“I love you! I can’t live without you and I’m going to prove it!” It was early in the morning and Lana* had been getting dressed for work at her home in New York* when David* had called her from his home in New Jersey*, erratic and angry that she had broken off their months-long relationship. She tried to calm him down over the phone but he would not be consoled. “I’m going to prove to you how much I love you,” he screamed. That was the last thing he said to her before he pulled the trigger and the call went dead.
Two nights earlier, David, a 6’3 ex-Marines man, had grabbed Lana by the neck and thrown her up against the wall after she’d said she didn’t want to be with him anymore. He’d threatened her with a loaded gun but then, he broke down crying, apologized to her, removed the bullets from the gun, gave them to her and left for his mother’s house. A short time later, his mother called Lana, incensed. “What have you done to my son?” Lana had explained she just wanted the relationship to be over and his mother agreed that was best because her over-thirty-year-old son was balled up on her floor in the fetal position, unable to talk– and it was all Lana’s fault.
Lana hadn’t heard anything from him since his mother called and she thought it was over. She still had the bullets from his gun and so she thought she was safe, until he called, until she heard the gunshot ring out over the phone a state away.
Panicked, Lana called 911 and the dispatcher patched her in to his local emergency operator. Shaking and crying, she explained to the dispatcher that she thought her ex-boyfriend had just “blown his brains out.” She stayed on the line with dispatcher as the police swarmed David’s home. Then, her call was interrupted by another one. It was David. “I missed,” he said.
David was taken away to a psychiatric hospital where he stayed for one week, refusing to see anyone but her. The psychiatrist who was treating him – and who'd confessed to her that David was dangerous – told her that, though she should try and get away from David, right then wasn’t “the best time,” because she was David’s “lifeline.” Overwhelmed by guilt, Lana continued to see David in the hospital and he was “absolutely giddy. He had gotten exactly what he wanted.”
Twelve years ago, Lana, an attractive senior executive at a lobbying firm, mother of two and a young grandmother, met David, a tall, dark and handsome younger man with an impressive physique. She wasn’t particularly looking for a relationship, but when David charmed her at Starbucks and asked for her business card, she was open to the possibility of romance. But soon, the attentive and charming David disappeared and a violent one emerged. Lana had had enough.
Until his ‘suicide’ stunt. After he’d been released from the hospital, Lana continued to take his calls, believing that continuing the farce of a relationship was her safest option. But several more violent outbursts against her occurred. Even after he was arrested for kidnapping her, prosecutors simply pursued a "peace bond" solution for Lana, meaning David would have to keep the peace with Lana or pay $1,000. “Do you know he violated the peace bond within two weeks?”
One night, Lana’s neighbor called to tell her that air was gushing out of the tire of her new SUV that she’d parked in the driveway. When Lana got up the courage to peek out the front window, there was David, walking towards her house carrying a long object that she thought was a rifle. He broke into her SUV, “ripped out the dashboard, cut through all the wires and stabbed the seats countless times. The passenger seat was unrecognizable.” A police officer who had been dispatched arrived and pursued David, wrestling with him on the ground. David attacked, reaching for the officer’s gun and biting the officer 8 times. Neighbors rushed out to help the officer and David was subdued as the officer’s back-up arrived.
David was arrested with burglary tools, binoculars, a gun and a knife and imprisoned without bond for 45 days on charges of assault, destruction of property and stalking. But early one morning, and without warning to Lana, David was granted a bond hearing where he pleaded before a judge that his livelihood was in jeopardy and he needed to return to work to keep his job. A judge set his bond for a miniscule amount, David was quickly released and Lana went on the run for four months with her two-year-old grand-daughter who was in her care.
“The police escorted my grand-daughter and me to a women’s shelter immediately. At the shelter, I did counseling and they helped me understand that this was not my fault, that I was deceived by a very sick man who manipulated me. They taught me about the Wheel of Power and Control and the ways people like him manipulate their targets emotionally and physically. The more I shared with other women, the more I learned that I wasn’t alone and that there were women who had been stalked and terrorized even worse than I had been. It helped me shed the embarrassment I had felt for being deceived.”
Exhausted from living on the run, Lana returned home with her grand-daughter. Fortunately, she had the means to hire round-the-clock security and the county police – still upset that prosecutors had let David out on bond after he’d attacked one of their own—installed a security camera outside of Lana’s house to help catch David, should he break his bond.
“In the meantime, I wore wigs, I changed my clothes, I always had a bag packed in my car with clothes and canned food for me and my grand-daughter. I always had cash on me in case I had to run.”
In no time, David was back at Lana’s house and the security camera caught him. Police locked him up until his trial for violating his bond. Finally at trial, David was sentenced to 8 years in prison. Six and a half of those years were suspended.
Though Lana doesn’t believe David has bothered her in years, she confessed, “I still don’t sleep with all my lights off.” For the women who don’t have the means to go on the run or hire security, she has dedicated her life to bringing awareness to the crime of stalking, working with the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women during its National Stalking Awareness Month. She’s now working on securing more severe penalties for stalking.
“I just want people to know that stalking is dangerous crime. A lot of domestic violence assaults and deaths have a stalking component to them. And to the victims, it’s not your fault. Though most people are stalked by someone they know, people can be stalked by total strangers. You didn’t cause it and it’s not about love. Keep records of every incident and threat with the police. And get counseling. There are people and resources out here to help you.”
*Names and states have been changed