High school math teacher Rodney Weikle—whose daughter Melissa had been dating Lippard's boyfriend Todd Scott and was eight months pregnant with his child—soon found himself scuffling in the house with the nearly 6-foot-tall blonde stranger. She smashed him on the head with the hammer, then pulled the gun. But Weikle, 50, a former Secret Service agent, managed to get Lippard in a chokehold while Melissa called police. Later, Lippard would claim the whole thing had been a horrible misunderstanding. "I kept thinking, 'Did I do something?' " she testified. "I am not a person who would harm someone else."
What she did, in fact, seemed to resemble something from the plotline of Fatal Attraction. Last week, in a courtroom in Lewisburg, with his client facing attempted murder charges, attorney Paul Detch tried to downplay the comparison. Lippard, he said, was "a scared, somewhat shy and immature woman who came up to West Virginia to make a fool of herself." But not many agreed. As Rodney Weikle told the court, jealousy had apparently turned Lippard murderous. "I guess she was going to kill us all and burn the house down," he said.
There is no doubt that Lippard and Todd Scott, now 26, shared a brief but complicated relationship. They met in November 1993 at a bar in Newport News, Va. Lippard was working at JC Penney and as a karaoke deejay, as well as entering beauty pageants all over the state. Scott was working nearby for an environmental clean-up company and returning home on weekends to his apartment in High Point, N.C.
They dated several times a week, and at one point Lippard wrote in her diary that Scott had told her he loved her and had asked her to marry him. "I said of course I would you fool," she noted. Scott testified he had always considered their romance a "casual" fling.
Then last December, Lippard discovered that Scott had a fiancée, identified only as Shelly, living at his place in High Point. When Lippard confronted him, he admitted the truth—and also told her that another sometime flame, Melissa Weikle, now 25, had informed him she was expecting their child. Though Lippard was distraught, the relationship with Scott sputtered on for another two months until, he says, he tried to make a clean break in mid-February.
On Feb. 26, Lippard was to be onstage at a local Days Inn auditorium to crown her successor Miss Williamsburg. She had told her mother just days before the pageant that she was saving a front-row seat for Scott and that she planned to sing their song, "The Power of Love," at the festivities. But when Scott didn't show up, Lippard was hurt and angry. "He knew that was very, very important to me," she testified at her trial. "Where was Todd? This was, like, the last lie. I couldn't deal with it anymore." The next day she headed for Lewisburg, where she knew Melissa lived, and where she planned to confront Scott.
At her trial, Lippard cast her mission as one of prankish revenge. She claimed she had thoughts of using the lighter fluid to ruin the finish on Scott's car, and that the butcher knife was to slash the tires. As for the gun, she insisted she had brought it along for protection, in case Scott lost his temper during the showdown.
But the prosecution ridiculed her explanations—first about the hammer blow she had inflicted on Weikle. Lippard maintained she had no memory of swinging the hammer, but could not explain why she was found with the handle in her hand and the head broken off. (Asked on the stand if perhaps she had had an out-of-body experience, she sheepishly replied, "No.") The prosecution then called one of Lippard's cellmates—Lippard had been held in the Greenbrier county jail for five days following the attack on Weikle—who testified that Lippard had told fellow prisoners that she intended to kill Rodney and Carlynn Weikle, then cut Melissa open and remove the baby before using lighter fluid to burn the house down. According to the jailmate, Lippard called it the perfect plan.
That alleged scenario may have made spectators in the courtroom wince. But it didn't entirely surprise those who claimed to know about Lippard's obsessive behavior toward boyfriends over the years. Born in Fort Rucker, Ala., she was raised with younger sister Amy in Virginia. After her parents split up, her mother, Leta, was remarried, this time to a dentist named Hal Lippard. Tracy attended a community college in Newport News and while there began seeing Randy Lawhon, a photocopier salesman eight years her senior. When Lawhon broke off the relationship after a few months, he says, Lippard took the rejection hard and kept calling him even after he started dating someone else. "After she was arrested," says Selina Peaden, Lawhon's current girlfriend, "we looked at each other and said, 'Damn, that could have been us; "
In another case, Lippard's fixation allegedly became downright scary. A man in Newport News, insisting on anonymity, confirms that after he broke up with Lippard several years ago, she began following and threatening his fiancée. "She and [Fatal Attraction's] Glenn Close have a lot in common," says the man.
At one point in the five-day trial, attorney Detch asked the jurors, "Look at my client. Do you think she is some Barbie doll gone bad?" In the end the jurors answered, in effect, yes—sort of. They convicted Lippard of two reduced counts of second-degree attempted murder—misdemeanors under West Virginia law. The verdict, which carries a maximum penalty of 6½ years in prison, but in practice may mean serving only a few months, angered Todd, who married Melissa in August, four months after they became the parents of a baby girl, Julia. And it did nothing to reassure them about the depth of Lippard's obsession. "I'm always going to have to look over my shoulder," says Melissa. "I'm sure I'll still have a few nightmares."
STEPHANIE SLEWKA in Lewisburg and JEFF STEIN in Newport News
- Stephanie Slewka,
- Jeff Stein.
TALL AND STRIKING, LOOKING EVERY inch the beauty queen she was, Tracy Lippard showed up at the red-brick ranch home in Lewisburg, W. Va., last Feb. 27, claiming her car had broken down and asking to use the phone. The former Miss Williamsburg, 23, was dressed in a stylish blazer and black-and-white sweater, but her pockets bulged with some decidedly awkward accessories: a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol, a butcher knife, rubber gloves, a bottle of lighter fluid and allegedly a claw hammer.