Stalking the Stars
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The Stalking of the Stars

Terror Amidst the Glitz of Hollywood

Rhonda Sunders. Deputy District Attorney with the
Los Angeles County Stalking and Threat Assessment Team

APB News

By, Karl Idsvoog

The price of fame is getting weird, dangerous and deadly. Many celebrities have become targets of potentially violent, delusional stalkers who wage campaigns of terror against them. Olivia Newton-John, Madonna, Michael J. Fox, David Letterman, Deborah Gibson, Barbara Mandrell and Steven Spielberg are just a few of the stars who have become victims. “It [stalking] bothers them a lot,” says Rhonda Saunders, a deputy district attorney with the Los Angeles County Stalking and Threat Assessment Team, because “they realize if someone really wants to get them, they will.”

Dangerous celebrity stalkers

“We get called weekly by celebrities who are being stalked,” says Robert Martin of Gavin De Becker, Inc., a security firm that has a massive database on stalkers. The firm monitors several thousand known and suspected stalkers. “We want our clients to know where these people are,” says Martin. And with good reason. Martin says celebrity stalkers often suffer from a range of personality disorders. Many are delusional, some dangerous.

TV Star killed by stalker

Exactly how dangerous a stalker could be was brought to national attention in 1989; Rebecca Schaeffer, 21-year-old co-star of the television show My Sister Sam, answered the door of her Los Angeles home only to be greeted by her obsessed stalker, John Bardo. Bardo then shot and killed her. Shortly before, Bardo had hinted in a letter to his sister that he was going to do something, and it didn’t sound good.
Wrote Bardo, “I have to eliminate what I cannot obtain.”

Singer received dog teeth

Unlike domestic stalkers -- usually ex spouses or lovers who stalk a former partner -- Martin says celebrity stalkers “see a relationship [with the celebrity] that doesn’t exist.” And sometimes they hear things only they can hear. While wandering in the desert in Arizona in 1980, Ralph Nau claimed a sorceress named Maria told him to go to Los Angeles and pursue Olivia Newton John. He sent her threatening, bizarre letters, including one containing dog teeth that the singer/actress took to Gavin De Becker, Inc. The firm monitored Nau’s actions for three years.

Rejection brings rage

One thing certain about stalkers, says Martin, is “they don’t go away.” Saunders said that often, stalkers are turned away by people working for the celebrity. Celebrities are seldom alone, Saunders explained. Whether celebrities work in a movie studio, on stage or on location, people surround them and often won’t let the stalker get close. Saunders said the “stalkers’ anger and rage may be turned against them.”
That’s what happened in the Madonna case. A man named Robert Dewey Hoskins wanted to marry her.

A threat to cut Madonna's throat

To propose, Hoskins scaled the wall of Madonna’s Hollywood Hills estate only to be scared away by Madonna’s personal bodyguard, Basil Stephens. But Hoskins came back the next day. This time, Madonna’s personal assistant, Caresse Henry, told him to leave. Hoskins became angry and threatened to kill Henry. He said he would slice Madonna’s throat if she didn’t agree to marry him. Several weeks later, Hoskins returned again and again confronted Stephens. This time, Hoskins tried to take Stephens’ holstered gun. Stephens ended up shooting Hoskins twice. Saunders prosecuted the case. Hoskins was convicted and is now serving a 10-year prison sentence for stalking and making terroristic threats against Madonna, her bodyguard and personal assistant.

Fox gets thousands of letters

The one consistent trait of all stalkers is persistence. Nobody knows that better than Michael J. Fox.
In 1989, Tina Marie Ledbetter sent Fox more than 6,000 letters, which became increasingly threatening. In one letter Ledbetter wrote, “I’m coming after you with a gun.” In another, after Fox’s wife, actress Tracy Pollan, became pregnant, Ledbetter warns: “I’m going to kill you and that [expletives] bitch.”
Ledbetter was convicted of making terroristic threats and given three years probation. She later was accused of stalking Quantum Leap star Scott Bakula, who won a restraining order against her in 1996.

Karl Idsvoog is an award-winning investigative TV Producer

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