During the more than 20 years I've been reporting the news, I've met a lot of very strange people. There are a lot more crazies out there than I would have ever imagined.
There are crazy newspaper people. There are crazy politicians...lots of crazy politicians There are crazy poor people and crazy rich people. It's truly a bizarre world.
Some of these crazy people threaten you (and your family). Some of the crazy people sue you. Some of the crazy people take you to court. A lot of them threaten to beat your ass for writing about them.
The threats come because you've written the truth about the crazies, not because you've made up fantastic lies about them. The truth stings, but it's often very funny. Crazy people don't like being the butt of someone's joke.
But, I thought my days of dealing with the crazies were behind me. It's been years since I published a newspaper about the crazies. I thought my life had settled down...then I got an email.
I got my first real death threat. The crazies were back.
It was from Don Paris. According to Don's email, I was under constant surveillance, being watched 24 hours per day. I should not contact the police. I either had to pay $15,000 or I would be executed.
According to Don, he had already been paid for the job by my "friend" because I was "too stingy". I had 72 hours to comply.
Funny I don't remember being particularly "sitngy" to any of my friends. I'd be glad to take any of them out to dinner or maybe even give them a few dollars if they were in a desperate way.
Immediately you should see a problem with Don's proposition. Don's been paid to kill me unless I come up with $15,000. What does Don do if I don't pay? Does he refund his payment from my "friend" and then kill me? That seems a waste of effort and money. Does he keep the money and not kill me for my $15,000? That wouldn't make my "friend" very happy. He's paid Don, who also collects $15,000, for doing nothing. What does my "friend" get out of the deal? I'm alive and Don is $15,000+ richer.
I know this sounds convoluted, but we're talking about a nut case here. Worse yet, the email featured very poor English composition...horrible grammar and sentence structure. It was much like what you expect when reading an email written by a Rockingham County educated author on a cell phone, using a number keypad with the alphabet on the number keys.
It was a very stupid email, but I had to do something about it, other than go to the bank and withdraw $15,000. I value my life, but not enough to send Don $15,000.
I immediately contacted the Rockingham County Sheriff's Department. Well, it was actually the next morning. I received Don's death threat around 11:30 PM.
I sent Sheriff Sam Page a copy of Don's email and waited for a response. Very soon I was speaking to Sheriff Page on the phone. Much to my surprise, he seemed to take the email seriously. Page said he has not heard anything about me for many years back when I was publishing my newspaper. This death threat was something out of the blue.
The next day Sheriff Page sent Detective Marcus Marshall to my home to investigate.
I was impressed. The last time I contacted the Sheriff's Department for help I was told to call back if "he" returned. The "he" was someone who was in my home when I returned late at night. I came in the front door and they scooted out the back through an opened window. That was more than 40 years ago when Sheriff Bobby Vernon was the big cheese. Well, "he" never returned, but I carried a shotgun in my car for quite a while after the incident.
I gave Detective Marshall a copy of Don's email. Marshall asked questions, took notes, and talked to someone on his cell phone. Marshall assigned me a "case number" and said he would contact the State Bureau of Investigation with details about Don's email. Apparently the SBI is the go-to organization for email death threats. Marshall may have spent as much as half an hour with me. However long it was, it was much better than call us back if "he" returns.
Marshall said he was particularly concerned about this email death threat because the sender knew my name and email address. According to Marshall, email death threats are very rare, but an email death threat directed at a specific named individual in this state has not been seen since 2007. Marshall referenced 2007 several times. I'm not sure why.
Marshall told me he had set up a "keep watch" on my home. A "keep watch" means that twice a shift a deputy sheriff would check my home to see that all was well. Over the next ten days or so I never saw but one sign of a "keep watch". One afternoon a marked deputy's car pulled into my driveway, turned around, and immediately pulled back out. That's not to suggest "keep watch" was a disappointment. A deputy may have checked many times during the period, but I just didn't see them, especially in the middle of the night.
Marshall called my home maybe three times over the next 72 hours to check on me. I had to report Don had sent a second email. This was to repeat his threat and remind me the clock was ticking. Marshall said the SBI was hot on the source of Don's email. A subpoena had been rushed through to serve on Google to obtain details on the email. Don was a Gmail user.
I had been pretty calm until Don's second email arrived. That second email agitated me. I pulled my pistol out of the drawer, loaded the clip, and kept it beside me day and night. Ironically, I had purchased the pistol many, many years ago, with the assistance of a police officer, to protect my family from another deranged family member. My family has some genetic issues.
I reminded Detective Marshall that not only did I not want to die, but this whole affair would be pretty embarrassing for the Rockingham County Sheriff's Department if I turned up dead after they had been warned about a threat on my life.
A half day later Marshall called to report the SBI had traced Don's email to Africa. That's it...Africa. I reminded Detective Marshall that Africa is a continent, not a country, not a city, not a street, not a house number. Marshall might as well told me North America, or Asia, or the Arctic Circle. Telling me Africa was not very useful. Marshall said at least I had the comfort of knowing the email's source was not from my next door neighbor. Apparently, Africa was as precise as the SBI could be.
Marshall had me file an internet crime report with the FBI. I'm not sure what will become of that.
I asked Marshall what would happen now. He didn't know. Call us if anything happens.
Well, that's my report on a death threat made on me. That's where it stands...the Sheriff's Department has been informed, the SBI has been informed, and the FBI has been informed. Now you know.
The crazies are back and this time they want money.