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Speaker promotes stalking awareness at Saint Mary’s

| Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Debbie Riddle, a national speaker on stalking, spoke at Saint Mary’s on Tuesday to promote stalking awareness in honor of her sister, Peggy Klinke, who was a victim of stalking. 

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Riddle said before the death of her sister, she did not quite understand what stalking was, even as a previous victim of stalking herself.

“I was a stalking victim shortly after graduating from college,” she said. “My stalker followed me everywhere, left notes, offered a marriage proposal and kicked out my door. So I went to the police department, filed for an order of protection and the behavior stopped. A few months after he was served with the papers, I saw him on the street and he turned around and walked the other way. And that’s what I thought the solution to stalking and abusive relationships was.”

Riddle said 11 years after her own stalking incident, her sister Peggy called her and said her ex-boyfriend had began stalking her. Previously, Peggy had been in a relationship with the ex-boyfriend that lasted three years.

“What my sister went through was three years of emotional abuse,” Riddle said. “With emotional abuse, the typical abuse is cyclical, meaning [he] would violently degrade her, then apologize, buy her flowers, take her out to dinner — but the abuse would come back again, maybe a week later, maybe a few days later. Peggy never knew what the trigger was, and this went on throughout the relationship.”

Riddle said victims put up with this behavior because they are scared of the punishment they’ll receive if they leave their abuser.

“Peggy did try to leave him,” Riddle said. “She was in an airport in Albuquerque, [New Mexico], trying to get to Las Vegas where my [other] sister was on vacation, and she was physically sick. She spent the afternoon vomiting in the airport. She was so frightened about what was going to happen to her if she broke the relationship.”

Riddle said Peggy’s stalker would attempt to drive a wedge between her and her family by deliberately canceling Peggy’s flights and changing her hotel rooms.

“He wanted to make sure he had her extremely isolated by breaking her support system down, so he was left as the only person she could turn to,” Riddle said.

“In January 2002, she decided it was time to leave,” Riddle said. “She packed up her stuff and moved out of the condo they shared. When she went back to get her remaining items, he had barricaded the door and called local law enforcement. He told them that someone was trying to break into his home, and he wanted Peggy to stay with him because he was so frightened. When the officer arrived, he asked Peggy if there was anything she wanted to tell him. Peggy looked at Patrick, and Patrick gave Peggy a look … and Peggy said that no, there was nothing else she wanted to tell him.”

Riddle said the officer took this at face value and that it was a fatal mistake.

“He should’ve recognized what was going on and removed Peggy from her abuser,” Riddle said. “He should’ve taken her in a very confidential area to ask her what was happening. I feel that in his gut, he [knew] something wasn’t right by looking at them.”

“ … Peggy went to court to file an order of protection, and [Patrick] walked in to file his own order of protection,” Riddle said. “He told the judge [that] Peggy’s an alcoholic, was often strung out on drugs and abusive. He told the judge he feared for his life.”

Riddle said the judge ordered both partners to stay away from each other. 

However, Patrick began to stalk Peggy, calling her constantly, Riddle said.

“And the cyclical abusive behavior was back,” Riddle said. “[Cyclical abuse] goes on and on and on. It is a vicious wheel the victim cannot get out of.”

Riddle said Peggy tried very hard to get out of the cycle of abuse, but this went on every day, 24 hours a day.

“So when the text messaging, the phone calls, the surveillance didn’t work, he decided to propose marriage,” Riddle said. “Peggy ignored him, and he was upset with that. He no longer had control over his victim anymore. When Peggy ignored the marriage proposal, he created a flyer and pasted it all over the city of Albuquerque.”

Riddle said the flyer contained obscenities, insults and lies about Peggy. Peggy then took her cell phone; her cell phone records; her new, current boyfriend’s cell phone records — whom Patrick was also stalking— and the flyers into the police department, Riddle said.

“Peggy said she was being stalked relentlessly by this man,” Riddle said. “The officer said there was nothing they could do about it. [The evidence] was just pieces of paper.”

The stalker’s action grew more violent as he graffitied obscenities about Peggy onto the door of her mother’s garage and even set fire to Peggy’s boyfriend’s house, Riddle said. According to Riddle, he had stalked his ex-wife before meeting Peggy, and he had had seven previous police reports filed against him.

Riddle said the police department were very aware who they were dealing with, but they refused to acknowledge past evidence. As the final trial between Peggy and Patrick neared, her family pushed Peggy to move away to ensure her safety. However, Patrick pushed back, posing as a police officer in an attempt to gain information and hiring a private investigator in order to find Peggy’s new whereabouts.

“On January 18, as Peggy is walking out of her condo, one week before her trial, Patrick walked in,” Riddle said. “Patrick had been hiding in her garage. He beat her senseless with the butt of a handgun, he put duct tape over her mouth and bound her hands behind her back. Peggy was able to get out of the duct tape and run out the front door. Peggy and her neighbor Rachel went into Rachel’s condo and barricaded themselves in the bedroom. Peggy was able to make a 911 call and the SWAT team [came] to the location.”

However, as the police arrived, Patrick murdered Peggy, Riddle said.

Riddle said Peggy’s death was devastating, but not shocking. 

“Peggy once said to her lawyer, ‘Is it going to take a bullet to my head for you guys to understand how serious this is?’” Riddle said. 

Riddle said she spent the weeks after her sister’s death trying to find answers as to how the stalking had escalated so far.

“The week we were preparing for Peggy’s funeral, a thousand questions were going through my mind,” Riddle said. “How did this happen? How could she not survive? How is he permitted to harass her? How is this problem going to stop?”

Riddle said after the funeral she contacted Tracy Baum, director of the Stalking Resource Center. They worked together to come up with new ways to help victims of stalking, she said.

“First and foremost, I want law enforcement to be trained,” Riddle said. “They need to be trained to deal with cases like Peggy’s because nobody, not one person in the criminal justice system, ever helped her. So we needed to change that mindset.”

After her meeting, the story became bigger than she imagined, and everyone involved agreed they should do something lasting in honor of Peggy and all stalking victims nationwide, Riddle said.

“In July 2003, we all met in Washington D.C. and declared January National Stalking Awareness Month in Peggy’s honor,” she said.

Riddle said the death of her sister has inspired her to help victims of stalking.

“The root of this problem lies in developing a healthy relationship,” she said. “Most people misunderstand stalking. Many teenagers mistake stalking for positive attention. Listen and encourage victims, and do not downplay their stories.”

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About Gina Twardosz

Gina Twardosz is a senior English Writing and Communication Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. She's the co-editor of the Investigative Unit, a Saint Mary's social media liaison, and she occasionally writes for SMC News and Scene. Gina is a tried and true Midwesterner and yes, she does say "ope" often.

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