Sunday, January 30, 2011

Surviving a Stalker Part II: Seeking Justice

The whispery voice was back in my life, and he was making it hell.

The calls went from just coming on weekends, to nearly every night around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. Both my young daughter and I were beginning to lose sleep, only finding relief by occasionally staying over at the homes of friends and family. At the time, caller id, (or many other commonly used harrassment detourants, like "star 69" or call blocking) was not available in my area. A life long diary keeper, I bought a notebook specifically for journalling the incidents. I logged the date, time (or times), duration, and content of each and every call.

The whispery voice would share sexual fantasies, tell me what he wanted to do to me, telling me that he liked my "long, sexy legs," and my strawberry blonde hair. At times, he would start begging me not to hang up. I could hear a t.v. or radio in the back ground and before long, there were other sounds as well. The thought of what he was doing while he was talking to me, turned my stomach. In an attempt to turn off, whatever I had turned on, I began reading passages from the Bible, to no avail.

Simply hanging up and leaving the phone off the hook did not work. Most times, the call would not disconnect, and he'd still be there. I tried leaving it off the hook under a pillow, but he would just call my name, over and over again. If the call did disconnect, he would just call right back before I could get it off the hook. It was like being in a movie about a hostage situation, where the police have a one way line, and whenever anyone inside picks up the phone, they find themselves on the phone with the cops. Only my line was linked to the devil.

I had been promoted to supervisor and the CSR team or the answering service would need to be able to reach me, so leaving my phone disconnected was no longer an option. And I know what you are thinking..."Why didn't you just change your phone number?" I had considered the fact that I had four phone numbers since the harrasment began roughly ten years earlier and the behaviour had continued. This person was obviously resourceful and I realized it would only buy me a few months peace before it started again. I had tried to solicit the help of our two-cans-and a-string telephone company, but they dragged their feet about helping me bring an end to the situation. The fact of the matter was, that harrassing communications is a CRIME and I refused to allow this CRIMINAL to further inconvienence MY LIFE by changing my phone number again.

NO! It was time to face this demon head on, not take "no" for an answer from the authorities sworn to protect me, and get my life back.

My husband, then new boyfriend, was protective and supportive, every bit my knight in shining armor. He recorded a new message for my answering machine, so it would be a male voice. He would stay late, often resorting to sleeping on our couch, all to answer the phone when the calls would begin. This temporarily discouraged the whispery voice. When the calls began again, they coincided with nights my boyfriend was not at the house.

But the call that was the straw breaking the camel's back, came mere moments after my boyfriend left for home. In a rush for work that morning, I had swept my hair back into a ponytail. Rather than making myself late styling my hair in its usual coiffure, I had taken this shortcut for the first time in a month. The whispery voice informed me that he "did not like" when I wore my hair "that way." I knew instantly that I was being watched.

I threw clothes for my daughter and me into a bag, scooped up my sleeping daughter, and dashed off to my boyfriend's home. I hysterically explained what had happened. We decided that I must contact the authorities and implore the county sherrif to help me.

I took a vacation day and went to the sherrif's department the very next day. I showed my journal, and explained that I was certain that I was being watched. It was very hard to remain composed while I spoke with the deputy, but as I described the telephone company's reluctance to act, I broke down. The compassionate deputy brought me a soda and assured me that he could help me.

I gave him the name and number of the representative I had spoken with at the telephone company. In a twenty minute telephone conversation, he arranged for a phone trap to be put on my number that would be effective at 5pm that afternoon. Relieved that I was finally getting help, I went to work to finish out my day. It took two nights before I got the call I was waiting for.

I contacted the sherrif's department from work and was told that I would have to come in and sign the warrant, so I asked to leave early. In the meantime the sheriff's department contacted the telephone company with the date, time and duration of the call from the infomation I provided and had pinpointed the source. There was just one problem: it was a cell phone, and there, the trail went cold again. I suddenly felt faint and I immediatly collapsed in a sobbing heap on the conference room table.

