The Cost of Celebrity-2

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Media person says death threats not uncommon

Tracy Kelly (not her real name) has one of the most recognizable media faces in the province. This puts her on a fairly short list of people, and is as close as she will go to being identified for this article.

"I want this story to be told," she said. "I want people to know that this life is not all glamour and excitement. It does have a dark side. But at the same time, I need to think about my own security. I don't want to invite more of the things I've endured in the past."

The past was just a few weeks ago. An anonymous caller to the switchboard at her office said he was going to kill her. The caller's number was not captured, and police are still investigating. (For this reason, her employer also requested she remain anonymous.)

It is not the first such incident. There have been previous death threats. Tracy has had letters and phone calls from people with mental health issues, who become confused and decide that a relationship is developing with the face on television.

"Sometimes they see me on TV but don't really hear what I'm saying. And they think I'm talking directly to them which is what we're supposed to do as well but sometimes what they hear me say is not what I'm saying. They might hear me say something like I'm in love with you'."

There was one young man who called to say he had an enormous amount of money that he couldn't access because several government organizations in the U.S., such as the CIA and FBI, were conspiring against him.

"He said he was hiding from these authorities," Tracy said. "But when I was on the air, I was telling all these organizations, in code, exactly where to find him. So he identified himself with a fictitious name, and said, Look if you don't stop this, I'm going to have to kill you.' I said, Well, I honestly don't know what you're talking about.' But he kept calling and finally he said, I need you to buy me a car and leave it at such-and-such a place, because I have to leave town. But the car has to be in your name so people won't follow me'."

Not wanting to exacerbate the situation, Tracy said she treated such callers politely but didn't encourage them in any way.

"I said, Well, why do you think I have that kind of money? I can't afford to buy you a car. And he said, Well I understand that you know Danny Williams, and Danny Williams has money, so get it from him.' Of course, I had (reported these calls) to the police. But then he started showing up at my work, though he couldn't get past the front desk. He showed up several times, and kept getting angrier"

Tracy went to the police station to file a statement about the individual. Up to this point, she still hadn't seen the man's face.

"I was waiting in the lobby at RNC headquarters, trying to keep my head down so people wouldn't wonder what I was doing there! Then this young man came in. I didn't make eye contact, and he went up to the front desk and said something, and as soon as he spoke I recognized the voice his voice. At that moment, the police officer came around the corner and said, Hey Kelly' and I went Please don't say my name'. I ran toward him and whispered, That's the guy' and he said, You've never seen him, how do you know?' And I said I know the voice'."

The officer reassured her that it couldn't be him, but they ran a check anyway.

"And they found that it was the same person," Tracy said. "But he was applying for a gun permit under an assumed name. He had been a patient at the Waterford, off and on. So they escorted him back there. Now they don't know what he wanted the gun licence for They asked if I wanted to press charges and I said no. I understood that he had mental health issues."

There was another encounter with a mentally ill individual, this time by written correspondence.

" I used to get cards from him. They were yellowed with age, and had very old-fashioned scenes on them so they seemed to have been stockpiled for quite some time. I would get a card from him on the 15th of every month."

At first he was "just a fan," Tracy said. On one occasion, he pointed out minor flaws in her skin that might be covered through clothing, cosmetics, or the placement of hair.

"Eventually they turned into long rambling letters," she said. "Finally, I got a letter from him that said, Ive heard you're not a virgin, and I know you're not married but I think your soul can be saved,' and then he quoted from the bible, something about killing someone to save your soul, about being a martyr. He said, I'm going to do this out of love and respect for you. I'm going to have to kill you to cleanse your soul, so you'll go to heaven'."

Tracy reported this to the police immediately, but there was a snag. The individual lived outside of St. John's, so she was told to call the RCMP.

"I called the RCMP and they said they could keep an eye on him, but couldn't do anything if he came to St. John's because it's not their jurisdiction. So I was kind of caught there."

It became apparent that the individual had mental health issues and was not taking his medications. Whenever he was in town for treatment, the police would arrange an escort to and from work for Tracy. Contact from the individual stopped soon after. And it eventually came to a sad ending when the man was shot dead in an unrelated incident, in which he was allegedly behaving in a threatening manner toward police officers.

"The hard thing for me was, I go in to work this day, and I'm given a script to read that the police had shot and killed this man. This was the script that I had to voice. I felt really sad for him, even though he had threatened to kill me, because it was a mental health issue. He fell through the cracks. Not enough was done to help this man. So I refused to read it. I said, I don't want my voice on that, if that's ok'."

Tomorrow, in part 3 of this series, Tracy talks about stalkers and invasion of privacy.

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Recent comments

  • Mark
    July 27, 2010 - 14:53

    Good job on these stories Geoff. This is kind of scary stuff that I imagine people don't think happens here with any regularity. It's important and enlightening. Thanks for doing it.