Due to this post from Roni Loren (thank you for the warning, Roni) I’ve decided to remove most photos from Thriller Thursday. I hope you’re still able to enjoy them!
A two-hundred-mile labyrinth of dark storm drains serves as a refuge for the delusional stalker who will go to any lengths to possess fragile, emotionally isolated Emilie Davis. To survive, Emilie will have to confront the secrets of her past she has kept locked away from everyone, including herself.
That’s the query hook for my novel, INTO THE DARK. Protagonist Emilie Davis has a stalker who seems to know her deepest secrets, and he’ll stop at nothing to make her his. The inciting incident is a staged bank robbery where her stalker–nicknamed the Taker–attempts to kidnap Emilie and hide her away in the treacherous Las Vegas storm drains.
For me, the scariest part about stalking is the subterfuge–the idea that some creep could be watching from the shadows, chronicling our lives and biding his time. And it happens a lot more than most people realize. In 2009, the Department of Justice reported that 14 out of every 1000 people aged eighteen or older reported being victims of stalking. Source: MSI Detective Services.
Stalking as defined by the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center:
A repetitive pattern of unwanted, harassing or threatening behavior committed by one person against another. Acts include: telephone harassment, being followed, receiving unwanted gifts, and other similar forms of intrusive behavior. All states and the Federal Government have passed anti-stalking legislation. Definitions of stalking found in state anti-stalking statutes vary in their language, although most define stalking as “the willful, malicious, and repeated following and harassing of another person that threatens his or her safety.
Men have stalkers too–more than you might think. The same D.O.J report stated males were as likely to report being stalked as females, and that 43% of offenders were female.
Despite the statistics, stalking wasn’t always defined as a crime.
The tragic 1989 murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer changed everything.
At just twenty-one, Rebecca Schaeffer was the co-star of the sitcom My Sister Sam, a show that was quickly growing in popularity. She’d been receiving fan letters from nineteen-year-old Robert Bardo for months, and as she responded personally to each of her fans, Schaeffer answered Bardo. She wrote that his letter was “the most beautiful” she’d received, and drew a peace sign, a heart, and then signed the letter: “with love from Rebecca.”
On the day he received her response, Bardo wrote in his diary that he would like to become famous to impress Schaeffer.
In June 1987, Bardo went to the Burbank Studio gates with a teddy bear and a bouquet of roses for Schaeffer. He was denied entrance. A month later, he returned with a knife, but was denied again. He then wrote in his diary: “I don’t lose. Period.”
At home in Tucson, Bardo watched the actresses’s new film Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, where she had a bed scene with a male actor. Bardo was furious. His innocent flower had become “one more of the bitches of Hollywood.” As he contemplated Schaeffer’s punishment, Bardo drew a diagram of her body, marking the spots where he planned to shoot her. He asked his older brother to buy him a gun.
For the next two years, Bardo swarmed Schaeffer with love letters, built a shrine for her in his room, and collected videos of her tv shows and appearances. He sent a letter to his sister in Tennessee and said that if he couldn’t have Rebecca, no one would. In the summer of 1989, he took a bus from Tucson to Hollywood, determined to track Schaeffer down.
Once he arrived, he called her agent’s office to find out where she lived. After they denied him the information, he took to the streets, flashing her picture and asking people if they knew her address. Eventually, he paid a private detective $250 to find her, although at the time, anyone could go into a California DMV and fill out a form stating who they were, what person they want information on and why, and how they plan to use the info. For a $1, the information was given on the spot.
On July 18, 1989, carrying a copy of The Catcher In The Rye, Bardo rang Schaffer’s doorbell. The intercom was broken, so she went to the building’s front door. When she saw Bardo, she ignored his attention, and he left. An hour later, he returned. Schaeffer came to the door and opened it.
Bardo would later give the following account of the incident: “She had this kid voice… sounded like a little brat or something… said I was wasting her time! … Wasting her time! No matter what, I thought that was a very callous thing to say to a fan, you know… I grabbed the door… guns still in the bag… I grab it by the trigger… I come around, and kapow, and she’s like screaming… aaahhh… screaming… why, aaahhh … and it’s like, oh God…”
A neighbor heard the shots and screams. He found Schaeffer’s body, wearing a black robe, lying in the building’s foyer. She had no pulse. Witnesses saw a young man in a yellow shirt jog away and disappear into an alley.
Rebecca Schaeffer was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Bardo was arrested in Tucson a day later. He was running around in traffic on Interstate 10, and motorists said it looked like he was trying to get hit. He confessed immediately and was convicted by prosecutor Marcia Clark. Bardo was sentenced to life without parole.
Rebecca Schaeffer’s murder was instrumental in Governor George Deukmejian signing a law prohibiting the DMV from releasing addresses. It was the first of its kind and would help convict Jonathan Norman to twenty-five years in prison for threats against Steven Spielberg.
Within five years of Schaeffer’s death, all fifty states and Canada had adopted anti-stalking laws.
Celebrities aren’t the only victims of stalking, but Schaeffer’s death catapulted the experience into the national spotlight and gave victims the ability to fight back in court.
Robert Bardo remains in prison.
Have you or a family member/friend ever been the victim of stalking, whether in person or via the Internet?