Because of my desire to keep confidential my prior protective services for Gavin de Becker, I have refrained from writing about that work. Tonight I was searching the internet and found this fascinating published article.
Because the details below have been made public by de Becker, I have highlighted in red the aspects of these cases in which I was involved, while still keeping confidential some of our behind the scenes activities.
The title song of Olivia Newton-John's album Physicalwas the #1 hit on the billboard charts in 1981.
But that brought her little comfort.
Two deadly stalkers were after her.
One killed a dog and sent its teeth to another celebrity. (NOTE: You would be astounded at some of the things that crazies sent to the objects of their stalking.)
In 1978 Olivia had starred with John Travolta in the blockbuster hit movie, Grease. Two songs from the film became huge hits: Hopelessly Devoted To You, and You're The One That I Want.
Ralph Nau decided Olivia was the one that he wanted ... to kill.
A difficult child
Ralph Nau was born in Wisconsin in 1955 with a spinal condition that prevented him from learning to walk until he was 3 years old. Relatives say he was a "difficult" child who exhibited increasingly erratic behavior. He would scream suddenly without provocation.
As a teenager he scared relatives by entering their homes in the dead of night and ran away several times. Then his obsession with celebrities began.(NOTE: For those who don’t believe in “profiling”, please note this photo and the photos of all the recent mass shooters.)
In 1978 he obtained a California driver’s license under the name of Shawn Newton-John. Using this alias, he obtained Olivia's address and sent her several disturbing letters. He also killed a dog and sent its teeth to another celebrity. Terrified, Olivia hired security expert Gavin de Becker, who knew Nau was already targeting 40 celebrities, including Madonna (I worked at her home for a couple months), Cher (I worked at her home for several months and toured with her for a year) and Sheena Easton (I worked one of her concerts and shadowed Nau for several hours that day). Olivia became his main target.
600 terrifying letters
In the span of three years Nau sent her 600 terrifying letters. Security agents monitored him closely every day. He traveled the world to attend her concerts, unaware that security men (I sat behind him at one concert, after having patted him down when he entered, as I masqueraded as a ticket taker and pretended that we patted down everyone) occupied the seats around him. Convinced he was mentally ill, they tried, and failed, to have him hospitalized. In 1983, Nau moved to Illinois to live with his mother Shirley, his step-father, Ken Gerken, and Dennis Gerken, Ken's son from a previous marriage. Dennis, age 8, was severely disabled, unable to speak or perform basic functions.
Having read Nau's letters, de Becker feared he might harm his family and warned them. But on August 8, 1984, Ralph Nau bludgeoned Dennis with an ax and buried him in a shallow grave. The next day he told police he did this because the boy prevented him from watching an important TV show: Olivia was sending him signals.
Although his confession was thrown out on a technicality, Nau was deemed mentally unfit to stand trial and committed to a mental hospital where he remains at this writing. Because his case is reviewed twice a year, de Becker must testify against his release.
Five dead in Louisiana
On July 20, 1983, de Becker received alarming news. Police in Jennings, LA, had found five people brutally murdered. Their suspect was Michael Perry, and as de Becker well knew, Perry was also stalking Olivia. His agents flew to Louisiana (I was the only “agent” who flew to Louisiana. I brought with me Dr. Walt Risler. Risler had made a lifetime study of analyzing threat material. I knew of his path-finding work through our mutual friendship with Mike Carrington, a protégé of Risler. Carrington, by the way, is an outstanding professional in threat assessment, security, and law enforcement, and the retired U.S. Marshal from Northern Indiana).
The bodies were gone, but the crime scene photographs were gruesome. Perry had shot out his parents' eyes with a shotgun, killed his infant nephew and, inexplicably, fired several shotgun blasts into a wall heater. He also killed two cousins at another house.
The Hit List
Security agents found a notepad near where the bodies had been. On the pad were many names, some connected by lines, some circled, some underlined. Perry wrote the word sky near the names of those he had just killed. The agents believed the other names were people he intended to kill. Some were in Louisiana. Others were in Texas and Washington, D.C. One was in California. Olivia Newton-John.
Security agents moved Olivia to a safe location (We’ll keep that location private, but I was there until we made special longer-term plans and before I flew to Louisiana). They figured Perry would go to her house. At that time, Ralph Nau was still roaming the country, but now their most urgent task was finding Michael Perry, who clearly intended to kill Olivia.
Over the next few weeks, de Becker interviewed
Perry's schizophrenic sister
a neighbor boy who said Perry had decapitated his dog
a librarian who lent Perry survivalist books
the doctor he'd told of his plan to "kill people in groups of ten."
Eyes in the sky, dead bodies below the floor
Michael's parents, Grace and Chester Perry, had long feared that he might kill them. When he came to visit Grace locked herself in the house and wouldn't let him in unless Chester was there. They hid their guns and gave him money to leave. This allowed them to sleep easier. It allowed Michael to stalk Olivia Newton-John and others.
