Shortly after Angela Daffron moved from Arkansas City, Kan., to Santa Fe two years ago, her neighbor back home was allegedly murdered by a stalker. Now Daffron is spearheading the effort to tighten up stalking enforcement with legislation called Jodi's law.
SFR: Who was Jodi?
Jodi [Sanderholm] was 19 and she was valedictorian of her high school class. She was on a scholarship to the community college there, ***image1***planning on leaving the next year to go to a full university in Texas. She was on band, she taught dance. She was always straight and narrow, always in communication with her parents. She was basically everything you hope your own child would grow up to be. I never knew of her to be in trouble at all for even the smallest little thing, not even a speeding ticket.
How close were you?
We moved in next door to her when she was 1½ and I was in high school. I grew up babysitting her and until we moved here, she was my daughter's babysitter. Her family still lives next door to my dad and she was still living with her parents too when this happened.
What's Ark City like? I've never heard of this place.
It's a tiny little town, 12,000 people, and I mean it's just a tiny little town on the border between Kansas and Oklahoma.
Can you take me through what happened to Jodi?
She had left dance practice that day. She'd called her mother to cancel lunch because she was hot and sweaty and wanted to go home to take a shower. There's been testimony so far to state that people saw him following her home and then saw him in her car. I'm not sure she even got in the house. She was still in her dance clothes, which they found at the lake where the car was dumped. Her body was dumped a few miles from there.
How long did it take until you found out what had actually happened?
The police were telling us by Sunday that this wasn't going to be an outcome that we wanted. You never want to believe it. Your brain tells you this is it, but your heart says no way. You still hope that she's stuck in somebody's barn or outbuilding somewhere and just can't get to help.
Can you tell me about Jodi's Law?
Stalking doesn't have a strong enough definition. The terminology in Kansas says it has to be a 'credible threat.' But what's a 'credible threat' to you, and what's a 'credible threat' to me? It's nothing. And the technology hasn't kept up. I use the example of when I was on City Council in Belle Plain, Kan., another little tiny town. We were thinking about building a skateboard park and we told the skateboarders to come up with half the money. When they didn't come up with it, I was voting against it and they posted on a blog that they were going to come in and shoot us all. Simple enough to me: Go arrest them. But it wasn't a 'credible threat.' I was scared to death at the next meeting. One of them bent down to tie their shoes and I almost took off.
How do Kansas' laws differ from New Mexico's?
New Mexico does have a little bit stricter laws. They stiffened them up a couple years ago, but they still left out the technology. I've met with some resistance here in New Mexico. A lot of the lawmakers have told me that it's just not a New Mexico story. I'm still trying to get through to them to make them understand that just because it didn't happen here doesn't mean it won't.
It sounds like when city officials say they won't put a stop sign at an intersection until someone's been killed.
Yeah, I think so. The strange thing is, across the nation, according to the Stalking Resource Center, one in 12 women will be stalked in their lifetime. In New Mexico, that statistic goes down to one in four.
How did you get one of your pamphlets to Hillary Clinton?
I went down to hear her speak in Albuquerque. She was coming around, signing autographs and I gave it to her and I explained that this beautiful girl had to die because our stalking laws weren't sufficient. She read it and talked to me about it, briefly of course; 30 seconds or so is a long time when they're on the campaign trail.
Aren't you afraid that somebody is going to come after you?
Actually, when I went down to see Hillary speak, I was with my mother and I said I didn't think I could ever do that and just go up in front of thousands of people. My mom said, 'Well, that's exactly what people keep asking you: Aren't you scared you're going to get a stalker?' You know, you have to put your faith that you're doing the right thing and that I'm aware enough of my surroundings. If you don't stand up for what's right, nobody else is going to.