For most people, buying a home is high on the list of lifetime goals. And since the process of saving for and choosing a house can be difficult, it ultimately makes it all the more special when you finally decide where you’ll settle down with your family.

For one couple, finding their perfect home was a bit tedious. But with the help of their realtor, they were eventually able to outlast a bidding war and move into the right one. It wasn’t long after, however, that their dream turned into a nightmare…

Buying a first home is a major achievement for anyone. This was something that Jerry Rice and Janice Ruhter of San Diego, California, certainly understood. The parents of one child and with another on the way, they had to find the perfect house pronto!

Eventually, they found a small home in Carmel Valley, thanks to the help of their agent, Renee Milton. The house was quaint and in a peaceful neighborhood. As their move-in date approached, they could barely wait to unpack their boxes and get settled…

Once they moved in, Jerry and Janice’s lives seemed perfect, and they truly loved their new neighborhood. A month later, though, a note offering to buy their home for $100,000 suddenly appeared on their doorstep. They soon realized that their new dream home was nothing if not a total nightmare…

The following day, the couple was stunned when they noticed their home had been listed on the popular online real estate website Zillow. When they learned their realtor had nothing to do with the listing, they were even more confounded.

Jerry and Janice chose to ignore the anonymous letter, but that only made things worse. Soon, the person began harassing the family. They were signed up for a number of random magazine subscriptions, and they even received bills for $1,000 worth of bladder control products.

When someone created an online invitation for a New Year’s Eve party at their home, Jerry realized that they were being targeted. But who could possibly have any reason to harass such a nice couple like that?

The pranking—if you could call it that—only worsened from there. One evening, Jerry and Janice’s neighbor, Paul Abel, suddenly appeared at their door, upset. He said his wife, Tanya, had received a Valentine’s Day card signed by Jerry. Jerry had never met Tanya before, let alone sent her a romantic card!

Tanya wasn’t the only person who received a Valentine’s Day card from Jerry; one was sent to every wife in Carmel Valley! Jerry was forced to apologize to everyone and reassure them that he didn’t do it. When he spoke to authorities, they suggested that someone was harassing the couple.

That’s when Jerry and Janice decided they’d had enough. They installed security cameras around their home and they even put spikes on their fence. Janice also signed up for self-defense classes and planned an escape route in case of an emergency.

Jerry’s fear that someone was watching them turned to torment; he lost sleep, became distant, and obsessed over his family’s safety. All he could do was wonder what their harasser would do next—and it wasn’t long before that happened.

Suddenly, an ad appeared online featuring Janice’s face, address, phone number, and the headline “Carmel Valley adult entertainment.” A portion of the ad read: “Come see me during the day while my husband is at work and we can get our freak on.” Enraged, Jerry contacted police; men were already reaching out to Janice!

One man received a response that read “Just stop by any Monday-Friday, 9 am-3 pm. I like the element of surprise.” Janice’s imposter added, “I’m pretty much home all day, every day, bored and incredibly horny. I love to be surprised and have a man just show up at the door and force his way in.”

One of the would-be customers actually showed up at their home. But when he realized Janice wasn’t there—because Jerry answered the door—the man ran away. The man then emailed Janice’s imposter and said, “A guy was there. Had to make up an excuse why I was there.”

After exhausting all options, Jerry and Janice desperately dug for clues with the hopes that they’d uncover the anonymous person’s actual identity. That’s when they remembered the note they’d received from the person who wanted to purchase their home…

They quickly located the woman on Facebook—and Janice immediately recognized the woman! She’d actually visited their home while trick-or-treating on Halloween. The couple immediately alerted the county prosecutor, who’d never seen this type of harassment before.

Police soon learned that Kathy Rowe, a 53-year-old county worker with an ill husband and disabled daughter, had been one of the people who’d been interested in the Carmel Valley home before being outbid by Jerry and Janice. Extremely upset, Kathy apparently decided to get revenge.

Kathy couldn’t stand that someone else had won the home she wanted to move into with her family. “When I walked in, I felt like it was my house,” she revealed during an interview with Dr. Phil. “I was jealous, destroyed and devastated with pain and depression.”

A task force was eventually able to trace all evidence back to Kathy. When she was arrested, she openly admitted to putting Jerry and Janice through mental anguish with her series of pranks, for which she faced up to nine years in a federal prison.

Yet, after making an apology and a plea of felony stalking, Kathy was only sentenced to serve one year on house arrest. She’d have to wear an ankle monitor around the clock and she’d be on probation for five years.

What an awful introduction to their new neighborhood! It’s so depressing to think that this couple was just beginning their lives when they had to go through such mental distress.

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