Women's rights groups claim stalking cases often treated unfair - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Women's rights groups claim stalking cases often treated unfairly

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Women's rights groups say cases of alleged stalking are taking too long to develop, and they say the cases are often minimized in the end to lesser charges that do not include jail time.

Channel 4 News first reported last month on a frightening case of a man captured on home video crawling with a knife through the yard of a woman he once dated.

Juanita Copeland said she came forward with her story to try and take control of a seemingly out-of-control situation.

After Copeland stopped dating Jerry Millard, she said she felt threatened and secured a restraining order. But their encounters were far from over.

She said Millard contacted her eight times, but the district attorney's office said those contacts were difficult to prove.

So, instead of just waiting in terror, Copeland contacted the Lioness Foundation for help, earned a gun carry permit and became certified to use a police baton.

"I decided that I was going to go from victim to survivor and was going to speak out and help any other woman that was going through this," Copeland said.

She also hired a private investigator to install security cameras all around her house and estimates she spent some $5,000 to replace repeatedly slashed tires on her car.

But the domestic violence community said all this should have been unnecessary and somehow, even now, crimes involving people who previously had a relationship are treated differently than others.

"Apparently out there somewhere, someone has decided that if you have dated in the past, if you've been married - if you had any type of relationship - then you can harass people. You can go after them. You can call them. You can come to them and do all these horrific things that would not be accepted in any way, shape or form to a stranger," said Angie Slack, with Hope House.

Copeland's case came to an ugly climax when Millard was caught on tape crawling around his ex-girlfriend's yard.

He later pleaded guilty to vandalism and violating an order of protection, but he never spent a day in jail.

"One time, it should be automatic jail time. Two times should be more jail time. And that way it sends a message out Davidson County is not going to stand for these types of incidents," said Karmen McKenna, with the Lioness Foundation.

More than stand for it, many women are living with it.

"This man has forever changed me. The woman I was before is gone," Copeland said.

In response to our report, Millard contacted Channel 4 News and said he wanted to tell his story - but only in an unedited, written statement that we would put on Channel 4 in its entirety. We told him we never do that for anybody, ever, but we welcomed any statement.

He declined that offer.

Women's rights groups say penalties in stalking situations should be harsher. For example, if a weapon is involved, it becomes a Class E felony with probable jail time and a place on the offender's permanent record.

Many times, however, they say those charges are reduced to misdemeanors and suspended sentences.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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