Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Hello' at gym led to 8 years of terror

Female stranger stalked city woman

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A chance encounter inside a gym has turned into eight years of torment for a Winnipeg woman who has been repeatedly harassed and stalked by a female stranger.

Justice officials have long struggled with how to defuse the potentially volatile situation but hope the latest effort -- a 26-month jail term -- may finally do the trick.

Alanna Phizacklea was sentenced Tuesday, the sixth time she's been convicted of crimes relating to the same victim since 1999.

"Most of the sentencing precedents in these kinds of cases involve people who have been in some form of romantic relationship. In this case, any hint of that would spring entirely from the mind of the accused," provincial court Judge Tim Preston wrote in his decision.

"The complainant, the object of Ms. Phizacklea's course of criminal harassment, is truly an innocent person."

The victim -- a former aerobics' instructor at the same gym Phizacklea once attended -- told court how she's taken extreme and very costly measures to shake her stalker over the years.

"By moving homes and changing jobs and vehicles, she has taken concrete steps to try to prevent any future contact. The devastating effect of this unwanted contact has taken its toll on herself and her family. She wants her life back. Who can blame her?" said Preston.

The two women first crossed paths in the spring of 1999, exchanging nothing more than friendly "hellos" at their gym, court was told.

Phizacklea suddenly appeared on the victim's front doorstep in June of that year, pulling up to her home on a bicycle.

"What followed, though, were phone calls in the middle of the night, letters, seemingly chance encounters everywhere," said Preston.

Police were finally called in January 2000 when Phizacklea went to the victim's home and began pounding on her door for several minutes. She was arrested and pleaded guilty the following month to criminal harassment.

Phizacklea was given a suspended sentence and two years of probation with an order to stay away from the victim.

Phizacklea was re-arrested in 2002 after making dozens of angry phone calls to the woman. At one point, she even dropped off an envelope with $1,000.

She pleaded guilty in January 2003 and was given time in custody of 25 days followed by probation. A psychiatric report described Phizacklea as having "periodic obsessive ruminations" about the victim.

A third arrest followed later that year when Phizacklea repeatedly breached her probation by confronting the victim at various locales, including a grocery store where she made an obscene gesture and uttered a threat.

Phizacklea was sentenced in August 2004 and told court she planned to get away from her victim by moving to Calgary. She was given time in custody of 16 days plus a six-month conditional sentence.

Phizacklea was arrested in December 2004 for breaching her conditional sentence by following the victim in a vehicle. She was allowed to eventually resume her conditional sentence.

Phizacklea was arrested a fifth time in August 2006 for breaching her probation orders by confronting the victim in a grocery store, writing her letters and making phone calls.

Phizacklea was given the equivalent of six months in jail, plus probation.

She was released from custody in early November - and immediately went after the victim in a terrifying incident outside a city bank.

Phizacklea forced her way into the woman's car, grabbed her arm and began speaking of her ruined life, inability to find a job and even told the victim, "I forgive you." She only let her go when the woman promised not to call police. She did, and Phizacklea was arrested for a sixth time and has been in custody since last Nov. 6.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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