Stalking bill provides more safeguards

Published 11:18 am Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In 1996, Cameron Wallace, a sophomore at an Akron-area high school, became the target of Ryan Clutter, a classmate, who brazenly stalked her for 10 years.

He followed her to the mall, staked out her house, photographed her in public and sent e-mails that described how he planned to kill her.

Her terrifying story, which revealed a serious need to bolster Ohio’s stalking law, was the inspiration for Senate Bill 244, legislation approved by the Senate this past week that would help expand protections for victims of this terrible crime.

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Cameron Wallace sat next to Ryan Clutter in one class at Coventry High School. Ryan was a quiet, socially-withdrawn kid, who was often teased by his fellow students. Cameron was a friendly, outgoing, popular girl. They never dated or spent time together outside of class.

However, Cameron began to see Ryan in public on a regular basis. When she went to the movies with friends, he would be sitting one row behind her. When she went shopping at the mall, he would be there. When she was driving, he would follow her. He would call and e-mail her repeatedly.

Camer-on took her case to law enforcement, but without much evidence of wrongdoing, the police told her there wasn’t much they could do to stop it. Finally, in 2003, Ryan was arrested for menacing and given probation, and Cameron was able to secure a protection order through the court. Unfortunately, the stalking just got worse.

After Cameron moved in with her mom, Ryan found her and began hiding in the woods behind the house. He sent her threatening e-mails.

According to an article in the Akron Beacon Journal, one e-mail read: “I’ve been thinking, if you are gone, would you still matter? Probably not. My only fear is some completely new girl would be my target…”

Ryan also took photographs of Cameron in public and e-mailed them to her. One night, he even broke into her home and took a picture of her sleeping and then sent the photo to her. Cameron took this photo to police, who were finally able to obtain a search warrant for Ryan’s apartment.

In Ryan’s home, investigators found photos of Cameron plastered all over the walls, as well as stolen pieces of her clothing. In addition, they discovered a .45 caliber handgun and a black rose, which is the symbol of death and revenge. Based on these findings, police believe that Cameron could have been murdered at any moment.

The judge who heard Ryan’s case gave him the maximum sentence of 13 years. While her stalker was finally sent to prison, Cameron’s decade-long ordeal raised serious questions about the effectiveness of Ohio’s stalking laws.

On Nov. 19, the Senate voted unanimously to approve Senate Bill 244, legislation sponsored by State Sen. Tom Sawyer (D-Akron), which would give judges the discretion to use electronic monitoring devices to ensure a protection order is not violated.

In Cameron’s case, police were unable to take legal action against Ryan, because they had no evidence that he had violated the court’s order. SB 244 now moves to the Ohio House for further consideration.

Stalking is a serious problem that impacts hundreds of Ohioans each year. SB 244 would give law enforcement greater tools to monitor stalkers, while hopefully providing some needed peace of mind to the victims of this serious crime.