LIMA — After Debbie Riddle’s sister was killed by her stalker after a year of harassment and little action by police, she decided to make it her life’s work to spread awareness of the dangers of stalking and make it easier for future victims to get the help they need.
As part of the University of Northwestern Ohio’s “See It, Stop It, Stand Against It” campaign, created to promote campus safety, Riddle visited the UNOH Event Center Wednesday to tell the story of her sister, Peggy Klinke, and explain how a year of stalking by a former abusive boyfriend led to her death in 2003.
As is the case with most stalking cases, Peggy’s story begins with the breakup of an abusive relationship. And as her former boyfriend, Patrick, became more desperate to get her attention, he fell into more and more dangerous patterns in order to assert control, Riddle said.
First, Patrick sent hundreds of voicemails and messages. When that didn’t work, he slandered her publicly. Peggy tried to take her case to local police, but they failed to take the threats seriously. After a whirlwind of events — more threats, orders of protection and arson — Peggy moved to San Jose to put hundreds of miles between her and her stalker.
He didn’t stop until he found her again, walking into her home with a loaded gun. Peggy’s story ended with both her and her stalker dead as a SWAT team surrounded the room where their bodies lay within.
“When I saw two law enforcement agents standing on my mother’s front porch, I knew my sister was dead,” Riddle said. How did a girl who was stalked for a year under the full knowledge of the criminal justice system, how did she not survive?”
Although Peggy’s story ended tragically, Riddle wanted to make sure she could turn it into something positive.
“He tried to silence her,” she said. “By ending her life, he made her life more well known than she ever could during her time on earth.”
Today, Riddle takes the traumatic experience with her as she travels to colleges like UNOH and works to show how the norms of society often minimize the threat of stalking and can influence those who may be in danger to not report the situation.
“(Stalking behavior) is mislabeled as creepy or controlling,” she said.
Stalking is also harder to prove compared to other relationship abuses like domestic violence, although the effects can be just as dangerous. Victims should be actively working to gather evidence to show to law enforcement and receive legal solutions such as restraining orders, Riddle said.
“The laws are already there,” Riddle said. “We need to educate people so they report it. Having events like this is the key.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.