Bloody Obsessions

updated 05/17/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/17/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The most serious stalking cases culminate in violence or death, as the world was vividly reminded last week when TV cameras captured the stabbing of tennis star Monica Seles. The majority of victims, though, are not celebrities but ordinary people who suddenly find themselves being terrorized by ex-lovers, former friends or, in some cases, people they barely know. Some recent tragedies might well have been averted if antistalking laws had been in place and vigorously enforced.

A tennis star is knifed by a loner who idolized her closest rival

For all her on-court bravado, Monica Seles, 19, worried about the dangers of fame. "My life is a prison," she said just after becoming the world's top player in 1991. "It gets pretty scary sometimes." She had good reason to think so. On April 30, a man plunged a nine-inch serrated boning knife into her back during a tennis match in Hamburg, Germany. Seles escaped serious injury but suffered tissue damage and could be sidelined for weeks.

Authorities said that her attacker, Günter Parche, 38, had shadowed Seles throughout the week-long tournament. His motive: a crazed desire to advance the fortunes of Seles' main competitor, his fellow German Steffi Graf. Parche, an unemployed lathe operator, lived in his aunt's attic in Görsbach, Thuringia, in eastern Germany, where he had created a shrine comprising posters and videos of Graf.

There have been whispers on the tennis circuit that Seles had been receiving politically motivated death threats as well. Born in a Serbian-dominated area of Yugoslavia, the young champion—who has lived in the U.S. since 1980—has refused to lake sides as her former homeland disintegrated into civil war. But last week at a press conference in Vail, Colo., where she is recuperating, Seles would not confirm or deny the stories. "There are so many rumors out there," she told reporters. "If I start saying yes or no to each one of them, it's not going to do me any good." In any event, she says, she has no intention of letting the incident drive her from tennis. "I love this game too much," she says with a laugh. "I just want to get back, hit the ball, have fun and go forward with my life."

The system fails an art student threatened by her boyfriend

It didn't take long before Kristin Lardner, 21, knew there was something frightening about Michael Cartier, 22, a bouncer at a Boston nightclub. He hit her about a month after they started dating in January 1992. Then, in April, he beat her violently, and she broke off their relationship. The spurned Cartier began calling her apartment as often as 10 times a day. He also showed up at the liquor store where she worked part-time while studying art at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University.

Though Kristin was aware that Cartier was on probation, she did not then know he had attacked another woman with a pair of scissors. She complained to his probation officer and was told to go to Brookline district court. There, an application for a complaint charging Carrier with domestic abuse was filled out, but inexplicably, a summons for his arrest was never issued. Then, last May 30, a seething Cartier shot and killed Kristin before turning the gun on himself. Kristin's father, George Lardner Jr. a Washington Post reporter, investigated his daughter's murder and wrote a story on the bureaucratic bungling that kept Cartier on the streets. That prompted Massachusetts officials to pass a bill creating a computerized domestic violence registry. But the reform is cold comfort to Lardner and his wife, Rosemary. "You never get over it," says Lardner, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his story. "The hurt doesn't go away."

A new husband's 'kindness' turns to rage and, finally, murder

From the time they began working together in December 1990 at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute near Oshkosh, Wis., Teresa Zeleske was attracted to fellow nurse's aide Virgil Bender. "She thought he was one of the kindest guys she; had ever met," says her friend Ken Felix. Four months later, Teresa, 26, left her husband of six years to begin a new life with Virgil, 32, a handsome ex-prizefighter. But the relationship soon became stormy. Virgil also vented his anger at work. After threatening supervisors and vowing to blow up the building, he was fired.

Still, Teresa stood by him. She married him in May 1992, and shortly afterward Bender found a job managing a halfway house. But Teresa was soon forced to seek counseling on how to deal with Virgil's obsessive behavior. "Teresa said he listened to her phone calls, timed her trips home and followed her to the bathroom," says Mike Crooks, a halfway-house staffer. Seven months after their wedding. Virgil moved out.

For a month. Virgil wailed to be asked back. When Teresa refused, he began stalking her—calling constantly, stealing her mail and leaving notes on her car. On April 13 an enraged Virgil called Teresa a whore because she'd been drinking with friends and later, in the hallway of her apartment building, nearly strangled her. "It's me or the beer," said Virgil, a fundamentalist Christian who spent hours watching evangelists on TV Since Wisconsin does not have an antistalking law, prosecutors issued a summons for a May 12 court date on domestic battery charges. A frightened Teresa told Crooks, "He's going to kill me—just remember when I'm dead, I told you this."

On May 3, her prediction came true. Coworkers Glen Lohry, 40, and Robert Cornell, 27, took Teresa home from a local bar at 2 a.m. Three hours later, neighbors heard gunshots in Teresa's apartment. Bender had killed her, Lohry and Cornell with a shotgun, then killed himself. "We could all see this coming," says Felix. "But the police said the law only allowed them to do what they did."

DAVID ELLIS
JONI BLACKMAN in Vail, MARGIE SELLINGER in Washington and CIVIA TAMARKIN in Chicago

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