A San Diego woman who was sentenced for stalking a married couple was upset she had lost her dream home to them in a bidding war.
“I had put so much hope into this house,” Kathy Rowe told ABC's Chris Connelly in an exclusive interview that will air in full Friday on ABC News' "20/20." “When I walked in, it felt like my house... it’s almost like, you know, you hear bluebirds sing and music play. I walked in, it was my house.”
In 2011, Rowe, 53, put a bid on a house in the posh Carmel Valley neighborhood. But when she found out she had been outbid, she sought revenge through what she said were just pranks.
“It felt like the house I always wanted to own, I just felt comfortable,” Rowe said. “And when I found out we didn’t get it, it was devastating. It was heartbreaking.”
Those winning homebuyers were Janice Ruhter and Jerry Rice, a married couple with a young child and a new baby on the way, who had dumped their life savings into what they thought would be their dream home.
But shortly after moving in, Ruhter and Rice said strange things started happening. They received $1,000 worth of bills for adult diapers and magazines subscriptions they said they never ordered. They found their house re-listed for sale online, and buyers started showing up in their yard. There was an online ad for a New Year’s Eve party at their house that they said they never planned.
“You get scared, you know, that’s your house. It should be a place of safety,” Ruhter said. “With that out there, that safety just disappears.”
Then things got worse. One Valentine’s Day, Rice said neighbors’ wives were sent Valentine’s Day cards with his name signed on the cards. Then Rice discovered online posts advertising sex with his wife, telling strangers to just show up at the house during the day.
Rice got the police involved, but the couple endured almost a year of harassment before investigators arrested Rowe. She pleaded guilty to stalking in November and was sentenced in January to a year of home electronic surveillance, five years of probation, and ordered to stay away from the couple for 10 years.
"I may be the least liked person in San Diego County," Rowe said. "A horrible, evil person who wanted to harm this nice couple. I did not intend to harm them."
Despite Rowe being brought to justice, Rice said he and his family continue to live in fear.
“Anyone coming up to the door, you wonder, ‘why is that person coming here?’” Rice said. “You know? It could be anyone.”