What it’s like to be stalked and harassed by the same man—for 36 years - Macleans.ca

What it’s like to be stalked and harassed by the same man—for 36 years

A Regina woman tells how it all started with a cup of coffee

by

Bryan Schlosser/Leader-Post

The date that changed Cathy Kaip’s life was one of those rambling metaphysical coffee-house conversations that are part of any well-furnished youth. The year was 1974. Kaip, an 18-year-old nursing student, had hit it off with Gerald Klein, then a 27-year-old musician, at a wedding. When he heard that his daughter was going out to see an older man, one trying to extricate himself from an unhappy marriage, Kaip’s Roman Catholic father responded with gentle firmness.

“He said to me, ‘You realize he’s a married man, he has a child,’ ” she recalls. “ ‘This will be the first and last time you go out with him.’ So that’s what I told Gerry: this is the first and last date. I did say I thought it was unfair that Dad should be telling me what to do, but I told him, ‘He’s my dad and I respect his wishes.’ ”

Those orders, however, weren’t in any particular conflict with her own feelings. “Gerry wasn’t really date material,” says Kaip. “He was a friend I was trying to help through a difficult time.” The pair spent their date talking about the moral and scriptural aspects of marriage, Klein’s break from the Catholic Church, and his experiments with other religious movements of the turbulent ’70s. “He was the sort who could find anything he wanted to find in the Bible,” she remembers.

Unbeknownst to Kaip, what appeared to be one conversation was actually two. For her, it was nothing but a bull session with an amusing older gentleman. But inside Klein’s head, some regrettable, wrong synapse had begun to fire. It wouldn’t stop for the next 36 years.

On Aug. 9, 2010, Saskatchewan provincial court Judge Dennis Fenwick renewed a peace bond that had been imposed on Gerry Klein after his release from prison in December 2006. Klein had served a three-year sentence for criminally harassing Kaip, who is now, in her own words, a “pudgy, 54-year-old grandmother.”

The original bond barred Klein from an eight-block area surrounding Kaip’s Regina home, and ordered him to refrain from contacting her family. Judge Fenwick made headlines by peremptorily extending its scope to the entire city. In effect, Klein, though not charged with any new crime, has been banished from his hometown for a year.

Cathy Kaip’s 1974 coffee date with Klein wasn’t the end of their relationship. “Before we could even meet again, he called me, crying, saying ‘Cathy, I need to talk to you right now,’ ” she says. “He was in trouble with his church because his pastor had told him that he had to stay with his wife.” Within weeks, Cathy had found an actual boyfriend, but she stayed in touch with her unhappy and confused friend, corresponding with him when he briefly moved to British Columbia in 1976.

It was when she got engaged to Richard Kaip in July 1976 that things changed. The phone calls became more frequent and troubling. Klein told Cathy that the devil was keeping them apart; he blamed her father for thwarting their romance. He warned her priest—and, a week before the wedding, her fiancé—that the imminent marriage had been coerced by her dad, and was thus invalid.

The wedding went ahead and the lovebirds moved to New Brunswick. Soon they got the first letter from what would be an infinite sequence of lawyers retained by Gerald James Klein. It warned that Klein was contemplating a lawsuit for breach of promise of marriage. Klein backed down but continued to pen increasingly ominous missives to Cathy Kaip.

“I committed myself to you quite involuntarily, a long time ago, and nothing I can do is going to change it,” said one. “It would take a supernatural intervention by God Himself to cause me to turn my back on you.” Another read: “I’ll never be able to forget you now, Cathy, not as long as I live, unless you died.”

When the first of Kaip’s three children was born, she visited her parents in Regina and was soon greeted with the sight of Klein pacing in front of their house. He seemed, in a time before the popular concept of a lovestruck “stalker” had become commonplace, to have uncanny access to information about Kaip’s whereabouts, life, and nursing work. As she moved from army base to army base with her husband, a non-commissioned logistics specialist in the Canadian Forces, Kaip’s pursuer always managed to get the new address. “It’s still hard to make people understand my situation,” she says, decades later. “I’m not bleeding, I haven’t been raped or beaten to death, so what’s the big deal?”

Kaip’s father died on Jan. 5, 1981. When she returned to her parents’ house from the hospital, a sheriff was there to serve her with the breach of contract lawsuit Klein had once abandoned. A new phase had begun.

That first suit was thrown out. Another one, launched in 1983, was bounced. A 1984 slander action began when Klein heard second-hand that Kaip supposedly blamed his harassment for hastening her father’s demise. Klein personally took over questioning of Kaip, then eight months pregnant, at an examination for discovery; one judge later described the 6½-hour session as “the product of an unbalanced, obsessive bully.” Thanks to some legal side issues, that suit got to the Supreme Court of Canada before fizzling out. Kaip had spent tens of thousands on legal defence, and at least four suits had been dismissed “with costs”—costs Klein never paid.

