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Thriller Thursday: Stalked In The Dark

Due to this post from Roni Loren (thank you for the warning, Roni) I’ve decided to remove most photos from Thriller Thursday. I hope you’re still able to enjoy them!

A two-hundred-mile labyrinth of dark storm drains serves as a refuge for the delusional stalker who will go to any lengths to possess fragile, emotionally isolated Emilie Davis. To survive, Emilie will have to confront the secrets of her past she has kept locked away from everyone, including herself.

That’s the query hook for my novel, INTO THE DARK. Protagonist Emilie Davis has a stalker who seems to know her deepest secrets, and he’ll stop at nothing to make her his. The inciting incident is a staged bank robbery where her stalker–nicknamed the Taker–attempts to kidnap Emilie and hide her away in the treacherous Las Vegas storm drains.

For me, the scariest part about stalking is the subterfuge–the idea that some creep could be watching from the shadows, chronicling our lives and biding his time. And it happens a lot more than most people realize. In 2009, the Department of Justice reported that 14 out of every 1000 people aged eighteen or older reported being victims of stalking. Source: MSI Detective Services.

Stalking as defined by the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center:

A repetitive pattern of unwanted, harassing or threatening behavior committed by one person against another. Acts include: telephone harassment, being followed, receiving unwanted gifts, and other similar forms of intrusive behavior. All states and the Federal Government have passed anti-stalking legislation. Definitions of stalking found in state anti-stalking statutes vary in their language, although most define stalking as “the willful, malicious, and repeated following and harassing of another person that threatens his or her safety.

Men have stalkers too–more than you might think. The same D.O.J report stated males were as likely to report being stalked as females, and that 43% of offenders were female.

Despite the statistics, stalking wasn’t always defined as a crime.

The tragic 1989 murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer changed everything.

At just twenty-one, Rebecca Schaeffer was the co-star of the sitcom My Sister Sam, a show that was quickly growing in popularity. She’d been receiving fan letters from nineteen-year-old Robert Bardo for months, and as she responded personally to each of her fans, Schaeffer answered Bardo. She wrote that his letter was “the most beautiful” she’d received, and drew a peace sign, a heart, and then signed the letter: “with love from Rebecca.”

On the day he received her response, Bardo wrote in his diary that he would like to become famous to impress Schaeffer.

In June 1987, Bardo went to the Burbank Studio gates with a teddy bear and a bouquet of roses for Schaeffer. He was denied entrance. A month later, he returned with a knife, but was denied again. He then wrote in his diary: “I don’t lose. Period.”

At home in Tucson, Bardo watched the actresses’s new film Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, where she had a bed scene with a male actor. Bardo was furious. His innocent flower had become “one more of the bitches of Hollywood.” As he contemplated Schaeffer’s punishment, Bardo drew a diagram of her body, marking the spots where he planned to shoot her. He asked his older brother to buy him a gun.


For the next two years, Bardo swarmed Schaeffer with love letters, built a shrine for her in his room, and collected videos of her tv shows and appearances. He sent a letter to his sister in Tennessee and said that if he couldn’t have Rebecca, no one would. In the summer of 1989, he took a bus from Tucson to Hollywood, determined to track Schaeffer down.

Once he arrived, he called her agent’s office to find out where she lived. After they denied him the information, he took to the streets, flashing her picture and asking people if they knew her address. Eventually, he paid a private detective $250 to find her, although at the time, anyone could go into a California DMV and fill out a form stating who they were, what person they want information on and why, and how they plan to use the info. For a $1, the information was given on the spot.

On July 18, 1989, carrying a copy of The Catcher In The Rye, Bardo rang Schaffer’s doorbell. The intercom was broken, so she went to the building’s front door. When she saw Bardo, she ignored his attention, and he left. An hour later, he returned. Schaeffer came to the door and opened it.

