On Thin Ice
updated 03/30/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 03/30/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST
For nearly two years Veltman, a divorced schizophrenic who lived with his mother, housewife Betty J. Hall, in Westminster, Calif., had been stalking the ice goddess and showering her with upward of 100 obscene "love" letters, marriage proposals, nude photos of himself, a Bible and, finally, death threats. In 1990 he sold his pickup truck to finance a seven-week trip that summer to Witt's home in Altenhof, East Germany. There he would jump over a fence surrounding her house to pound on her door at 3 A.M. and yell, "I love you." At one point, according to his letters to her, he even masturbated on her doorstep.
During that summer a very desperate Witt confronted Veltman, begging him to leave her alone. Finally, last Dec. 26, the FBI decided to act after Veltman sent Witt a letter that included the words, "Please don't be afraid when God allows me to pull you out of your body to hold you tight! Then you'll know there is life beyond the flesh."
Face-to-face with Veltman in court, where the defendant was deemed competent enough to represent himself, Witt testified, "I believed he was going to kill me." But a shocked Betty Hall, who ascribed her son's problems to pesticides he was exposed to while crop dusting, insisted, "I know Harry would never have hurt her. It's a tragedy for both of them."