Wednesday, April 05, 2006

People v. Markley (Cal. Ct. App. - April 3, 2006)

There's something especially creepy about this one to me.

Maybe it's because the stalking occurred in San Diego; i.e., in my back yard. Maybe it's because the stalker was a woman -- a reversal of what you usually see in these kind of cases. Maybe it's because the situation in which the stalkee found himself was something that could totally happen to anyone. Maybe it's because the stalker -- Mary Markley -- was so incredibly persistent. And maybe it's just because the things that the stalker said are so darn weird; and, yet, strangely enough, something that you could totally believe that someone would say.

Here's a (not-so-) brief summary of the relationship and the stalking. Interlaced with my comments, of course:

Markley met Richard Habicht in the late 1990s when she was a customer at his furniture store. Markley visited the store on several occasions, and she and Habicht engaged in casual conversations, usually concerning real estate. . . . Habicht eventually bought a house located near his store, without Markley's assistance. Markley asked Habicht to meet her at the house, which was vacant at the time, for lunch. Habicht agreed, believing Markley intended to talk with him about reselling the house or renting it for him. Instead, Markley told Habicht that she loved him, and that she wanted to have a child with him and live in his house. [Ed. Note: Yikes! Get me out of here!] Habicht was flabbergasted and told Markley that would not happen. Prior to this occasion, there had never been any romantic overtures or expressions of affection between Markley and Habicht.

Within the next month, Habicht accepted two dinner invitations from Markley. [Ed. Note: What a total, total mistake! What are you thinking, dude?! She just told you that she loved you and wanted to have a kid with you. This is NOT someone you "go to dinner" with if you're uninterested!] The only physical intimacy between them during this period of time was a hug. [P.S. - Hugging probably not a good idea either.] During the second dinner, Markley insisted that she and Habicht had previously met while skiing at Mammoth Mountain, and that she knew his parents. Habicht knew these statements were not true and began to believe something was wrong with Markley. Habicht told Markley he did not want to see her anymore. [No kidding!]

Markley continued coming to Habicht's store and asking for him. She also telephoned him at his home. Markley apparently believed Habicht was calling her, and became agitated when he denied it. Habicht was concerned about Markley's behavior and suggested that she seek help.

Linda Holden was Habicht's store manager. Markley came into the store one day and asked for Habicht. Holden told her that Habicht was not there and said that Markley should not be in the store. Referring to Habicht, Markley said, "I could just kill him." [Double Yikes!] Holden believed Markley's threat was serious, and this caused Holden to be afraid. She immediately notified Habicht. On another occasion when Markley came to the store, she challenged Holden to call the police, saying, "Oh, Linda, you don't want to do that." Holden perceived this as a threat as well.

Markley telephoned Habicht to say she was accepting his proposal of marriage. [Triple Yikes!!] Habicht had made no such proposal. After Markley made the comment that she could kill Habicht, he became concerned for his safety and the for safety of his employees, and decided to seek a restraining order. [For sure.] Markley was present in court at the hearing on the request for a restraining order. She told Habicht "the only reason we should be here is to get married." [Oh my. Welcome to Nutsville. Population: You.]

During the hearing, Markley admitted that the allegations in the application for a restraining order were true, and the court issued a restraining order. In spite of the restraining order, Markley resumed calling Habicht at home. Habicht hung up the telephone when Markley identified herself. Markley also continued going to Habicht's store, and her demeanor became increasingly aggressive and angry. . . .

One evening, Markley went to Habicht's house and knocked on the door, saying that she needed to talk to him. Habicht asked her to leave and told her he was calling the police. Markley told Habicht that she loved him. [Note: When someone says "I'm calling the police," the appropriate response is not "I love you." If you ever find yourself saying that, there's probably something seriously wrong with you.] The police arrived 20 minutes later and arrested her. After that night, Habicht borrowed his father's gun and kept it next to his bed. Habicht viewed Markley's repeated and unwanted visits and contact as a threat. He was afraid Markley was going to kill him.

Following her arrest and subsequent incarceration, Markley was placed on probation under the supervision of Probation Officer Anna Guzman. Guzman discussed with Markley her probation conditions, including the condition that she stay away from Habicht and his store. Markley agreed to comply. During the period of Markley's probation, Guzman repeated to Markley the terms of the stay-away warning between 50 and 150 times, emphasizing that Habicht was afraid of Markley. Markley told Guzman that she was in love with Habicht and that he was sending messages to her that meant they were destined to be together. After assessing and evaluating Markley's case, Guzman believed Markley was at high risk to reoffend. [No rocket science there.] Guzman instructed Habicht and Holden to call her if Markley were to contact them.

