A woman in San Diego, California, was sentenced to electronic surveillance and probation after she tormented and pulled cruel jokes on a young couple that outbid her on her dream home.
Jerry Rice, 40, and Janice Ruhter, 37, moved into their upscale Carmel Valley home in 2011, and soon began experiencing strange things. They stopped receiving mail over Christmas, were constantly sent magazine subscriptions that they didn’t purchase and neighborhood couples received Valentine’s Day cards from Rice addressed to the wives.
The confused couple did some investigating, and discovered that the pranks didn’t stop there. On the Internet, there were ads posted that invited men to visit the couple’s home and perform sex acts on Ruhter while Rice wasn’t home.
One particularly disturbing incident involved someone posing as Ruhter and engaging in conversations online with men, encouraging them to force their way into her home and rape her. “I love to be surprised and have a man just show up at my door and force his way in the door and on me, totally taking me while I say no,” one conversation read.
“They knew they were a target but didn't know by who,” San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Brendan McHugh said.
Authorities subsequently began an investigation, which led them to 53-year-old Kathy Rowe. Rowe reportedly was outbid by the couple on the $700,000 home and became so enraged that she began to seek revenge.
“She knew what she was doing,” McHugh said. “It is one of the most disturbing cases I have handled. She really terrorized this young couple. They have had to seek out counseling to cope with it."
At her sentencing, Rowe expressed remorse for what she had done to the couple. “I just wanted to say how humiliated I am by my behavior – that this is not representative of who I am. I've never behaved like this – never will again,” Rowe said.
“I wish I can go back and take all of this away from the Rices. All of the things I put them through."
Rowe, who was named one of San Diego’s 50 Best Moms in 2006, claimed she had become overwhelmed from caring for her disabled daughter and ill husband. “Under no circumstance did she intend or want any harm to be done to the owners of the house,” her lawyer, Brad Patton, said. Rowe allegedly had her heart set on the home particularly because it was a single-story house that could accommodate her daughter’s needs. She said that losing the house was “devastating.”
Rowe was sentenced to one year of electronic surveillance, five years of probation and was ordered to stay away from Rice and Ruhter for 10 years.
The couple believes that had law enforcement not stepped in, Rowe would have continued to terrorize them and potentially cause serious physical harm to a member of their family. Ruhter said the entire situation was traumatizing.
“The home should be a place of safety and sanctuary,” she said. “But I never truly felt this way in our house. I felt most secure away from my home. The house became my prison.”