Throughout your life, you’ll make some pretty big purchases. Like your college education, fancy wedding, or a luxury car. But, none are as exciting or expensive as buying your dream home.
But what happens if your dream home is someone else’s dream home too? This is exactly what happened to one California couple who started receiving small pranks at their house, which then turned to real danger. Strangers were showing up at their door and someone was out for revenge…
Starting Their Family
Jerry Rice, a former competitive swimmer was teaching special ed classes for kids with autism. His wife, Janice Ruhter, was a microbiologist at a children’s hospital. They had one child and another on the way and they were saving to buy their first home.
Thanks to their friend and real estate agent, Renee Milton, they finally found their dream home in San Diego’s Carmel Valley. It was a one-story house in a peaceful neighborhood, where everyone in the community knew each other. The couple was so excited to start a new life there and was overwhelmed with anticipation for the arrival of their daughter Avery, that they barely noticed the unusual note that showed up at their door…
An Introduction To Their Nightmare
The note came to their house in their first month there and it said that someone was willing to offer up to $100,000 to buy their home from them. This was $100,000 above the price they paid for it. But, then, something really creepy happened.
Relisting Their House On Zillow
The house turned up for sale on the real-estate website Zillow under an obviously fake realtor’s name. The couple called their real-estate agent to make sure she didn’t list the home, but it was not her who did it. They couldn’t understand who would take a home that they purchased and put it online…
Launched A Harassment Campaign
When they failed to respond to the note that was sent to them, this anonymous person launched a harassment campaign against the family. Jerry and Janice started receiving bills in the mail, like $1,000 worth of bladder control products, and various magazine subscriptions.
New Year’s Eve Party
There was even an online ad for a New Year’s Eve party at their home. By then, the Rice’s realized the big picture, that someone was targeting them and wanted them out. But, who was it that wanted them out of their house so bad? It became clear someone was trying to harass them to the point where they would want to leave the property…
Attempted To Get The Rice’s Neighbors Angry At Them
Paul Abel, one of the Rice’s neighbors, became enraged when a Valentine’s Day card was sent to his wife Tanya. It was signed by Jerry Rice. But, Paul hadn’t even met Jerry yet so he decided to show up at his door.
Sending Phony Valentine’s
That’s when Jerry learned that Valentine’s Day cards reportedly signed by him were sent to every wife in Carmel Valley. Jerry had to apologize to everyone telling them that they are getting harassed by someone who obviously hates them. But, who was the hater? They became suspicious of everyone and that’s when cops gave it to them straight. Whoever was doing this to them was probably watching them, and this sent chills down their backs…
Took Desperate Measures To Protect Themselves
By then, Jerry sprang into action. He locked the mailbox, put spikes on their fence, and put surveillance cameras around the house. Janice took self-defense classes and even began planning an escape route in case she had to run out of the home.
Taking Things Too Far
But week after week they became worried about who was watching them. Jerry became really distant and solely focused on protecting his family. He barely slept checking that the doors were locked and watching the cameras wondering who was attacking them and where they going to attack them next. Still, they had no idea how shocking the next attack would be. It took the form of an online ad with Janice’s face, phone number and address included…
Online Ad Allowing Men To “Stop By Anytime”
The online ad read, “Carmel Valley Freak Show…Come see me during the day while my husband is at work and we can get our freak on.” This was a deeply personal attack and Janice was horrified. Then, while at work, Jerry got an urgent message from police. They said that men had responded to the online ad and had been in touch with someone pretending to be Janice.
The Ultimate Nightmare
One of the men had been told, “Just stop by any Monday-Friday, 9 am- 3 pm. I like the element of surprise.” The person pretending to be Janice responded, “I’m pretty much home all day, every day, bored and incredibly horny. I love to be surprised and have a man just show up at the door, and force his way in.” At that moment, it occurred to Janice how much danger she was in…
A Possible Rape Scenario
Shortly after, a man did show up at the house thinking he was going to have his way with Janice. But Janice wasn’t home and Jerry met him at the front door. When the man saw Jerry he fled and emailed “Janice,” saying, “A guy was there. Had to make up an excuse why I was there.”
A Forgotten Clue
At this point, things had gotten too far for the family and they wondered if they had missed any clues as to who was behind this. They were desperate and that’s when they remembered the suspicious note dropped off at their home months earlier from an unsuccessful buyer offering them $100,000 above the purchase price for their home…
The Pieces Came Together
The name on that document was Kathy Rowe. After searching Kathy Rowe on Facebook, Janice remembered seeing her face before on Halloween. She remembered Rowe and her daughter coming to their house trick-or-treating. When cops started looking into Rowe, the prosecutor said, “I have never seen anything like this as my time as a prosecutor.”
Devastated After Losing Bidding War
When the Carmel Valley home initially came up for sale, a lot of families wanted it, but Kathy Rowe was among those who didn’t get it. She was a 50-something-year-old wife and mother who had a job with the county. Her husband was ill and she was the sole caregiver looking after their severely disabled daughter, Rachel. But when Rowe didn’t get the home, it didn’t seem right to her so she decided to torment the family…
Lashing Out At Innocent People
To Rowe, the house was more than just a structure with four walls. She told investigators, “When I walked in, I felt like it was my house.” She continued, “I was jealous, destroyed and devastated with pain and depression.”
Connecting The Dots
But, C.A.T.C.H., the high tech law enforcement task force was able to connect the dots for the Rice family. Between the online solicitations in Janice’s name and the links to Kathy Rowe’s computer, they were successfully able to identify Rowe. When they confronted Rowe, she admitted to it all. Initially, she faced the possibility of nine years in prison…
Rowe Will Be Heavily Watched By Authorities For A Long Time
But after many months, she copped a plea of felony stalking and apologized to the Rice’s for everything she put them through. She was sentenced to one year of confinement on a home ankle monitor and five years of probation. Rowe said, “I may be the least liked person in San Diego County,” but she maintains that she did not intend to harm the Rice’s.
The Family Is Still Afraid
She blames her state of mind from lack of sleep in caring for her disabled daughter. But, all apologies aside, Janice and Jerry are still afraid. They believe that Rowe has more of a reason to attack them now more than ever. They’re very concerned for their family, as they have every right to be because Rowe recently brought a new home, just one mile away from theirs.