Local woman's life haunted by stalker

11:03 AM, Aug 5, 2003   |    comments
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Debbie Riddle is a thirty-something wife and mother to Anna and Ellen. Her day begins the way a lot of moms start their day. Waking up to a hungry family, especially the kids. For Debbie life was a dream, with a loving husband, a great house, and some beautiful kids. It all makes sense when you see she comes from a close-knit family. But while at school Debbie's sister Peggy met a man named Patrick Kennedy. "Patrick was in her study group and he homed in on her. Gave her the sweet talk, the whole sha-bang," said Debbie Riddle. They became involved, but after a three year relationship Peggy told Debbie she wanted to leave Patrick. "You would look at them and wonder; what does that girl see in him," said Debbie. It took Peggy a few months but finally she broke up with him. But then the problem started. "It was the classic textbook stalking. She would come out he'd be sitting there staring at her. She would be driving down the highway and notice that his car was following her," said Debbie. "She was afraid of him. I think she was terrified." There were death threats, and when the sisters went to Florida for their brother's wedding the situation got worse. "While we we're in Orlando, he flew to Ohio. He went to my mother's house and spray painted “PK is a whore” on my mom's garage door which is my sister's initials," said Debbie. After months, when Peggy got a new boyfriend, Mark Sparks whole ordeal was too much for Peggy, she moved to Turlock, California. "She got rid of her old cell phone, got a new cell phone number, got an unlisted phone number, an unlisted address went to the Turlock Police out in California to file a restraining order and was told she could not because she was not harassed in the city of Turlock," said Debbie. It was a frustrating experience for Peggy, her sister Debbie and her new boyfriend Mark. "This woman was in so much stress. She carried a file thicker than this with all the proof you should need to put somebody in prison," said Peggy's Boyfriend, Mark Sparks. But Patrick didn't go to prison. Instead he hired a private investigator who found Peggy in Turlock and that's where he went. Peggy called police when Kennedy showed up at her house. "Patrick Kennedy, he's beating me with a gun," said Peggy on the 911 tape. "He duct taped her hands together and beat her over the head with the butt of his gun so severely that Peggy’s blonde hair which was beautiful had turned an extreme bright red," related Debbie. Before police made it over Peggy was able to run to a neighbor’s apartment. "He held Peggy to the floor at gun point with a gun to the back of her head," said Debbie. "I think at this point Peggy probably knew this was going to be the end of her life." "He shot Peggy in the back of the head and then he killed himself and that was the end," said Debbie. "Peggy was the most wonderful person I knew and it's terrible she's gone, but when something this bad happens you can only hope for something good to come out of it," said Debbie. Now Debbie is fighting for stronger stalking laws and a way police can share information on stalking from state to state. First, she went on the web and found the Stalking Resource Center. Then the real life Erin Brockovich, now a crime fighting TV host, found Debbie. "I hope when all of you hear Peggy's story, that you will be touched as we were and that it can motivate all of you to get involved and help stop the crime of stalking," said Brockovich. The two took the fight to Washington D.C. Peggy's family and New Mexico Congresswoman Heather Wilson said laws couldn't help because stalking information isn't shared with every jurisdiction. So Wilson introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives. "The resolution we introduced will make January, the month Peggy died, Stalking Awareness Month," said Wilson. According to the Stalking Resource Center, more than a million women and almost 380,000 men are stalked each year. In Cleveland, the number of stalking cases has grown every year since 2000. This year there's been more than 134 reported cases and the Stalking Resource Center says there would more, but many don't bother to report it until it's too late. "I can't sit and dwell on the fact that I lost my sister," said Debbie. "She's gone, I can't have her back. What I need to do now and what I know my sister would do for me is to protect other people down the line." The resolution Debbie helped pass is just the first step in raising awareness and identifying there's a problem and making sure there are no more stories like Peggy's.


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