“My fair lady,” the rambling anonymous letter began. “ ... It wasn’t until Sunday when I saw you on air, that I thought to see if the cute VW convertible, which I noticed at the address I had found in an old phone book of mine, was parked behind the station. ... So, if you do happen to notice the odd car with dark tint pulling in behind you, hope it’s me but expect it not to be.”
The listing of too-close-for-comfort comments continued for four handwritten pages. It had been left it on the car of Jennifer Nime (now Jennifer Nime Palumbo), a reporter and anchor for Fox 56, in 2000.
It was signed “JP,” although initially police thought the letters looked like “JS.” The letter-writer had also left a rose on Nime’s car. She had no idea who he was, but he thought he knew her well.
“JP” had already left a card stuffed into the crack of her front door with a cat on the front and an inscription inside: “Lonely is the man who chooses his own path.”
“It was a connection that had gone too far and was one-sided,” Palumbo, 47, said in a recent interview.
She is recounting her experience now as a way to support the statewide adoption of the constitutional amendment known as “Marsy’s Law,” which expands victims’ rights in cases such as Nime’s. The first “Marsy’s Law” was passed in California in 2008; it has also been passed in Illinois and Ohio, among other states.
Marsy Nicholas, in 1983 a college student at the University of California Santa Barbara, was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend. A week after Nicholas’ funeral, her mother and brother ran into Nicholas’ killer in a grocery store. He was out on bail. They had no idea.
Kentucky’s version of “Marsy’s Law” for crime victims won final passage in the General Assembly on Jan. 24 and will go on the November ballot. Palumbo, now a broadcast freelancer and normally the sunniest of Tweeters and a dedicated member of Big Blue Nation, took the moment to Tweet about something that had bothered her for nearly 18 years: how victims are treated in Kentucky.
“I hope voters approve it in November,” she Tweeted about Marsy’s Law on Jan. 25. “Marsy’s Law is named for a woman killed by a stalker. I feel for all the women living in fear. I was one of them.”
Marsy’s Law for Kentucky proponents say it will give crime victims rights they do not now have. Opponents say the rights laid out in Marsy’s Law are already available. If they are, Palumbo said, they are not consistently applied. Thirty-five other states have adopted constitutional protections for victims of crime; six have passed Marsy’s Law.
In California, victims are given a Marsy’s Card detailing their rights, including protection from the defendant, victim safety considerations in setting bail and release, refusal to be interviewed by the defense, appearance at any court proceeding and prevention of the disclosure of confidential information. It is not clear how the law would be administered in Kentucky.
Jennifer Nime’s suspicions may have saved her from becoming a victim.
On Oct. 5, 2000, Nime was in Danville covering the vice presidential debate between Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman. She got home about 1 a.m. and saw a limousine in front of her house, with dark-tinted windows.
She drove to a Kroger and called the police, who discovered that the car’s plates had been removed. Inside the car was Jarid Patterson, 26. On the dashboard, police found a loaded gun, according to court documents.
Patterson was arrested on a charge of stalking and held on a $25,000 cash bond. He was convicted of a misdemeanor stalking charge. Patterson had to turn over his gun and not contact Nime for two years, according to court documents.
Nime never heard from him again.
Jim Ogle, Nime’s news director, took the lead in protecting her, a benefit that Nime said is not available to many victims of stalking. He alerted station employees that Patterson was out on a $25,000 bond. He told them to call 911 if they saw a man who looked like Patterson: “Quite frankly, because he had a gun when arrested, you do not want to take the chance of arousing his suspicion if you do see him,” Ogle said in a memo to station employees.
An employee stayed on the phone with Nime daily until she got home, listening as she walked room to room making sure no one had broken in. Police cruised the station parking lot.
“In my case, my boss was my advocate,” Nime said. “I felt completely open and vulnerable at my workplace.”
Ogle appeared on Nime’s behalf in court while Nime second-guessed herself, trying to find the good in her stalker: Maybe the guy had just wanted to make sure she got home safely. But why remove the license plates? And why the gun?
In September 2002, Nime was among the news anchors featured in a Glamour magazine article on how stalkers flock to female news personalities. Some wound up in more dire situations than Nime. Jodi Huisentruit, 27, disappeared from Mason City, Iowa, in 1995 after telling her producer on the phone that she would be at work shortly. Kathryn Dettman, an anchor in Waco, Texas was stabbed to death with a screwdriver by a stalker in 1998.
But the psychologist assigned to evaluate Patterson concluded that he “does not represent a current threat (in any form) to the woman to whom he wrote the notes (Jennifer Nime),” according to court records.
“Jarid is not psychotic,” the psychologist’s letter said. “He understands and is responsible for his behavior. He has no previous history of mental health treatment. ... Jarid has little history of aggressive behavior and does not represent a substantial threat to anyone at the present time.”
The letter said that Patterson, “although insistent that he meant her no harm, ... was able to understand that his unwanted attention was upsetting to her.”
The Glamour article quoted forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz saying that one in 12 American women will be stalked in her lifetime. For female news anchors, being stalked “is virtually a certainty,” he said.
Jennifer Nime went on to marry Joe Palumbo, president of Palumbo Lumber and Development Company, in 2003. The couple has two children, Anna, 13, and John, 11.
The stalking experience has made her a wary mother: “I don’t want them to live in that bubble that the world is a safe place,” she said of her children. “After this happened to me, I viewed the world through an entirely different prism.”
That brought her to Marsy’s Law: “That really struck a chord with me,” Palumbo said. “I want all the crime victims to have a bigger voice. ... I don’t feel that the system failed me. ... But it needs to be uniform, and if this law will do it, I say do it.”
But although the constitutional amendment text is written in a completely innocuous manner, some, such as Nelson County Attorney Matthew Hite, wonder how much passage of Marsy’s Law will ultimately help Kentucky victims. Hite wonders if victims will get their own lawyers under the amendment, and if so whether the state will pay for them. Hite said that stepping up the number of victims’ rights advocates working statewide would be a better way to assure that victims get their due.
“I just don’t believe a constitutional amendment is the way to accomplish it,” Hite said. “I think it’s going to be more window dressing.”
Ray Larson, the retired Fayette County prosecutor, said that the constitutional amendment is necessary to ensure victims’ rights statewide and not just in counties that emphasize helping victims.
“Victims have been treated like trash, clearly second-class citizens, by the court system, by all the players in the court system,” Larson said. “They just are treated as an afterthought. I am particularly offended by that, and have been for a long time.”
About Marsy’s Law in Kentucky
The text that Kentucky voters will see in November: “Are you in favor of providing constitutional rights to victims of crime, including the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and the right to be informed and to have a voice in the judicial process?”
Marsy’s Law was the first bill to pass both the Senate (36-1) and House (87-3) in the 2018 legislative session. To learn more about the drive to pass the law as a constitutional amendment, go to Marsy’s Law Kentucky.