Have We Actually Been Stalked?
Why Did We Move Three Times?
Hillyard has recently claimed that the appearance of the word "stalking" on my site represents defamation of him, and that it "proves" that I'm unstable. He also claims that there's no evidence or reason to believe that I've ever been stalked. Obviously, I don't agree.
When this case began*, Georgia law said:
A person commits the offense of stalking when he or she follows, places under surveillance, or contacts another person at or about a place or places without the consent of the other person for the purpose of harassing and intimidating the other person. For the purpose of this article, the term `place or places' shall include any public or private property occupied by the victim other than the residence of the defendant. For the purposes of this article, the term `harassing and intimidating' means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes emotional distress by placing such person in reasonable fear of death or bodily harm to himself or herself or to a member of his or her immediate family, and which serves no legitimate purpose. This Code section shall not be construed to require that an overt threat of death or bodily injury has been made.
After I'd been harassed—provably—by Richard Hillyard (or someone using his MindSpring account) since July 1996, I received an email that was sent through interramp.com. Hillyard had recently been using that service to post messages to rec.sport.football.college and to atl.general, some of them sent using the internet gateway at the CDC (his place of employment at that time).
That email was from someone calling himself "firstname.lastname@example.org (Fat Slut Hater)". The message quoted a post I made to atl.general, asking for a copy of a newsgroup post that had been made from inside the CDC and cancelled almost immediately, and for copies of any other inappropriate activity from the CDC gateway. The sender said:
Hi you Fat Bitch. I'm not Hillyard, I'm worse. I'm your worse nightmare. I know where you live you ugly fat slut. I followed you home from Mailboxes etc. Now we will have some fun bitch.
Let's get it on!
I don't know about you, but I personally find someone claiming to have followed me home very threatening. It certainly counts as being placed "under surveillance" as Georgia law requires. Even without the rest of the text in the email, it would cause emotional distress. With phrases like "let's get it on" from someone who claims to be my worst nightmare, it certainly gives any reasonable person cause to fear death or bodily harm to herself or members of her family, and it certainly served no legitimate purpose. The law says, specifically, that overt threats are not necessary for such actions to be considered stalking.
It was quite easy to get my address at Mail Boxes Etc. (4514 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, #316, Atlanta, GA 30338-6202—no, it isn't a valid mailing address these days)—at one time, it was in the whois information for the technomom.com domain. However, I'd never made public mention of the fact that it wasn't my physical address. There would be no reason for someone to know, in fact, that it was a Mail Boxes Etc. unless he bothered to go see for himself. There is no legitimate reason for anyone to send anything but mail and packages (FedEx, UPS, etc.) to that address—had I invited anyone to my residence, the intended guest would be given my physical address.
That email, with the history of proven and suspected harassment from Hillyard, gives me more than enough reason to believe that we have been stalked—probably by Hillyard, but certainly by someone.
That email, with the history of proven and suspected harassment from Hillyard, with some consideration given to the fact that Hillyard is a multiply conficted felon, was the reason a Dekalb county judge granted a warrant for Hillyard's arrest. To get a criminal warrant issued, one must first get the police to take a report, then to follow up on that report. If an officer believes that the crime was committed, and that a particular suspect committed that crime, the officer must go to a judge and convince the judge of the same. It is not easy to get a warrant, and it is certainly not possible to simply pay a fee and have a criminal warrant issued for someone's arrest. While the initial charge was simple assault (as determined by the police detective and the judge, not me), the charge was later changed to stalking (by the prosecutor's office--I had no input into the matter).
Even though the prosecutor agreed to a nolle prosequi order for that charge, Hillyard was, indeed, officially charged with stalking, and was scheduled to be tried on that charge in July 1997. The fact that they chose not to prosecute (fairly common in stalking cases in Georgia) does not mean that the stalking did not occur.
Yes, I personally believe that he sent that email, and that he is personally responsible for the harassment we've experienced. That is why the phrase "Why I'm Sure Richard Hillyard is the Stalker" appeared on my web site. Since there has been far more harassment online than off (thank all deities) I've since changed the word "stalker" to "culprit."
Unfortunately, PSI/Interramp was unable to trace the email to a specific user, because their login system did not permit IP verification. They were able to determine that it came from one of their users, and that the user logged in through an Atlanta POP. There was quite a bit of communication back and forth between me, other people being harassed by messages from interramp.com, PSI, and MindSpring.
Why Have We Moved?
After we received the email claiming the stalker had followed us home I didn't feel safe staying there. I had Katie to worry about, and I'm very much more protective of her than I'd likely be if I only had myself to protect. We found a new home, but it wouldn't be ready for several months. Due to the implied threats of the email we received, just staying in our original home would have been foolish and irresponsible. We moved to temporary quarters for several months while some construction was finished at our new place.
A few months we moved into the new place (the second move), I received messages in our voice mail that matched some left at the number we had when this mess started. The nature of the messages, and the voice of the man who left them, was simply too much like the earlier harassing phone calls to be coincidental—they had to originate with the same person. A police officer (not from Dekalb county—we were living in another jurisdiction) told me that BellSouth had traced those phone calls to a payphone in Norcross.
Of course, I had the phone number changed immediately. I was very alarmed, though, since we'd been extremely careful in controlling who had that number. It was unlisted and unpublished, and getting any account information required use of a special security code. Anyone who'd managed to get that far was simply too likely to have our physical address, as well, and we moved again (a third time).
Our current home is much more secure, both informationally and physically (security system, etc.). Our phone number is listed in another name, as are the other utility bills. The address given on my drivers license, automobile and voter registration, while perfectly valid, is not our physical address. I currently have no plans to move again, but will do so if I have any credible reason to believe that Richard Hillyard (or Dick Coward) knows our address. I do not believe that taking steps to protect myself and my child are signs of "instability". How we appear to strangers is of far less importance, though, than our safety.
*Georgia's stalking law has now been strengthened and specifically mentions contact by computer—had the current version of the law been in effect in 1996, I think it would have been far easier to get reasonable legal action.