In the beginning, cell phones were not as popular as they are now. Very few people had them, so one would think they'd be easy to trace. But early on, when a call was made from a cell phone to a land line, the trail ended at the cell phone company. They had access to the records beyond that, thus leading early owners to believe their calls were untraceable. This was somewhat, but not entirely true. Though we had the number, their first loyalty was to their clients, and they were reluctant to share who he was. It could be obtained, but it took a little leg work. There were only three cell phone carriers at that time. Lucky for me, I knew someone who worked for two of them. I gave their business cards to the deputy and he called. Both friends proved very knowledgable about the new technology and knew enough to know that the number was not the prefix assigned to either of their companies. It belonged to the third. Both suggested that the deputy contact the security department of that carrier and explain the situation and he would be given the information we needed. We were nearing 5:00 p.m. so the answer would have to wait until the next day. I would have to come back to sign the warrant after the deputy got the name, because I couldn't sign a blank warrant.

I hardly slept, but when the whispering voice called that night, I just laughed at him, cackling uncontrollably until he hung up. He did not call back.

I had long suspected a former co-worker from my high school job, a boy named Joe Jones,* from the neighboring town. He had the same low, whispery voice. Not only would have have known my schedule then, he would have had the means and opportunity to leave the gifts, as well as access to the rolodex where the store manager kept everyone's telephone number. The icing on the cake was that he was a friend of my ex-husband, and would have had our home number, even after we both resigned from the store.

Around lunch the next day, the deputy called me to ask me if I knew Dan Smith* I did actually know several Smith's, our town was full of Smith's but that name was not familiar to me. I hung up the phone and called my boyfriend. When I told him the name, he instantly knew who I was talking about, as did my little brother. Both had made it their mission to see that I was protected, and both had offered to go and "have a word" with this person. I assured them both that the sherrif's department could handle it. I left early to sign the warrant and wait for Dan Smith to be picked up by the sherrif.

Dan Smith was arrested at his parent's home on a Friday. If the deputies had waited a mere 15 minutes later, would have spent that entire weekend as a guest of the county. But his parents immediately went to bond him out, and caught the magistrate 15 minutes before close of business. I don't know if he tried to call me that weekend. I chose not to be home.

Pardon this rabbit trail, but you must know a little bit history to understand this next information. My small hometown of Leeds sits on the South side of I-20, while our closest neighboring school of Moody is just a short bridge hop North. For many years I-20 served as the boundary, an unofficial school zone divider. Students on the South side of I=20 went to Leeds, students on the North side went to Moody. If you look at Leeds on a map, you will see that it's city limits actually cover three counties, Jefferson, Shelby, and St. Clair counties. The school is in Jefferson, but the St. Clair County line runs a mere two blocks behind the school property and well over a mile from the unwritten boundary. Sometime during my time in high school, St. Clair County had begun to rally the state board of education to force students living within the Leeds city limits but over the St. Clair County line to begin attending Moody. Many held out as long as they could, several paid tuition to stay, and some finally relented and crossed the bridge every day to go to Moody. Dan Smith was among those students.

I was determined to find out who this person was. I wanted to see what he looked like so I could watch out for him. Right now, I had no idea who he was. He could walk up to me and shoot me and I'd never see it coming. I had learned from my boyfriend and my brother that Dan had left to complete his Junior and Senior years at Moody. Having spent his Freshman and Sophomore years at Leeds meant he would be in my Junior and Senior yearbooks. Unfortunately, his photo was "not available" in either. My only other recourse was to see if any of my friends who had "jumped the bridge" might have a photo in theirs. One such friend, coincidentally in the same class with Dan, lived across the street from my grandparents. I knew she would have the yearbooks I needed.

Because I didn't know who might be related to him, I did not tell her who I was looking for when I asked to see her yearbooks. I was extremely disappointed when he was not pictured in either of those yearbooks either. Not even a graduation photo. Apparently part of being a lurker is avoiding being photographed.

"Did you find what you were looking for?" she asked. I fought back tears as I handed her the two books. "No, he's not in here." She sat down next to me on the couch. "What's going on?" her face concerned. I said, "Oh, there's this guy who's been calling me. It's been going on for months. They told me his name, but I don't know him. I'm told he got transferred to Moody during all that county line crap. I just want to see who he is." She sat straight up and said "Is his name Dan Smith?!" Right in that moment, you could have knocked me over with a feather. "You don't even have to answer. I can tell by your face that it is. There is someone I want you to meet."

Next Surviving a Stalker Part III: My Day in Court

*names have been changed to protect the innocent, namely me

1 comment:

Randi said...

OMGosh - your killing me!! I feel like I am reading a murder mystery or something!!! AH!!!