Wyoming Legislators, Law Enforcement Push For Tougher Stalking Laws
Vicki Kadlick's 58-year-old sister lived in a small town in Colorado, and was a happily married mother.
That was before a neighbor fixated on her and began stalking her, Kadlick said at a news conference at Casper College on Thursday.
The stalking escalated over five years. Her sister finally had him arrested and she obtained a protection order effective 10 yards from wherever she was. He was released the same day as his arrest. A hearing was set for his court appearance two weeks later, Kadlick said.
"On July 7, 2010, just before the hearing, he stepped out behind a fence when she pulled into her driveway," she said. "He shot her twice and then he killed himself."
People in her sister's small town were angry at the police because they didn't do enough. But police followed Colorado's stalking laws as best as they could, Kadlick said.
Since then, the Colorado stalking laws have been strengthened in the name of her sister, she said.
The same thing needs to happen in Wyoming, she and others said.
Legislators, law enforcement and social agencies have been working toward that end, with the intention of submitting amendments to the existing stalking law during the Legislature's General Session that begins Jan. 10.
Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, said the proposed amendments would include social media as a form of harassment and give more leeway to judges.
"It pulls in importantly that definition of social media, and it includes social media as a piece of that harassment definition," Landen said. "The other thing it does is it gives the judge a little bit more leeway to allow for more probationary time and more jail time."
Wyoming law is lax on punishment for stalking, Natrona County Sheriff's Officer Taylor Courtney said.
Courtney and others have been working on a case of a local businessman and his wife -- "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" -- who were in the process of a divorce, he said.
Initially, Mr. Smith hit Mrs. Smith on Sept. 27 of an unnamed year. He was arrested and bonded out.
He knew the passwords for the family's two iPhones, tablet and two computers and he knew how to contact them. He installed spyware that allowed him to conceal his phone number and alter his voice. Law enforcement gave Mrs. Smith a flip phone without the capabilities of iPhones.
Despite an exparte order, and a charging document, Mr. Smith showed up at Mrs. Smith's residence on Oct. 8. He was arrested and again bonded out.
On Oct. 24, he sent a message to her saying he will burn down her house.
The Casper Police Department arrested him for felony stalking, but he could not be prosecuted on a felony level because of the current laws, Courtney said.
Even though his bond was set at $10,000, he again bonded out immediately.
Mr. Smith served a total of 15 days in jail for misdemeanors.
Law enforcement had to move Mrs. Smith out of state because, as Courtney said, "this is when people die."
This ongoing incident has cost law enforcement 600 hours of work and so far between $18,000 and $24,000 to investigate. Mr. Smith can afford to hire four attorneys. The case continues.
"Mrs. Smith is you sister, niece, aunt," Courtney said. "What do you want law enforcement to do?"
Courtney wants stalking laws to become high misdemeanors, and he and Landen want a much lower bar to prosecute felony stalking.
"If they have done this before and they get done with their probation and they do it again, then we're suggesting that should be a felony," Landen said. "If they violate a protection order, essentially spitting in the face of law enforcement, there should be consequences for that."