Sheriffs detective finds suspect in pop-star stalking
When singer Richard Marx saw disturbing posts on Twitter, he turned to the Snohomish County detective who collared an earlier Marx stalker in the 1990s.
So it's no surprise that Marx called the detective again, nearly 20 years later, when someone started posting unwanted messages on his Twitter account. The messages, Marx said, were embarrassing, damaging to his reputation and more importantly made him afraid for his family, according to a search warrant filed in Snohomish County Superior Court.
Marx, 48, suspected that the Marysville woman who terrorized him and his family in the 1990s was up to her old tricks.
Turns out there may be another obsessed Richard Marx fan.
Malkow recently arrested a Bellingham woman in connection with about 80 online messages. The posts quote the Bible and song lyrics about fear and love. The poster also claims to be Marx's illegitimate child and chides Marx for ignoring her. Whatcom County prosecutors recently charged the Bellingham woman, 39, with cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespass.
The woman said she isn't being treated for a mental illness; however, a judge ordered a mental health evaluation before she was released from jail into her parents' custody.
At this point, Malkow hasn't found any evidence connecting the Bellingham and Marysville women, other than their apparent fascination with Marx.
Marx made a name for himself in the 1980s with a few radio-ready love songs. Bloggers and music junkies have dubbed his 1989 hit, "Wherever You Go," as an anthem for stalkers.
The singer continues to perform in concerts across the country and maintains a fan web site and a Twitter account.
His personal assistant called Malkow in May to discuss the posts -- known as Tweets. They first started in February, according to court documents.
Marx and Malkow both wondered if the Marysville woman was behind the disturbing messages.
"Absolutely, we thought she was back," Malkow said. "There were striking similarities. Besides what are the chances it's someone else?"
The Marysville woman had been relentless in her attempt to get the singer's attention. She paid someone to go through his trash. She bragged to tabloid magazines that she was carrying his triplets, even posing for a picture while holding up a bogus ultrasound. The woman followed the pop singer around the country and even changed her last name to Marx.
The singer hired a security team to protect him and his family.
In 1995, the woman pleaded guilty to forgery and theft after admitting that she had opened bank accounts in Marx's name and posed as his wife to access his frequent flyer miles. She was ordered to change her last name and never have contact with Marx again.
The woman went to extreme measures to get Marx's attention, Malkow said. Stalkers often believe they have a mystical relationship with the object of their obsession, the detective said.
The Internet now makes it easier for obsessed fans to try to create some sort of personal connection.
"They don't even have to leave the house," Malkow said.
Along with being the sheriff's office polygrapher, the detective is a cyber sleuth who tracks down pedophiles who use the Internet to lure their victims. She pored over the online clues left on Marx's Twitter account. She found that the suspect had opened numerous profiles. One poster posed as the grandmother of the woman claiming to be Marx's daughter. Others posted messages to Twitter accounts belonging to Marx's son and his friends.
In June, Malkow confronted the Marysville woman, who instantly recognized the veteran detective. She denied being responsible for the messages. She told the detective that she hadn't thought of Marx in years, and the situation in 1995 had caused her nothing but grief.
Malkow continued to follow the cyber trail, which eventually led her to the doorstep of a Bellingham woman.
The Bellingham woman admitted that she used Twitter. She began to shake when Malkow pressed her about her posting habits and whether she used aliases to send Tweets. The woman told the detective she wasn't going to post on Twitter anymore, court papers said. She denied talking about Marx with any other posters.
Later, Malkow noticed that some of the profiles disappeared and others changed their security settings. The woman also blocked the detective from following her on Twitter.
The detective contacted another woman, whose Twitter account showed messages from one of the suspicious posters. Malkow asked her about the suspect. The woman told the detective that the defendant had been stalking her since they met in elementary school. She would show up at her high school with gifts and cards. The woman told the defendant to go away, but she continued to send her email. The woman told Malkow that every three or four months she receives strange emails from the Bellingham woman. She also sends her messages at the holidays.
She told the detective she doesn't know why the defendant is fixated on her.
Prosecutors allege that the Bellingham woman illegally used someone else's Internet connection to post the messages to Marx. They also accuse the woman of harassing the singer.
"Putting everything together, the messages created significant concern," Malkow said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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