San Diego Couple Still Scared After Disgruntled Home Bidder's Year of Harassment
Jerry Rice and Janice Ruhter said Kathy Rowe tormented them for a year.
— -- When Janice Ruhter and Jerry Rice bought their house in San Diego’s Carmel Valley neighborhood, they thought they were moving into their dream home, but now the married couple is living there in fear.
They installed spikes on their fence, took self-defense classes and installed a security system, but still, they spend every day worrying about who will show up at their door.
It’s all because Ruhter and Rice endured a year of harassment from a stranger who was upset she had lost the house, and decided to seek revenge.
Ruhter, a microbiologist at a children’s hospital, and Rice, a former competitive swimmer who teaches special education classes for kids with autism, bought the home in fall 2011. At the time they had one child and a new baby on the way.
Priced at $779,000, the house scraped the top of the couple’s budget, but they and seven other families submitted offers. Ruhter and Rice’s bid was accepted and they got the house.
“It was amazing,” Rice said. “It was like, ‘What? This is ours? … We were going to raise our family in the house?’”
But within the first month after moving in, a note arrived saying someone was willing to offer to buy the house from them for up to $100,000 above what Ruhter and Rice had paid for it.
They ignored it, but then a stream of interested buyers began flocking to their home. Rice later discovered the house had been re-listed on the real estate website, Zillow.com, under a fake agent’s name.
“I couldn't understand who would take a home that we purchased and put it online,” Rice said.
Other odd things started happening. They received $1,000 worth of bills for adult diapers and magazines subscriptions they never ordered, and there was an online ad for a New Year’s Eve party at their house they never planned.
“I was starting to get suspicious,” Rice said. “I knew that someone was messing with us.”
Then things got worse. One Valentine’s Day, Rice said all of his neighbors’ wives received Valentine’s Day cards with his initials signed to them.
“I said to everyone, ‘I'm really sorry… We're getting harassed by someone… someone obviously hates us,’” Rice said. “Whoever was doing it was probably pretty sick… They were probably watching, and that sent chills down my back.”
Rice and Ruhter called the police when these incidents happened. Rice also locked their mailbox and set up a surveillance system, but strange things kept happening and it was starting have a serious impact.
“He became very distant, and really focused on trying to protect our family,” Ruhter said of her husband. “He would be up a lot during the night.”
Rice wracked his brain to try to figure out who would be behind this, and then remembered the note that was first dropped off at their house months earlier from someone offering them $100,000 above asking price. The name on the note was Kathy Rowe.
Rowe was among the seven other people who had put a bid on the house. She had a job with the county. Her husband was very ill and she had won a “Mother of the Year” award for being the sole caregiver for their severely disabled daughter, Rachel.
When she saw the house in the cul-de-sac, Rowe said, “It was like our new lease on life.”
“When I lost it… I cried and cried,” she added.
So when Ruhter and Rice failed to respond to her note offering them $100,000 above asking, Rowe launched a harassment campaign against them: Stopping their mail, relisting the house, and sending phony Valentines.