Bardo would later give the following account of the incident: “She had this kid voice… sounded like a little brat or something… said I was wasting her time! … Wasting her time! No matter what, I thought that was a very callous thing to say to a fan, you know… I grabbed the door… guns still in the bag… I grab it by the trigger… I come around, and kapow, and she’s like screaming… aaahhh… screaming… why, aaahhh … and it’s like, oh God…”

A neighbor heard the shots and screams. He found Schaeffer’s body, wearing a black robe, lying in the building’s foyer. She had no pulse. Witnesses saw a young man in a yellow shirt jog away and disappear into an alley.

Rebecca Schaeffer was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Bardo was arrested in Tucson a day later. He was running around in traffic on Interstate 10, and motorists said it looked like he was trying to get hit. He confessed immediately and was convicted by prosecutor Marcia Clark. Bardo was sentenced to life without parole.

Rebecca Schaeffer’s murder was instrumental in Governor George Deukmejian signing a law prohibiting the DMV from releasing addresses. It was the first of its kind and would help convict Jonathan Norman to twenty-five years in prison for threats against Steven Spielberg.

Within five years of Schaeffer’s death, all fifty states and Canada had adopted anti-stalking laws.

Celebrities aren’t the only victims of stalking, but Schaeffer’s death catapulted the experience into the national spotlight and gave victims the ability to fight back in court.

Robert Bardo remains in prison.

Have you or a family member/friend ever been the victim of stalking, whether in person or via the Internet?

27 comments on… “Thriller Thursday: Stalked In The Dark”

  1. I know I’m stating the obvious here, but the internet has made stalking easier after laws went into place to make it more difficult. I wonder how many people think they have successfully activated privacy on FaceBook, but are wrong. Thanks for the interesting post!

    • Oh absolutely. The Internet has made stalking much easier, and it’s frightening to think how easily someone can still access our personal info.

      You’re welcome, and thanks for commenting.

  2. First off, the hook is great! I loved it!
    I remember when this happened. It was crazy all over the media and it seems like that’s when TV went nuts with stalkers in the night time dramas.

    My sister (5 years older than me) had a stalker that climbed our antennae one night and tried to get into her bedroom window. My dad heard scratching noises on the window awnings and went outside and caught him. I’m not sure what happened between them (my dad is a Vietnam vet) but we never saw him again.

    I remember sitting outside a boyfriend’s house for 3 hours waiting on him to get home. I’d been ignored too long. But I don’t consider that stalking…it was closure. Right? Right?

    • THank you. I have to give Catie Rhodes a huge amount of credit. We worked on that thing FOREVER, lol. I remember, too. I was 12 and didn’t really understand the whole idea of stalking, but I remember how tragic it was.

      Wow on yoru sister. That is terrifying. I hope your Dad put the fear of God into him. It would be so hard to feel safe after that.

      Yes, of course. Closure. We’ll go with that;)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. What a fascinating post here, Stacy. I was stalked quite a bit as a teenager, not for any particular reason–I wasn’t very attractive or popular, but I always seemed to attract creeps. I learned pretty quickly what the signs were and how to avoid situations where I’d be caught off-guard.

    It’s a hard lesson to learn as a girl growing up in this era that you are never truly safe, and you must always be watching your own back.

    Your hook is great, but the first sentence is a little awkwardly constructed. For hooks, I think shorter sentences are better because they deliver the pertinent information quickly and without complication.

    • How scary, especially as a teenager. And you make a really good point – it’s so hard for a girl to feel safe today, and that terrifies me as a parent. My daughter is only six, and I wonder how things will be when she’s a teenager. We live in a safe area, but still, terrible things happen everywhere.

      Thanks for your comments on the hook as well. I appreciate it. Glad you enjoyed the post:)

  4. The hook for your novel is great, Stacy! I instantly wanted to read more.

    It’s scary how a person can become so obsessed with another they don’t even really know. What a confusing, terrifying experience this must be for the one stalked.

    • Oh, thank you! Like I said, lots of help to Catie Rhodes for that. Donna Galanti helped as well. I think writing the hook was harder than the whole book, lol.