As a child Michael had night terrors. The Perry home was built on foot-high stilts and he came to believe that dead bodies were rising through the floor from the space below the house.
When he was six, his father came home from work every day and questioned him about his bad behavior, like riding his bike in the street. His father knew this because he had asked a neighbor to watch Michael and report his activities.
Each day before he left for work, his father warned Michael: "When I go to work, I leave my eyes at home."
When Michael later changed his name to Eye, neighbors chalked this up to his bizarre behavior. But to Michael it made perfect sense.
After one of his celebrity stalking trips, Michael beat his mother so badly he was committed to a mental hospital. He escaped and went home. Police found him there, but his mother refused to let them take Michael into custody.
While hospitalized, Michael told doctors that when he was seven his mother pushed him against the wall heater, which resulted in disfiguring burns on his legs. Every day the scars reminded him of this. Twenty years later the shotgun blasts at the heater were his symbolic revenge.
"No woman should be above a man"
Michael hated his mother. Although the burns on his legs had long-since healed, he still wrapped his legs in Ace bandages to hide the scars. On July 19, 1983, Michael murdered his mother and made sure his father's eyes would never watch him again.
"No woman should be above a man," he once told his doctors. And one woman had just risen to a high position. The person on his Washington, DC hit list was Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court.
The hunt for Michael Perry
Sociologist Walt Risler, a pioneer in predicting violence, interviewed Perry's family and examined photos the crime scene. Michael had placed several items in a crib: a crucifix, a pillow, 3 family photos face down, a wall plaque of the Virgin Mary, and a ceramic crab.
(NOTE: If Risler lived in a larger community, he would have been nationally known for this expertise and somebody would be playing his part on Criminal Minds.)
Risler believed Perry was either in Louisiana pursuing other people on his hit list, stalking Justice Sandra O'Connor in Washington, or hiding in the wilderness area behind Olivia's home in Malibu.
Firemen had told de Becker about a makeshift camp they had seen months earlier near her house. After learning that The Search by expert tracker Tom Brown was missing from the Jennings Public Library, de Becker asked Brown to help find Michael. Accompanied by de Becker and armed security agents, Brown searched the area. Then de Becker got a call from one of his agents. (Olivia was one of 33 illustrious clients of de Becker for whom I did protective work)
A break and a bust
A neighbor who lived near Olivia had just reported that a strange man knocked on her door asking about "the magic movie star" and ran into the woods. De Becker and his agents raced to Olivia's home where sheriff's deputies with tracker dogs waited. Barking furiously, the dogs dragged agents up a steep hill. Sheriff's deputies captured a man hiding in the brush. But it was not Michael Perry, just another man in pursuit of Olivia.
The next night agents searching the area near her home found a crude shelter. It had a direct view of the route Olivia took to and from her home, and the jacket of one her albums was inside. When agents they heard sounds of someone approaching, they pounced on a man, who screamed: "I'm the king!" But he wasn't Michael Perry.
A prediction comes true
While police across the country searched for Michael Perry, sociologist Walt Risler predicted Perry would go to Washington to kill Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. On July 31, his prediction came true.
Washington, D.C. police received a complaint from a man at a hotel, who said another man stole his radio. After questioning the two men, the officer dismissed the complaint. Then he checked their names for outstanding arrest warrants. One was Michael Perry.
A creepy killer speaks
Police notified de Becker, who spoke with Perry by phone. He denied going to Olivia's home but eagerly explained why he wanted to kill her. "When she was in that movie, whenever she turned around, she had a different face, you know. She looked like my mother back in 1961, ... my mother walked into the room ... she had this ugly-looking face ... and the face in that movie reminded me of 1961."
Giving the lie to his earlier statement, he described the entrance to Olivia's home and said: "... I rang the bell, and there was a camera out front ... I didn't get that girl's attention, and she didn't get mine, either ... nothing had ever stuck to my mind like that."
Fixated on Olivia's eyes, Perry believed she was responsible for the dead bodies that he believed were rising through the floorboards of his childhood home. "On her HBO special I saw her eyes change color. ... I didn't like it at all. That girl might be a witch, you know. It did look like my mother. ... I've stayed up many nights thinking about this."
When police searched his hotel room, they found seven TV sets tuned to nothing but static. On each screen Perry had drawn a pair of eyes with colored markers. As police drove Perry back to Louisiana, he asked them to send a message to de Becker: "You better keep an eye on her 24 hours a day."
A jury convicted Michael Perry of the five Louisiana murders and sentenced him to death. Ironically, due to a Supreme Court ruling rendered by Justice Sandra O'Connor and her colleagues, his death sentence was set aside. Perry could not be forcibly medicated in order to be executed. He remains in prison.
When the public wonders why celebrities need security, they have no idea how many crazy individuals there are, fixated on what de Becker calls “media figures”.