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Speaker shares experience with stalking

Sarah Swiderski | Wednesday, January 30, 2013

To enhance the educational impact of National Stalking Awareness Month, Saint Mary’s Belles Against Violence Office hosted speaker Debbie Riddle, whose sister’s tragic experience with a stalker made the all-too-common issue personal.

The Tuesday lecture focused on the story of Riddle’s sister Peggy, who met her stalker Patrick Kennedy through a study group while attending school in Albuquerque, N.M.

In January 2003, Kennedy attacked Klinke, later killing her and himself at a neighboring home she fled to.

Riddle said she remembers the last time she saw her sister.

“She looked like a walking cadaver,” she said.
Riddle said the stalking affected her whole family.

“[Peggy] was terrified to be with her family, [worried] that Patrick would kill one of us.”

Riddle said the nature of the pair’s relationship drove a “wedge” within the family once they began dating.

“Peggy was not to pay attention to … her family,” Riddle said, “[Kennedy] kept inserting himself between [the family] and my sister.”

Riddle said that she saw physical and behavioral changes in her sister as a result of the relationship.

“Her hair started to thin, she lost interest in things,” she said.

Once Klinke ended the relationship in 2002, Kennedy began stalking her, requiring Klinke to keep vigilant about his presence in her life.

“She comes out [of work] and his truck is still there,” Riddle said. “She [couldn’t] live her life without looking over her shoulder.”

Once Klinke began another relationship the stalking escalated, Riddle said. She believes Kennedy was set off by Klinke’s rejection of a marriage proposal.

“He [waited] for her at work and [handed] her a dozen roses and a ring,” Riddle said. “That possession he had control of for three years [didn’t] need him anymore.”

When Klinke reported Kennedy after he put up fliers with her picture, false statements and phone number, Riddle said the police dismissed the incident.

“[The officer said] it’s really just a piece of paper,” she said. “There is really nothing you can do.”

Kennedy had also vandalized Klinke’s mother’s home in Ohio while the family was at a wedding in Florida, Riddle said. He then went back to New Mexico where he also vandalized Klinke’s boyfriend’s home.

For Riddle, the murder highlighted the need to raise awareness on the issue of stalking. She teamed up with the Stalking Resource Center of the National Center for Victims of Crime, legal activist Erin Brockovich and New Mexico State Rep. Heather Wilson to spread the word.

She helped record a “Roll Call Tape,” a video for police officers to use as a training tool and raise awareness of stalking so they pay attention to the stalking victims, Riddle said. Riddle shared the video with students, including the 911 call Klinke made before her death, where Kennedy can be heard saying, “Hang up the phone.”

Riddle encouraged students before the question-and-answer session to pay attention to the signs of stalking.

“I would advise if you ever hear anything like you heard tonight … get help,” she said, “There are many, many services available, but I’m telling you, trust your instincts.”