Woman stalks couple who outbid her for a house
Kathy Rowe subjects couple who beat her to a home to bizarre and troubling campaign of abuse
A woman who missed out on her dream home in San Diego has been convicted of stalking the young family who outbid her.
Kathy Rowe waged an escalating campaign of abuse, signing the buyers up to magazine subscriptions and sending them $1,000 (£651) of adult nappies before posting advertisements for fake parties at their home and leaving their photographs on sex websites.
Rowe, 53, viewed 100 homes before setting her heart on a Spanish-style bungalow at the end of a cul-de-sac in San Diego’s Carmel Valley.
A few years earlier she had been named one of “San Diego’s best 50 mothers” in a competition, an award for the way she cared for her severely disabled daughter.
She was described by her lawyer as an “outstanding mother, wife and community member.”
But when she lost out on the house Rowe snapped. There had been seven bidders and it went for $779,000 to Jerry Rice, a special education teacher, and his wife Janice Ruhter, a microbiologist at a childrens’ hospital.
Soon after they moved in with their two young children Rowe used a false name to re-list the house for sale on the internet and would-be buyers began turning up at the door.
Leaflets went round neighbouring houses warning that a sex offender had moved into their street.
On Valentine’s Day, wives in the neighbourhood received romantic cards apparently signed by Mr Rice when he had done no such thing.
Then someone put an advertisement online inviting high school teenagers to a New Year’s Eve party at their address. On July 4 their address was advertised as giving away free fireworks. Religious organisations were also invited to come round.
Mr Rice found posts on the internet advertising sex with his wife.
Her picture was posted under the heading “Carmel Valley Freak Show. Come see me during the day while my husband is at work.”
Rowe posed online as Miss Ruhter and sent her address to one man instructing: “I like to be surprised and have a man just show up at the door and force his way in the door.” Another invitation said: “Will make it extra wild and worth your time.”
Two men did indeed show up. On one occasion the house was locked. The other was confronted by Mr Rice.
Becoming increasingly scared the couple took self-defence classes and installed extra security.
Rowe was caught after police traced the advertisements on sex websites to her computer.
She was initially charged with solicitation to rape, and identity theft.
She pleaded guilty to stalking and was sentenced last month to one year of home electronic surveillance and five years probation. A judge ordered her to stay away from the couple for 10 years.
Her lawyer said Rowe’s behaviour had been affected by sleep deprivation incurred from caring for her daughter, and the stress of her husband being diagnosed with stage four cancer.
Rowe told ABC’s 20/20 television programme she was sorry. She said: “I had put so much hope into this house. It’s almost like, you know, you hear bluebirds sing and music play. I walked in, it was my house. And when I found out we didn’t get it, it was devastating. It was heartbreaking.
“I may be the least liked person in San Diego County. A horrible, evil person who wanted to harm this nice couple. I did not intend to harm them.”
Rowe has since bought a house only a mile away from the couple she stalked.
Mr Rice and Miss Ruhter told People magazine they were on medication and undergoing counseling due to the stress.
Mr Rice said: “I kind of think she has more of a reason now to attack us. So obviously, we’re concerned for the family.”