CLEAR LAKE — Kathy Nebel says her ex-husband has been stalking her for 28 years.
“I never imagined this would happen to me,” said the Des Moines area resident Friday during her presentation at a Clear Lake conference on stalking that was attended by law enforcement, victim advocates and court employees. “I really thought I had a charmed life,” she said.
It all started in 1984 when Nebel was living in California with her then-husband, their baby daughter and a son from a previous marriage.
When Nebel found out her husband was about to be discharged from the Army for defrauding the government, she told him she was taking the children and moving back to Iowa since he could no longer support them.
He locked himself in the bathroom with their daughter and threatened to kill the child if Nebel left.
She said he was “very compassionate and giving” when they were dating and never showed any warning signs of being violent up until that moment.
Military police talked him into coming out of the bathroom and Nebel went back to Iowa with the children.
But her nightmare was just beginning.
Her ex followed them to Iowa. Nebel said she and her children were scared to leave the house and afraid to come home when they did leave because he would hang dead animal parts on the front door and break the windows.
Nebel had to quit jobs a number of times because her ex would show up at the workplace, threatening her and the other employees.
She said he also took her to court hundreds of times over minor issues like her not telling him where she and the children were attending church. He always represented himself so he could question her directly.
During one court appearance he said, “I will not stop until this woman is destroyed,” according to Nebel.
She said the police would tell her they couldn’t do anything because he hadn’t physically harmed her. They would say things like, “It’s just a death threat. It’s not like he’s really going to do it.”
Even after the Iowa Legislature made stalking a crime in the early 1990s, Nebel’s problems continued because the police and the courts weren’t enforcing the law.
However, things are now beginning to change, she said, noting seeing people gathered at a conference about stalking is “heartwarming.”
Nebel married again 23 years ago. She said her husband has “helped me stay sane.”
Nebel’s ex moved to Florida in 2000. She said she hoped that meant she wouldn’t hear from him again, but he still does things like faxing a copy of a psychiatric evaluation that had been done on her to her employers.
Just 18 months ago she found out he had purchased a house in Des Moines, even though he wasn’t living in it. She said she was afraid he meant to take her and her daughter there.
She said he has felony cases pending against him in Florida for stalking and breaking and entering, but he has yet to see any prison time.
Nebel said authorities in Iowa have shared information with officials in Florida so they know what kind of person they are dealing with.
Nebel’s ex is prohibited from being closer than 300 feet from her, but he’s an expert marksman due to his military training so that doesn’t make her feel safe, she said.
However, Nebel said she isn’t letting that fear stop her from living her life and speaking out about her experiences.
“I’m public,” she said. “I’m out there. I’m doing my thing.”