Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Stalkers: The Psychological Terrorist

Mr Hyde

Stalking is not limited to star struck admirers. Thomas McCarthy, 43, was a fireman, husband, and father of two children. His friends and coworkers liked him, but he had a terrible dark side that no one suspected. He had violent obsessive fantasies that compelled him to follow adult women of all ages, learn everything he could about them, keep lists, and sometimes act on his fantasies. He might watch a woman sign a check in a store and catch a glimpse of her address; he might go through her mail or garbage to get a phone number. He had all kinds of ways to get the information he needed to feed his fantasies about what he might do to a particular woman and how he might accomplish it.

After he was caught breaking into the home of Peggy Kilroy in Lakewood, Ohio, according to the arresting officers interviewed for "Inside a Stalker's Mind", McCarthy told police he had stalked around 2,400 women. He had elaborate codes for what his target women looked like, and he might follow them for months, watching through their windows, learning their routes and routines, and even reading their records in doctors' offices where he cleaned aquariums after hours. What he wanted to do, he admitted later, was rape them, torture them, and cause them pain. One actual victim whose home he entered he subjected to bondage and a stun gun, another to the cut wires of an electrical fan. Although he went through several years of therapy and had even tried a drug that was supposed to diminish violent urges, nothing seemed to work. His fantasies and stalking behavior escalated.

Then in 1997, he spotted Peggy Kilroy in a supermarket and followed her home. He decided to break in one evening and rape her, but instead he encountered her brother, Brian, who subdued him and called the police. When he pleaded guilty to breaking and entering, he agreed to describe everything that he'd done and his detailed confession went on for two days. The detectives were stunned to realize the number of women that McCarthy had followed without any of them being aware of his activities. They had to wonder how many other women might be in the same predicament with as-yet-undiscovered stalkers like McCarthy.

Dr. Phillip Resnick
Dr. Phillip Resnick

In fact, says Dr. Phillip Resnick of Case Western Reserve University, one in 12 women is stalked at some point in her life -- and men do not always do the stalking.

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