor, and they searched his apartment. Finding nothing, they explained that someone named Bob had called to report that Tisha Jackson was being held against her will, and possibly had been murdered, at that address. Keith told the police about Bob's stalking behavior, and they warned him to tell Tisha to get a restraining order immediately.
Tisha had already been to the Jackson County Courthouse in Independence. She says she was "laughed at" by an incredulous clerk, who couldn't fathom why an ex-boyfriend would harass her for six years. Then, Judge Twila K. Rigby denied Tisha's request for an order of protection, and a clerk refused to let Tisha speak with the judge. Tisha decided to try her luck at the Johnson County (Missouri) Courthouse, where she was unable to get the correct papers to file for an order of protection, and a clerk told her she would need an attorney (a recent phone call to the Johnson County Courthouse, however, brought assurances that they do have the forms and it is not necessary to have an attorney to file them).
Tisha eventually was able to get the forms in Jackson County. On March 14 she went to court, but county sheriff's deputy had been unable to serve Bob his papers. A deputy pulled Tisha aside and suggested she use a private process server, since sheriffs make only two attempts to serve and Tisha did not have Bob's current address. Tisha called Ted Knox, a private investigator in Blue Springs, and he was able to locate and serve Bob, who swore and yelled, then called the Independence police, claiming the private investigator had trespassed on his property. The court later sent papers to Bob's address, and the papers plainly showed Tisha's address despite the fact that she had told the court that this was a stalking situation. She was angry, but she had a court date set for March 30.
During the latter part of March, the heavy-breathing calls increased, so Tisha called Sprint and signed up for a call-tracing service -- which required her to visit the Johnson County Sheriff's Department to fill out paperwork detailing the harassment. After she was approved for the service, she kept trying to trace the ominous phone calls but repeatedly got a message saying the calls could not be traced.
On March 30, Tisha appeared in family court before Judge Mary Ellen Young. There to help were a court advocate, Julie Taber, from Survival Adult Abuse Center in Warrensburg, and Jay Kruse, an attorney from Legal Aid.
Tisha says her friends and family were terrified to appear in court and should have been subpoenaed, but Kruse did not do so. He called Tina Faulkner, the only witness to Bob's most recent threat against Tisha's life, at 7:30 the morning of the court date, and she said she could not appear. (Kruse would not comment for this story.)
Judge Young, Tisha says, curtly told them they had five minutes to present their case and that she would not admit any evidence of stalking that occurred prior to January. She dismissed notarized letters from friends and family as "hearsay."
She did admit a letter from Bob, denying the stalking.
In a barely legible scrawl, Bob wrote: "I have spoken with the plaintiff's mother and she informed me that Tisha Jackson would like for me to let her have the (full order of protection) just to make her feel better.... Tisha initiated this as a result of me talking to a mutual friend, not as a result of harassment. I decline from being in the same room as Tisha because her nature has been hostil (sic) and beligernt (sic) in the past. I pray the court not find me liable for the security blanket she is requesting."
Because the judge refused to hear evidence from the stalking pattern that had been established over seven years and refused to admit notarized statements from friends and family, Tisha was unable to prove that Bob was stalking her. The judge denied the restraining order.
"We could have gone in front of 10 judges and they probably all would have done the same thing," says Taber. "You have to meet the criteria of the law. This wasn't Judge Young ruling against Tisha. This was the Court of Johnson County ruling according to the law."
But if Tisha's experience is any indicator, the outcome of similar cases in Johnson County, Missouri, may in fact depend on her honor's mood. As the county's family court judge, Mary Ellen Young handles all matters regarding full orders of protection from stalkers or batterers.
The day Tisha went to court, Tisha says, the judge repeatedly cut Kruse off in midsentence and rolled her eyes as if she were bored. Tisha later found out that Judge Young had been reprimanded by the Supreme Court of Missouri in November 1999 for "insensitive" and "unprofessional" treatment of other victims.
According to the report that led to the written reprimand, Judge Young once cut off an attorney -- who was six months pregnant -- in midargument and refused to hear anything more, saying, "I don't want any baby born in my chambers." When the attorney attempted to finish the argument, the judge held up her hand and snapped, "Talk to the hand." The report shows that she called another attorney by his first name, Jeff, in court and told him, "You need a keeper."
