The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on March 7, 1999 · Page 420
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 420

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Sunday, March 7, 1999
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Page 420
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B4 SUNDAY, MARCH 7, 1999 VC LOS ANGELES TIMES VENTURA COUNTY NEWS STALKER Continued from Bl lingerie. When she had a lunch date with another man, he hopped into his truck and chased the couple through the streets. Finally, he had a heart-to-heart with Melissa's would-be date: Give me six months to win her back. If you don't, I'll kill yoa The date never called Melissa again. Melissa is a smart, articulate woman in her mid-30s. She's been around but she's also made some bad errors of judgment One of them was to retrieve a few of her things from the man's apartment weeks after their breakup. She came away with a dislocated jaw. Despite two restraining orders, frightening things started happening to Melissa. Her car was vandalized. Someone posing as her husband approached her bank for information on her account She was being watched. The man once left a message telling her the kind of yogurt she'd eaten and which videos she'd viewed the night before. He also told her who else had left messages on her voice mail Finally, he showed up late at night at her new boyfriend's apartment complex. When police searched him, they discovered the keys to Melissa's car and apartment The man was jailed for violating the terms of his probation in an old drunk-driving case. By then, Melissa was in an Antelope Valley safe house. She was being treated for her stress problems at a Simi Valley hospital. And she was desperate for a job. Rancho de los Robles was the perfect spot Melissa had worked at the ranch from 1991 to 1993 and enjoyed helping the mentally retarded adults who lived there and those who were brought in for day programs. She also thought the world of Villa Esperanza, the Pasadena-based nonprofit that ran it. On top of that, the ranch is tucked into the chaparral-covered hills; -Melissa saw the isolation as a bonus, given that time served for probation violations is measured in months rather than years. From Sept 1 until Feb. 16 minus two months' leave after a bout with severe food poisoning Melissa worked for Villa Esperanza. Her tormentor had been released from jail in late October. A couple of months later, a man who wouldn't identify himself telephoned Melissa's boyfriend in Thousand Oaks, pressing him for information about her whereabouts. Then in early February Melissa received two packets at her Ventura County postal drop. One was a notice that the man intended to seek a restraining order against her a request that was immediately rejected by a Los Angeles judge. The other was a rambling lament about their relationship not working out. American Pine's new store now open in Westlake Village.... come see the Pine, Oak and Cherry fumiturestore all your friends have been talking about!! IWesriokeBl WESTLAKE VILLAGE 5784 Lindero Cyn. Rd. 818707-1970 -1 It - 1. t'-r X I ' t V Wi: V v "oMpkn S Matching rurnlture also on sale. Sfj51S'gg ,UCj 'frj ft f Melissa was alarmed. While she carries a special emergency pager provided by Ventura County victims assistance officials, she worried about encountering the man during trips to town with her charges from the ranch. "I told my boss I didn't feel confident about going out into the community because my stalker had made contact with me by mail," she said. She even suggested an unpaid leave until her stalker could be convicted. Her supervisor, who had earlier commended her for coming up with a new job-skills program, passed Melissa's proposal up to his bosses in Pasadena. Within days, she was fired. "They tossed me out like Thursday night's trash," she said. Dottie Nelson, executive director of Villa Esperanza, said the agency had no choice. The ranch has no guard or security gates, she pointed out Only two staff membersone of whom was Melissa-spend all night there. "We feel really bad about it," she said. "It has nothing to do with her as an employee and everything to do with the situation she was in." While the stalker had never appeared on the grounds, the agency couldn't risk harm to its staff or clients, Nelson said. "We're there for one reason to do what's best for people who can't make decisions for themselves," she said. "They can't say, 'Yes, I'm willing to take that risk' or 'No, I'm not willing.' " As for granting Melissa an unpaid leave, Nelson was skeptical. "All that would do is put off a decision," she said. "I assume that if he's already been in jail for short periods, he could get out again in a short period." Officials from the district attorney's victims' assistance unit had offered to come to the ranch and talk about precautions. But, they said, the session was canceled after Melissa's dismissal. These days, Melissa is looking for full-time work. She talks frequently with people at the victim's assistance office and with Ventura County sheriffs detectives. She has nothing but high praise for both. Meanwhile, she does the things dismally familiar to a legion of women in her shoes. She's filling out paperwork to have her Social Security number changed. She's preparing to move again. And she's talking to lawyers who haven't been encouraging. Despite legislative efforts, no law keeps employers from firing a woman because she's a batterer's punching bag or a stalker's prey. "So what am I supposed to do?" Melissa asks. "Will this be glued to me forever?" Steve Chawklns Is a Times staff writer. His e-mall address Is steve.cia wklna laUmea.com. K .; ! Ti i I .rfMi HTTP: www, americanpine.com Both stores HAN HELP YHII HHANRF IT uan roaay ror your free uonsuiiauon j" 7" off" initTa" " ! visit with this ad. 1 Inot valid with any other offer) Dr. Drew specializes in Family Practice, has all F.D A approved medications Gncluding Meridia, Phentermine, etcJ and offers a complete weight loss program, not just medication. We have extended hours to better serve you! Call and ask about our noon & evening hours. IRST CARE MEDICAL CENTER I ir- k i 1 I 1 I v ... : : ' f ' Former Cherokee Nation leader OPTIONS Continued from Bl San Fernando Valley, organizers said. A few came from as far south as San Diego and as far north as the Bay Area. A handful live outside California. "You meet the neatest women, who are open to new ideas in their lives," Swanson said. A wide range of ages was represented, from teenagers sharing the day with their mothers to 80-year-olds. Still, Peyton and Landstrom said next year they plan to bring some younger women with them. "There's not enough teenage women here," Peyton said, "and that age is when they need this the most." This year's keynote speaker, former Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller, said she was impressed with the age range and the event. "There's a lot of energy here," Mankiller said. And with about 40 community groups and agencies promoting their offerings, "it leaves you with the impression that this is an area that cares about other people," she said. nuMESuURCE www.latimes.comhomesource v 1 I i 5 I Vi ; 1 1 i inpmijwi I ' : ' Photoe by BRYAN CHAN Loa Angeles Times Wilma Mankiller, left, addresses Creative Options audience as Vi Schultz takes part in a yoga session. Audience at Cal Lutheran reacts Mankiller, who told her audience she never imagined she would become the first female leader of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, said women, regardless of their background, often don't realize they have creative options. Service Directory BANKRUPTCY FRESH FINANCIAL START COLLECTION ACTIONS CREDITOR HARASSMENT FORECLOSURES, TAX LEVIES REPOSSESSIONS, WAGE GARNISHMENTS, BANK LEVIES FREE CONSULTATIONSBROCHURES EXPERIENCE t COMPASSION Law Offices Of KENNETH JAY SCHWARTZ 818226-1205 818906-3566 It your car, truck, RV or boat does not work, you may be able to gel your money back or a replacement. Act now or lose your rights! Call the Lemon Law Attorneys TODAY I Lawrence C. Noble & Associates 1-800-303-LEMON IrDivorce ..........$75 I Bankruptcy $150 i 'Wills $50 Jt I Living Trust $250 W& BG C3GQGS to Wilma Mankiller's keynote "We were all raised basically to be wives and mothers," she said. "I hope my being here will help eliminate any stereotypes of what a chief looks like." The day may have started with a speaker named Mankiller, but the FORMER PUBLIC DEFENDER 23 YEARS EXPERIENCE ALL CASES CALL 24 HOURS 1-800-303-5366 LAW SCHOOL Southern California Institute ojLaw Fully Accredited by State Bar of Calif. 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