Kathy Rowe has a husband battling cancer and a severely disabled daughter. She also has a problem letting go. And by problem, I mean a severe moral blindspot and now most likely a felony record and maybe a spot on the sex offender registry.
Kathy Rowe, 53, needed a home for her severely disabled daughter and ill husband. Rowe worked full time and slept every night in a chair in her daughter’s room. In 2006, her dedication won her a spot on a list of San Diego’s 50 best moms in a local contest.
Rowe said she knew exactly the kind of house she needed. She wanted to be in Carmel Valley, a planned community, and needed a single-story house and private garden for her daughter and a pool for her husband so he could exercise.
“Our needs were so specific that I handed out fliers to every single one-story house in our area, saw every single-story house the same day it went on the market, and spent considerable time trying to find a new home that met our needs so we could finally have our forever home,” Rowe said.
Rowe said she visited the house as soon as it came on the market. It had three bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, a pool and garden and a red-tile roof.
“I knew the minute I walked in that it was my new home,” Rowe said in a statement filed in San Diego County Superior Court. “Having it right in front of us was like a dream come true.”
Rowe said she made an offer and assumed she would soon get the keys, but Rice and Ruhter got the house.
She offered the couple $100,000 more than the $779,000 they paid, but Rowe said she did not hear back from the couple.
“Losing that house was devastating to my family and broke our hearts,” Rowe said. “Every time my husband would say, ‘If only we got that house,’ or my daughter wanted to go outside to play, it would just tear at my heart.”
Rice and Ruhter received the keys to their new home in September 2011. Within weeks, strangers were ringing the doorbell.
Unbeknown to the new owners, someone had listed the house for sale on the Internet.
“I didn’t know what was going on until after the second or third person,” Rice said. “I asked, actually, a real estate agent. She told me it was posted on Zillow for sale.”
In December, the crush of Christmas mail suddenly stopped. When Rice went to the post office, he found out that someone using his wife’s name had put a one-month hold on the mail.
Then the mail arrived in torrents: thousands of dollars of magazines and books that someone had ordered without their permission and junk mail addressed to Jacques Arse.
In February, someone sent Valentine’s Day cards to the couple’s female neighbors. “Thinking of you,” said the cards, signed with Rice’s initials. He learned of them from the husband of one of the women.
“I wasn’t quite sure what was going on until he showed me the envelope, and it was addressed to his wife,” Rice said. “And it was from me.”
Two FBI agents met with Rowe a year after she didn’t get her dream house. She initially was evasive, the FBI agents said, but then admitted to having played “childish pranks to let off steam and ease the pain.”
One of her sex ads attracted the attention of two men, according to prosecution evidence cited in a defense appellate brief and an appeals court ruling.
“Just stop by any Monday-Friday 9am-3pm,” Rowe said, according to the ruling. “I like the element of surprise.”
“Location?” the man, identified in the appeals court ruling as JM, emailed back.
Rowe gave him Ruhter’s address, the ruling said.
I’m pretty sure I know how this happened… she’s beat down and got obsessed over this idealized dream house and started unraveling a sweater and “couldn’t” — didn’t — stop pulling that thread. That is in no way meant to justify what she did — and you need to read the rest of it at the link above for the worst part — but just by way of explanation. I’m of two minds between probation and prison. My main qualm about prison is not for her, but for her daughter and the cost of it. On the other hand… the victims here suffered mightily for a couple of years directly related to her actions. What say you?