Judge Young also stopped proceedings and left the bench abruptly several times (once when a witness answered "Yeah" instead of "Yes" and shook his head instead of saying "No"), resulting in wasted time and additional court and attorneys' fees for those involved. In one case, a father who was trying to gain custody of his children insisted on a trial, against Young's admonition that there was no change in circumstances to warrant transferring custody from the ex-wife. During the trial, the judge treated the father "inappropriately," and then, when the father won custody, she ordered him to pay child support to his ex-wife, now the noncustodial parent. When the judge finally amended the child-support order six months later, she failed to require the ex-wife to repay the money.
Judge Young refused to comment for this story, but in a written response to the reprimand, she admitted that she had failed to be patient, dignified, and courteous at times, and she promised to correct her behavior and strive to "be more sensitive."
That didn't help Tisha, who says the judge neglected to give serious consideration to Tisha's fear for her safety and life. Left with few options, Tisha began an e-mail campaign to state officials. One legislator, Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Harrisonville, responded to Tisha's e-mail, saying that she had contacted a state attorney, who researched the matter and concluded that no law exists in Missouri to limit a judge to hearing only three months' worth of evidence from a victim seeking an order of protection. "Admission of evidence is generally within a judge's discretion," Hartzler wrote.
Representative Matt Bartle, a Republican from Lee's Summit, says he was impressed with Tisha's research on stalking laws and dismayed at her frightening situation.
"I've never had an experience with a stalker, but I have a daughter," Bartle says. "I know there are some scary people who are out there terrorizing people. I've heard lots of stories."
Bartle challenged Tisha to look at other states' stalking laws and draft a sample bill to show him what she, as a victim, would like to see in a new law.
At Bartle's request, Tisha obtained copies of all 50 states' stalking laws from the National Center for Victims of Crime. She and her mother sat in their living room and pored over all the laws, culling the best provisions from the strictest and most comprehensive laws. Ten years ago, Missouri did not even have a stalking law; California was the first state to pass one, in 1990. But when more states began adopting such laws, the issue raised questions regarding enforceability and constitutionality. In 1992 the United States Congress called for the U.S. Attorney General's office to conduct research and provide states with a model law, which all 50 states had adopted by 1993. And over the next decade, several high-profile stalking-related murders (such as those of My Sister Sam star Rebecca Schaeffer, by a deranged drifter who had become obsessed with her, and Kristin Lardner, the daughter of a Washington Post reporter who later won a Pulitzer Prize for investigating how the system had failed his daughter) spurred state legislators to draft stricter, more specific stalking laws. Missouri's law, however, remained short, simple, and vague.
Missouri's law, barely one page long, says any person who "purposely and repeatedly harasses or follows with the intent of harassing commits the crime of stalking."
The essence of the law is in the "ands" and "ors," says Corporal Karen Martin of the Johnson County Sheriff's Department. Martin spoke with Tisha at the Survival Adult Abuse Center this past spring. She sees firsthand how the law's language makes stalking difficult to prosecute.
"Stalking will have different elements, and every element has to be shown," she explains. For example, the harassment has to be done "purposely and repeatedly. If it's done one time, that's not stalking. Then there has to be intent. That's always a big question when prosecuting stalkers -- was there really that intent, or was the person just being a pain in the butt? Intent is in the head, so it's hard to prove."
The Missouri law defines "harass" as : "to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that serves no legitimate purpose, that would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and that actually causes substantial emotional distress to that person."
"Say, someone is parked across the street from a woman's house," Martin says. "Maybe the guy says, 'Well, I park and sit over there to watch my property because I've been having problems with poachers.' Or the guy lives nearby and drives by her house every day on his way to work. Or maybe he goes to Wal-Mart and even says hi. He's allowed to go to Wal-Mart. It's a public place. But then he starts following her all over the store, antagonizing her, disturbing her peace, creating a scene. That's different."
Martin calls the law "very broad" and says stalking is such a "relatively new" concept that law enforcement agencies still encounter gray areas. For example, because Bob stalked Tisha repeatedly, then disappeared for several years and then reappeared, do his acts from seven years ago qualify as a pattern of conduct? Or does he get a clean slate after a certain period of time? "I don't know," Martin admits. "That might be an arena that (legislators) could address." Another murky area in Tisha's case stems from the fact that Bob's most recent acts have involved contacting her family and friends and "sending" threats and messages to Tisha through them, rather than directly to Tisha.
