HOUSTON - According to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, 3 out of 4 women who were killed were stalked a year before they died. This alarming reality prompted the department to launch a new division focusing on stalking crimes.
"Excited to announce a first for @HCSOTexas Our Behavioral Threat Management Unit specializes in Stalking crimes. Studies show that 3/4 of women killed were stalked in the year leading up to their death & 4 out of 5 stalking victims are female," the office posted on Twitter.
Brad Rudolph leads the new division. It just launched last week and he says they have gotten an overwhelming amount of calls about possible cases.
“Gifts, letters, letters of affection, letters of admiration,” is how Rudolph says stalkers using begin harassing their victims.
Gloria Jimenez says that’s exactly how it began in her sister’s case.
"I found a lot of letters, gifts," she says.
Her sister, Maria Jimenez Rodriguez, was killed in June 2018. Erik Arceneaux is wanted for her murder.
Gloria says she found small gifts and disturbing letters after her sister’s death, all from Arceneaux.
"It was this big obsession toward her that she lost her life. He wanted her only for him. He didn’t want her surrounded by anybody else," Jimenez says.
She believes this new unit is sign of hope.
“I’m happy that they’re doing this because they’re going to save a lot of lives,” she said.
"Intimate partner violence is a very dangerous situation to deal with and it has to be dealt with in a timely, effective and aggressive manner," said Rudolph.
The National Center for Victims of Crime reports 7.5 million people are stalked every year in the U.S. Most are women, stalked by a current or former intimate partner.
In Harris County, Rudolph says last year nearly 200 stalking cases were handled by the sheriff’s office alone. Rudolph says his team is reviewing those to prioritize the threat level to the victim.
"You look for things such as whether the individual has a sense of entitlement. sense of ownership, whether they justify violence, the ability to locate their victim, their ability to deliver harm, and then isolation," says Rudolph.
He says they’ll also look into the potential stalkers' background, including cases in other jurisdictions. He adds not all cases can lead to criminal charges but the victim can still receive help.
“If behaviors of concern exist, there are things that we can do that can hopefully mitigate that and reduce that risk of violence,” Rudolph added.
Only about half of the victims killed by their stalker made a police report before they died. Gloria believes Maria never did and never even told her about it.
"Something could have been done. She could have asked for help. We could have prevented all this," she said.
Rudolph warns victims not to engage or respond to their stalkers and document all attempts the stalker to pursue or contact you. Also, file a police report immediately.
Anyone with information in this case is urged to contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS (8477).