A woman who missed out on her dream home in San Diego has been convicted of stalking the young family who outbid her.
Kathy Rowe waged an escalating campaign of abuse, signing the buyers up to magazine subscriptions and sending them $1,200 worth of adult diapers before posting ads for fake parties at their home and leaving their photographs on sex websites.
Ms. Rowe, 53, viewed 100 homes before setting her heart on a Spanish-style bungalow at the end of a cul-de-sac in San Diego’s Carmel Valley.
A few years earlier, she had been named one of “San Diego’s best 50 mothers” in a competition, an award for the way she cared for her severely disabled daughter.
She was described by her lawyer as an “outstanding mother, wife and community member.”
But Ms. Rowe snapped when she lost out on the house. There had been seven bidders and it went for US$779,000 (about $970,000 CAD) to Jerry Rice, a special education teacher, and his wife Janice Ruhter, a microbiologist at a children’s hospital.
Soon after they moved in with their two young children, Ms. Rowe used a false name to re-list the house for sale on the Internet and would-be buyers began turning up at the door.
Leaflets went to neighbouring houses warning that a sex offender had moved onto their street.
On Valentine’s Day, wives in the neighbourhood received romantic cards apparently signed by Mr. Rice when he had done no such thing.
Then someone put an ad online inviting high school teenagers to a New Year’s Eve party at their home. On July 4, their address was advertised as giving away free fireworks. Religious organizations were also invited.
Mr. Rice found posts on the Internet advertising sex with his wife.
Her picture was posted under the heading “Carmel Valley Freak Show. Come see me during the day while my husband is at work.”
Ms. Rowe posed online as Ms. Ruhter and sent her address to one man instructing: “I like to be surprised and have a man just show up at the door and force his way in the door.”
Another invitation said: “Will make it extra wild and worth your time.”
Two men did indeed show up. On one occasion, the house was locked. The other was confronted by Mr. Rice.
Becoming increasingly scared, the couple took self-defence classes and installed extra security.
Ms. Rowe was caught after police traced the ads on sex websites to her computer. She was initially charged with solicitation to rape, and identity theft.
She pleaded guilty to stalking and was sentenced last month to one year of home electronic surveillance and five years probation. A judge ordered her to stay away from the couple for 10 years.
Her lawyer said Ms. Rowe’s behaviour had been affected by sleep deprivation incurred from caring for her daughter, and the stress of her husband being diagnosed with stage four cancer.
Ms. Rowe told ABC’s 20/20 television program she was sorry. She said: “I had put so much hope into this house. It’s almost like, you know, you hear bluebirds sing and music play. I walked in, it was my house. And when I found out we didn’t get it, it was devastating. It was heartbreaking.