The sample bill Tisha drafted for Bartle adds to the definition of harassment "following or appearing in the sight of, or approaching or confronting, the person's family, friends, or co-workers." It also specifies that such contact could be in person or through e-mail or any electronic communication. To harass, in Tisha's proposal, could mean to "annoy, alarm, taunt, insult, challenge, terrorize, frighten, intimidate, or molest."
Tisha's proposal nails down specifics in almost every area that the current Missouri law addresses. Regarding emotional distress, for example, she clarifies that "emotional distress" means mental suffering that may, but does not necessarily, require medical or other professional treatment or counseling. With that specified, a stalker could not argue that a victim had not suffered emotional distress because of failure to seek counseling.
She also suggests that the law include, under the definition of harassment, delivering or sending an object to the victim, such as "gifts" -- like the unicorns Bob left in her mailbox -- intended to frighten or harass.
Punishments for stalkers would also be more harsh, according to Tisha's proposal. The first act of stalking would be a Class A misdemeanor, as it is now, punishable by imprisonment of not more than one year and/or a fine of not more than $1,000. But she provides a long list of conditions that would turn a first act into a Class D felony, punishable by five years and a $5,000 fine. Those conditions: use of a firearm or weapon to commit stalking; injuring or sexually assaulting the victim; damage to the victim's property or pets or the property or pets of the victim's friends, family, or associates; "obscene" communications of a sexual nature; and kidnapping.
Tisha suggests that a second act of stalking be a Class D Felony, a third act a Class C Felony; by the time a stalker committed a fifth and sixth offense, it would be a Class A Felony, punishable by not less than 25 years in prison and/or a fine of $50,000. Missouri's current law stops at a Class C felony.
New and improved laws, Tisha says, are her only hope, and the only hope for all the other women in Missouri who are being stalked. Private detective Knox says he gets called on about eight stalking cases each year; Julie Taber says she talks to two or three women a year who are being stalked.
In her proposed bill, Tisha makes a provision for a stalker who may be mentally ill. In fact, she says, a mental hospital may be the best place for her stalker, whose mother says he was diagnosed with schizophrenia a year and a half ago. Bob's family subsequently had him committed to a mental hospital.
"He's ill and he needs help. He doesn't even know he's ill," says Bob's mother. "The problem here is nobody does any goddamn follow-through. In some states, if somebody is released, a social worker goes to their house weekly to check on them. If there's any doubt that they're taking their medication, then they're put back in the hospital."
She says the family had Bob committed after instances of bizarre behavior, much like the behavior he displayed on visits to Tina Faulkner's and Rhonda Hotter's homes. The hospital could hold him for only a few days before a judge came to the hospital to hear testimony, and then the court committed him. After a few months, they had to release him because he had improved with the help of medication.
"Unless you're bouncing off the walls after three or four months, they can't keep you," Bob's mother says. She attributes Bob's behavior toward Tisha to his being "lonely" and says that most schizophrenics are highly intelligent and aren't dangerous.
Bob angrily denies stalking Tisha.
"I haven't seen her in seven years. I don't know what her damage is! I have no idea what's motivating her. She's whacked," he says.
Bob admits to having "one fucking dream" about Tisha (in which she asked for his help) and to trying to contact her out of concern. He first denies going to Rhonda's or Tina's homes, then tells PitchWeekly he "ran into" Tina but then admits going to her house, saying that she invited him. He denies having any intention of "getting Tisha back" or harming her. During the time his family says he was in a mental hospital, he claims to have been on vacation in Australia. Tisha wishes that the families of people like Bob had more authority in getting them committed to hospitals for longer periods of time. She asks that the new law allow courts to order mental health evaluations for stalkers and that if the court believes a stalker is a danger to himself or others, it initiate proceedings to commit the stalker to a mental hospital.
Bartle says he is considering filing a bill that would incorporate Tisha's suggestions into Missouri's stalking law.
Until those kinds of changes are made, however, Tisha has little relief. The bright "No trespassing" signs she has nailed up all over the family's property -- "on every other tree" -- don't do much to make her feel safe. She says she'd like to date again and to marry and have children, but with Bob lurking, that doesn't even seem possible.
"He has a plan -- I have no doubt," she says. "Sure, he'll disappear sometimes ... for weeks or months or even years. And I always hold the hope close to my heart that maybe this time it's over. But I know it's not. He'll be back."