Unheeded report, abduction tied Victim's mother says stalking complaint not taken 'seriously'

September 22, 1997|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

As Stephanie Musick rested at her Columbia home yesterday, trying to recover from Friday's abduction that left her weary and shaken, her mother expressed frustration that a police report filed two weeks before had not thwarted the man suspected of stalking and kidnapping her 21-year-old daughter.

"I hope they take it more seriously when somebody reports something like that instead of saying something physical has to happen before an arrest can occur," said Diana Musick, Stephanie's mother.

Howard County police refused to comment on the case. Special Agent Larry K. Foust, of the FBI's Baltimore office said Stephanie Musick had not been physically harmed during the abduction.

Musick, a student at Western Maryland College in Westminster, was abducted at gunpoint about 9 a.m. Friday outside her home in the 6400 block of Grateful Heart Gate, according to county police.

The man suspected of abducting her, John Robert Righter, 21, of the 5000 block of Green Mountain Circle in Columbia, was a former co-worker of Musick's at the Sears in The Mall in Columbia who is alleged to have been stalking her, police said.

Through a telephone call Musick made to her family while on the road and Righter's failed attempts to withdraw money at a bank machine in Huber Heights, Ohio, the FBI tracked Righter's vehicle.

Englewood, Ohio, police arrested Righter at 4: 25 a.m. Saturday as he slept in the driver's seat while parked in a lot behind a shopping mall. Musick was asleep, too, handcuffed to a seat belt, police said.

Righter is being held on state kidnapping charges at the Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio, not far from where he was apprehended, Foust said. He said it had not been determined why Righter was in Ohio.

The FBI is to file federal kidnapping charges today, which could carry a life sentence with out parole if Righter is convicted, and the bureau expects to have Righter extradited within a week, Foust said. He said he wasn't sure whether the Howard state's attorney's office would file separate charges.

Marna McLendon, Howard state's attorney, could not be reached for comment.

When Righter gets back to Maryland, he will appear before a U.S. magistrate judge before being held in a federally approved prison, Foust said.

Righter, who lived with his mother and brother -- a Baltimore police officer -- was fired last month from his job on Sears' shipping and receiving dock, police said. On Sept. 5, Stephanie Musick filed a report with Howard County police alleging that Righter was harassing her.

She apparently saw Righter many times on the Westminster campus and once found chocolate chip cookies from him on the hood of her car, police said.

Righter also sent Musick e-mail messages and letters -- most expressing his thanks for her friendship, police said. The pair had not had a romantic relationship, police said.

Police contacted Righter after Musick filed her report and told him he could be criminally charged if he continued to harass her, and he agreed to stop.

But Friday morning, neighbors said they saw Righter and Musick arguing while standing on a traffic circle on Grateful Heart Gate in Columbia's River Hills community.

Police said Righter struggled with Musick before handcuffing and dragging her into his red 1984 Dodge Raider and speeding away.

When the pair was found in Ohio, a 9 mm handgun and a knife were recovered in Righter's vehicle, police said.

Righter's mother, Carole, declined to comment yesterday. A manager at the Sears where Righter and Musick met also declined comment.

Musick flew back to Maryland on Saturday. She declined to comment.

"I hope [Righter] gets some help," Musick's mother said yesterday. "He's sick."

In the River Hill neighborhood, dozens of yellow ribbons adorned the three trees on the traffic circle where the incident started. And neighbors -- some of whom reported seeing Righter's car driving through the neighborhood in the days before the abduction -- said they were happy that Stephanie Musick had returned home safely.

Some who saw her on her way to church yesterday morning said she appeared fine, but a little shaken.

Ray Dobert, who lives across the street from the Musicks, said neighbors are considering starting a block watch that could provide help in such situations.

"We'd already been talking about it," he said. "This is going to give it a little more impetus. We're just glad it ended this way, and we're ready to have our lives get back to normal."

Pub Date: 9/22/97

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