      Yes, obsession is scary, especially when so many of these people manage to hide it and live normal lives. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Wow–this is outstanding. I remember when Rebecca was killed, I’d watched the show and couldn’t believe it. That was my first awareness that such things could happen.

    I love thrillers and your blogs offer great info and inspiration. Your log line rocks. *s*

    • Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I remember Rebecca’s death too – I was in sixth grade, I think, and it was hard to imagine anyone could do such a thing. And the world has only gotten more frightening. Thanks again:)

  6. Stacy, love your query hook! And great post, while tragic it’s uplifting to know some good laws can come about from such senseless violence. I remember this show and when this happened, was very sad. I have had experience with stalker behavior on 2 separate instances – and it is creepy! Thank goodness mine didnt leave to such violence but it changes you forever, nonetheless.

    • Thank you! Yes, a lot of good law have come from Rebecca’s death, but there is still a long way to go. A lot of times, a victim can’t get a restraining order or protection because they don’t have tangible proof of being stalked. That’s why cops will tell them to keep a detailed journal, etc.

      And wow on your experiences. So glad nothing horrible came of it.

    • As I understand, it depends on whether or not it’s life without parole. Bardo is serving without the possibility of parole, thank God.

  7. Wow…I remember her and when this happened. It seems so sad and still does. Once, a very long time ago I had a stalking incident happen. Supposedly some guy saw me at a shopping mall and followed me home. The next day I walked outside to get the newspaper and on the front porch was a rose, the movie 9 1/2 Weeks, and a note that said “Study your part.” I called the police, but they said they couldn’t do anything until he entered my home and became a threat. For two weeks he sat out in front of my house. It was a scary time, but I finally got a call from the police that they arrested him as a suspect in a murder trial. Turned out he had done the same thing with another woman and killed her. When I told them about the movie and note, that was all they needed to link him to the other and bring him in for questioning. In a small way, I understand the fear involved.

    • It is very sad. No matter how much I read about them, I’ll never understand sickos and their obsessions.

      OMG on your experience. That is awful and extremely frustrating. It’s not right they couldn’t do anything until he entered your house. It could have been too late, then. And to find out he killed another woman … that’s just awful, Annie. I’m so glad you are all right, and I’m sure you do understand.

      Thanks so much for sharing your story!

  8. I remember this case. Celebrities have a particular difficulty in people feeling like they are close to the victim because they see their face so often. I do know people who were stalked by exes. Thankfully, I have not had this experience myself. I really felt for Annie reading her story. What a scary thing to be stalked!

    • Yes, they do. There have been quite a few celebrity stalking cases in the past few years. I think they sometimes have more luck getting taken seriously than the every day person, too. Annie’s story was terrible, that’s for sure.

      Thanks for commenting!

  9. I remember this case, too. There’s a similar case about Dominick Dunne’s daughter. What a tragic, wasteful way to die. No telling what she’d have gone on to do. I’ve never been exactly stalked, but I’ve had some odd experiences. Great post. 😀

    • I need to read up on her. I always forget she was stalked. They are both tragic cases. I can’t imagine going through something like that as a parent.


  10. I’ve had a couple guys go slightly over the line into stalker-ish behavior, but luckily I was able to persuade them to stop. (One guy, who knew what my car looked like and the general area of town where I worked, cruised the streets on his lunch hours till he spotted my car, then called me at my work number.) And yes, women stalk men, too. This woman *rode her bike* to follow this man to and from work – and if you knew LA hills, you’d know how scary/impressive that was.

    Into the Dark sounds like a chilling good read. [shivering]

    • Wow. You’ve had the double whammy. And holy crap on that article. I don’t know the LA hills, but I can imagine how much of an ordeal that must have been. What goes through these people’s minds?

      And thanks! Hopefully someday you’ll be able to read it;)

  11. Pingback: Friday Favorites: Blogging Rockstars « Ellie Ann

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