Hank Investigates: Fear Factor
"I leave before it gets dark out, I have somebody walk me to my car all the time."
Hang up calls from private numbers, knocks at her door, this woman is panicked.
"It's a constant fear, it's like a disease you can't get rid of."
Each woman, hiding her face, afraid of a man who is relentlessly hunting her. Each begged the police and pleaded to the courts for help, only to find a dead end.
Stephanie Decandia, Boston Area Rape Crisis Center
"To be told, I'm sorry, but there nothing in the legal system that can help you at this time, it's absolutely heartbreaking."
Here's their problem: they know exactly who's hounding them, but he was never their husband, relative or boyfriend. And under Mass law, that means they are not eligible to get the powerful criminal restraining order requiring him to leave them alone, or be arrested. Without that order often police can't help.
Chief Steven Mazzie, Everett Police Department
"It leaves our officers frustrated, obviously it leaves the victims frustrated."
Your landlord, coworker, student, client, neighbor, if one of them won't stay away, we found your legal protection is limited. And this Everett case proves: that can be fatal.
Cheryl Darisse, victim's sister
"She knew in her heart that he was going to get her, that he would kill her, and that it was a matter of when and where."
Cheryl's sister Sandra Berfield was a waitress in this restaurant. This man came in, a stranger, and asked her out. She said no. For years, she said no.
He persisted he followed her. She called 911 more than once.
Sandra Berfield's 911 call to Everett Police
"911 recording what's your emergency?"
"I have a man who's been stalking me. He's wearing all black."
But because he was not boyfriend, husband or relative her only legal protection was this civil order simply telling him, without the threat of arrest, to stay away. He didn't. Instead, he delivered a package bomb to her home and it killed her.
Cheryl Darisse, victim's sister
"She didn't have the protection that she needed or deserved."
We found: in these cases, police can't step in until someone breaks a law, until someone gets hurt. A person charged with vandalism, stalking or assault can be tried and sentenced to prison. But victims know as soon as they're released the cycle may start again.
Hank Phillippi Ryan
"Was there a moment when you felt safe?"
"No, Not really."
This woman was followed, pursued, by a man she barely knew. Eventually she says, he raped her. He's now out of prison and is after her again. Still, look at the case report, the judge won't issue a criminal restraining order because the victim and her assailant were never in a dating relationship.
"I felt like I couldn't get the only thing I needed, which was somebody to tell him he couldn't be near me."
Other states do have laws allowing victims to get restraining orders with harsh penalties. But a bill to toughen the law in Massachusetts has languished for years, because critics say it might be used unfairly.
(Copyright 2008 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)