A&E’s Biography Channel is the latest to weigh in on the Cameron Wallace stalking story, first airing an hourlong program in prime time Sunday that will be repeated at 11 p.m. this Sunday.
You might remember the sad tale of Wallace, a young New Franklin woman who was terrorized for 10 years before she could get any real help from police.
Her stalker, Ryan Clutter, whom she knew only casually from their years at Coventry High School, finally was arrested in 2007 after he broke into her house, photographed her sleeping and emailed her the photos.
When police searched Clutter’s Barberton apartment, they found a recently purchased handgun, brass knuckles and a virtual shrine to Wallace consisting of stolen items of her clothing, enlargements of photographs he had downloaded from the Internet and a black rose.
The detective working the case believed Clutter was only days away from killing Wallace.
Summit County Common Pleas Judge Jane Bond (now retired) was able to put Clutter away for 13 years, mainly because of the 3,000 images of kiddie porn discovered on his computer.
One of the problems Wallace encountered was that, before 2009, the courts couldn’t do much about stalking beyond issuing a protection order, which to a determined stalker was only a piece of paper. After I wrote a column about Wallace in 2007, though, state Sen. Tom Sawyer took notice and pushed through a law with more teeth.
These days, Ohio judges can back up protection orders with electronic monitoring. If an offender gets too close, the victim and police know it, and a paper trail is created that can be used to prosecute.
The new show is the first in a series of three about stalking the Bio Channel has assembled.
Wallace’s story previously was told by the New York Times (2009) and the Investigative Discovery network (2011).
This time around, the producers put together a weird combination of real stuff — including interviews with Wallace, her mom, retired New Franklin police Detective Mike Korach and Yours Truly — and “re-enactments” of what happened. Cutting back and forth between the real stuff and the fake stuff, sometimes in rapid succession, is distracting.
Even the name of the series seems to cheapen the subject matter: Look Who’s Stalking, a play on the comedy movie Look Who’s Talking.
Standard documentary treatment would have been plenty powerful, but apparently American TV viewers now require everything to be dramatized to the hilt (or at least A&E thinks so).
There was plenty of real stuff to go around, including an incredibly creepy video Clutter shot of himself while rambling on about how much he enjoyed stalking Wallace, and Clutter’s disjointed, self-incriminating ravings in a video recorded in the police interrogation room.
Wallace is pleased with the show because it brings more national attention to the underrated trauma suffered by stalking victims, whom the Justice Department says number 3.4 million per year.
Her story is one of two presented in Sunday’s episode. As difficult as her life has been, Wallace is lucky compared to the person featured in the second part: a 20-year-old woman from Nashua, N.H., who was shot and killed behind the wheel of her car by a longtime stalker (and former classmate) who then took his own life.
Unfortunately, we can’t yet give Wallace’s story a certifiably happy ending. The man who had the audacity to repeatedly threaten her life during his police interview is scheduled to be released from prison in March 2020.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.