Kaip had been hospitalized for stress in 1978, and was ill again after Klein’s creepy interrogation, going into labour prematurely and later requiring treatment for depression. Beginning in 1990, however, Klein disappeared from her life for a while. “Did my problems cause a strain in my marriage? Yes,” she says, “but I had a wonderful 18 years.” The monumentally patient Master Warrant Officer Kaip was struck down by myeloid leukemia in 1995, and at his funeral, standing at the graveside, Cathy was handed a sympathy card by a relative.

Opening it, she says, was the ultimate low point in her strange saga. “It said ‘God be with you at this time.’ And it was from the last person I wanted to hear from.”

Kaip retreated to the home she had shared with her husband in Shilo, Man., but it was no refuge; she says Klein sent her a cassette tape of a telephone argument he had had with Richard, along with a note reading, “If you want to hear more, you know where to reach me.” Cathy soon decided that if she was going to be stalked, she might as well suffer nearer her family. The cards and letters from Klein resumed in earnest; in 1996, exactly one day after she moved into a new Regina home, a rose and an unmistakable “welcome home” note materialized on the doorstep.

Klein continued to profess affection, writing lines like, “Jesus still loves you and so do I” and “I never have been nor will I ever be your enemy.” But he continued to pursue half-baked legal attacks. In September 1998, a judge finally issued an order requiring Klein to obtain prior court consent before commencing any further lawsuits; another forbade Klein from “molesting, annoying, harassing, communicating, or otherwise interfering” with Kaip.

Harassment law had changed much in favour of victims by then, but Kaip found that her long ordeal and her voluminous documentation, now swollen to fill a huge Rubbermaid container, did little more than make police roll their eyes. If she walked into her own church and found that Klein had “coincidentally” joined the choir—which happened in 1998—what could a cop or a prosecutor make of it?

“The usual reaction when I’ve tried to tell my story to someone in authority is, ‘Lady, I don’t have time for this,’ ” she says. But her message to other stalking victims, one she has occasionally delivered to women’s groups, is to resist discouragement and to keep making records. “If you want to get anywhere with the court system, you write it down, you sign it, you date it, and you keep it,” she says. “Somewhere, sometime, somebody along the way will listen.”

Klein crossed the official line on Oct. 8, 2002, when a neighbour noticed a station wagon parked outside Kaip’s home and called police. They found Klein in it, eating chicken and holding a pair of binoculars. A psychiatric evaluation found that Klein has a “seriously disturbed personality” but is not, by a legal standard, mentally ill. A year after his arrest, a Regina judge handed down a three-year criminal harassment sentence, describing Klein as “a vengeful and controlling man.”

Upon hearing the sentence, Klein, who has informed his latest legal representative that he is unavailable for comment to Maclean’s, told CBC cameras, “I’ve accepted the fact that it’s over [but] I have no interest in pursuing any other relationship with anyone else.” Asked if he regretted the pain he had caused Kaip, he answered, “the answer has always been ‘No,’ because I’m not the one that caused this problem.” In prison, Klein rejected counselling and displays of remorse so firmly that he was refused the usual statutory release after two-thirds of his official sentence.

Released in December 2006, Klein was eventually placed under a renewed order to stay out of Kaip’s neighbourhood and away from her family. That bond expired in August 2008, but even before it ran out Klein was spotted pacing outside the home of Kaip’s sister. At this month’s hearing over renewal of the bond, the Crown also introduced evidence that Klein had been sending out inquiries about Kaip’s business activities and had written to her divorced second husband.

Klein’s lawyer, Brad Tilling, noted that his client has never, through 36 years, behaved violently or threatened Kaip explicitly with anything but legal action. Klein told the judge he wanted Kaip brought in to testify so she could “answer for her lies” and admitted he still wants to hear the “truth” about her original feelings for him.

The idea of total exclusion from the city seems to have been brought up, not by the Crown, but by Judge Fenwick. An early report from the hearing by the Regina Leader-Post (whose reporter Barb Pacholik has published over 10,000 words on this ghastly drama since 2003) quoted the judge as musing over whether “[Kaip’s] prison shouldn’t be made a little larger after 30 years.” Now that Fenwick has followed through on that intention, Klein, who makes his living driving trucks and delivery vehicles, has been given three weeks to leave town.

Klein has informed Crown prosecutor Michael Morris of his intention to appeal. But fighting an order for a peace bond, even one of unprecedented harshness, might not be easy. Appeal courts hesitate to second-guess a trial judge’s finding of facts, and a peace bond consists of little more than a bare declaration that evidence of possible harm to an innocent person exists.

Barring some unexpected legal wizardry, Cathy Kaip may be able to relent slightly, for a while, from the exhausting vigilance she has practised, out of habit, throughout her adult life. “I’m looking forward to having the freedom to walk the street without checking behind me every second step,” she says. “If I’m walking my dog and the dog stops to sniff, I do a 360. Maybe I can take a step back from that a bit. Maybe I can go to my son’s house and babysit the grandchildren and not be afraid to answer the door or the phone.”

She would like to see the law of peace bonds changed to extend their maximum length beyond 12 months, since the process of renewing them can take much longer than that. “I was ecstatic,” she says when asked how she reacted to Judge Fenwick’s decision. “I was very happy to hear that he’s gonna be away from me for a whole year. It also gives me a little misgiving that it’s only for a year.”