Dolphins' Baty and wife living on time borrowed from stalker

October 20, 1991|By Jerry Greene | Jerry Greene,Orlando Sentinel

Miami had just beaten New England on the road, 20-10, and Miami Dolphins tight end Greg Baty was relaxing in the afterglow of one his best days as a professional football player. For the moment, the fear didn't show in his eyes.

He had caught four passes from Dan Marino for 89 yards. A good day's work. "I can't wait to go home and hug my wife," he said.

That's when the haunted look returned to his face. He had thought of his wife, Kathleen, home and alone.

Granted, she's in no more danger now than any other woman alone. But time is an enemy to the Batys. Their enjoyment of life is constantly tempered by knowing each passing day brings them closer to a nightmare becoming real once again.

Against their will, they await the day Lawrence Stagner is released from prison -- and comes looking for Kathleen again.

Kathleen Gallagher Baty and Stagner were in the same high school in Redwood, Calif. She knew him vaguely because they both ran track. Three years later, when Kathleen was a cheerleader at UCLA, Stagner called her and said he was going to kill her current boyfriend and take her away.

That was in 1982. Over the next eight years, Stagner stalked Kathleen relentlessly. Jailed and released, he never stopped, including when she married Greg Baty in April last year.

Stalking -- one of the cruelest things one human being can do to another. Because of Baty's story, California has made it a felony. Everywhere else, it is a misdemeanor.

To the Batys, Stagner should be treated like a killer now, before he really becomes one.

"In a sense, he's already taken a life," Kathleen told the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) News & Sun-Sentinel. "The way I lived before 1982 is over. I have to take precautions in everyday life that other people never pay a second thought."

Greg Baty, who has never met Stagner, detests the helplessness a lawful person can feel when dealing with someone who travels outside of the law.

"I don't want to say [I'd like to hurt him or kill him]," Baty said, "but I wouldn't mind if he got hit by a car."

At the moment, Stagner is in prison in California. But he could be released in fewer than four years.

In May 1990, Stagner confronted Kathleen Baty in her home in Menlo Park, Calif. Greg Baty was at a Dolphins mini-camp in Miami, trying to make the team after being waived by six teams in three years.

Stagner was armed with a buck knife and a semiautomatic rifle with 180 rounds of ammunition. He told Kathleen he was taking her to Oregon, where they would live happily ever after.

Kathleen's mother happened to call on the phone and could tell something was wrong by Kathleen's nonsensical replies to her remarks. Mrs. Gallagher called the police, and they called Kathleen.

"Is Larry there?"


"Is he armed?"


Stagner tied up Kathleen and took her out of the house -- and found a SWAT team awaiting him. She broke free and, as if Hollywood had written the script, ran into her father's arms.

Originally charged with kidnapping, which would have meant a 15-year jail sentence, Stagner pleaded guilty to "attempted kidnapping" and received an eight-year, 10-month sentence. He is eligible for parole after serving half of his time, four years and five months from his sentencing in August 1990.

Though the Batys have resisted two offers to make a TV movie of their experience, they have decided to talk about it and campaign for stricter stalking laws.

"Kathy and I made a conscious decision to go public because something needs to be done," Baty said. "The laws need to be changed everywhere.

"Also, this is a way of fighting back, which Kathy needs. She

doesn't feel so helpless, so much a victim, this way."

Baty frequently uses the word, "unfair," when discussing the world of fear that has been forced upon them. Kathleen has tried to understand Stagner.

"He has a personality order called erotomania," she said. "A person becomes obsessed with somebody and is totally delusional. They think that person will rescue them from all their life's problems."

Greg Baty has no sympathy or understanding for Stagner.

"It's weird because the victim goes through a period where she feels sorry for the perpetrator," he said last year after the trial. "I don't understand that. It's hard for me to relate to that."

Now, with Stagner in prison, the Batys are making a combined effort of getting the most out of their lives today and preparing for the future. And they want others to know what one person's delusional behavior can do to other people's existence.

They want laws that protect the innocent first, then concern themselves with protecting the rights of the accused. Their stand is simple: No person should have the right to make others live in fear.

"I just want to take advantage of these next four years," Kathleen said, "and enjoy myself."

Greg Baty wants to play winning football -- and then get home as quick as he can to protect what really matters in his life.

The Batys now live in the Miami area. She is trying to live the life of a normal housewife -- and he is trying to find belated stability in his NFL career.

Selected by New England in the eighth round in 1986, Baty made three all-rookie teams. However, he became an outspoken player representative for the union during the '87 strike and suddenly could not hold a job. After New England, he was picked up and waived by the Los Angeles Rams, Phoenix, the New York Giants, Tampa Bay and Miami.

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