Within several months, Markley went to Habicht's store and was arrested. At a probation violation hearing, the court ordered Markley to stay away from Habicht. In spite of the order, Markley again returned to Habicht's store. Markley appeared angry and said she would try to forgive Holden for having her arrested. Markley also asked Holden whether she had ever been strip searched. Holden interpreted those statements as threats. Markley was again arrested. At the probation violation hearing following this arrest, the court and Guzman again admonished Markley to cease all contact with Habicht. [Remind me exactly what it takes to get violated in San Diego again? How many times do you have to continue to stalk someone until they finally put you away?]

Several months later, Holden received a telephone call from someone purporting to be from the District Attorney's office. Holden later discovered that Markley had placed the call. Habicht received about six calls from Markley while Markley was incarcerated. Guzman had Markley's jail telephone privileges suspended because of her increasing defiance of the court's restraining order. Markley pled guilty to another series of restraining order violations and was again sentenced to probation. [Boy, we're really getting tough on her now!] As a condition of probation, Markley was to move home to Iowa. [Ah, the classic punishment: Banishment.] She was informed that if she were to return to California, she would face additional penalties and charges.

Within two months, Markley again appeared at Habicht's store. When Holden told Markley to leave, Markley told Holden that Holden would not have a job as soon as Markley and Habicht were married [!], and said that she did not appreciate Holden getting in their way. Markley was even more angry, agitated, frustrated and desperate than she had been on prior occasions. Later that day, Markley telephoned Habicht and said, "How dare you set me up." Markley was again arrested for violating probation. Guzman arranged for Markley to return to Iowa. Once Guzman confirmed that Markley was in Iowa, she informed Habicht, who was relieved.

Three months later, Habicht received seven or eight telephone calls from Markley. She told him that he should be in Iowa with her, or they should be married. [Or, alternately, that one of them should be in intensive therapy.] On December 31, 2001, Markley went to the home of Habicht's parents, who lived two houses away from Habicht. [Oh my. Now she's stalking my parents.] Markley told Habicht's father, Albert, that she loved Habicht and wanted to see him. Albert told Markley to go away and to stop bothering Habicht.

The following day, Markley returned to Habicht's parents' house and rang the doorbell. Habicht's mother, Madeline, asked who was there, and did not open the door. Markley identified herself and said she wanted to wish Habicht happy holidays. Madeline knew that Habicht was afraid of Markley, and told her to stay away. Markley left, but returned later that day in an airport van. She telephoned Habicht and told him that she was at his house. Habicht told Markley he would be right there. When he got off the telephone with Markley, he called the police. Habicht then went to his house.

When he arrived, Markley was sitting outside Habicht's house with her luggage next to her. [Creepy.] Habicht told her that the police were coming to arrest her. In response, Markley said that the only car that should be coming was a limousine to take them to Las Vegas to get married. [At least she's got a sense of humor. Or at least a delusion that's somewhat funny. In a pathetic sort of way.] The police arrived and arrested Markley. This incident resulted in the stalking charge for which Markley was convicted in a court trial in 2002. She served a prison term [finally!] and was paroled on March 28, 2004. She did not appeal her conviction. As a condition of her parole, Markley was prohibited from contacting Habicht or his family and friends, and from passing near where Habicht lived or worked. A correctional counselor discussed Markley's parole terms with her, and she signed a form indicating that she understood them. Neither Habicht nor Holden was informed when Markley was released from prison. [That makes sense!]

One day after Markley was released on parole, she went to Habicht's house. [That took a long time! Prison really rehabilitated her, huh?] The doors were open and a contractor, Jim Southard, was installing hardwood floors. . . . Markley told Southard she was a friend and neighbor of Habicht and asked Southard if he had seen Habicht. Southard told Markley that Habicht had been there earlier that day. Markley asked if she could look around and Southard said she could. Markley went upstairs to the master bedroom and Southard did not see her again. [I shudder to think what Markley did up there in his bedroom.]

That same day, Markley went to Habicht's store. She was very friendly to Holden and asked where Habicht was. When Holden told Markley that Habicht was not there, Markley walked to the back of the store. Holden called Habicht and then called the police. Habicht and a police officer arrived at the store ten minutes later. Markley was sitting in a chair reading a magazine. Markley told the officer she was there to see Habicht and admitted that she was on parole. The officer placed her under arrest.

So that's the story. Are you as creeped out as I am? There but for the grace of God, I guess . . . .

POST-SCRIPT (4/10/2006): One of my students came in to my office today and mentioned that he was on the jury in this case, and that the story was even more bizarre and weird than I had thought. Among other things, he mentioned that the stalker represented herself, that deliberations took only around 45 minutes (most of which was spent deciding who would be the foreperson!), and that the stalkee was obviously distressed about the whole situation, including both crying and occasionally screaming at the stalker (who, remember, was cross-examining the stalkee herself!) on the stand. Life. Even weirder than you might think.