In the first successful prosecution under California's new cyberstalking law, prosecutors in the Los Angeles district attorney's office obtained a guilty plea from a 50-year-old former security guard who used the Internet to solicit the rape of a woman who rejected his romantic advances.
The suspect terrorized his 28-year-old victim by impersonating her in various Internet chat rooms and online bulletin boards where he posted, along with her telephone number and address, messages that she fantasized about being raped.
The cyberstalker might impersonate the victim and post inflammatory messages to bulletin boards or in chat rooms, causing viewers of that message to send threatening messages back to the victim who they believe sent them the offending messages.
Other things that pave the way for a cyberstalker are the often anonymous character of the Internet, and the practiced use of non-confrontational and impersonal communications.
A potential stalker may be unwilling or unable to confront a victim in person or over the telephone, but he or she may have little hesitation about sending the victim harassing or threatening electronic communications.
Even so, too often online harassment escalates into real-life stalking, where its victims are largely female, and who occasionally become victims of homicide that started out as online "following" and badgering.
To prevent this unnecessary worry and fear among Internet users, law enforcement is stepping up its efforts to educate and make people aware of this crime and its potential.
This is the type of information that can easily get someone killed, as happened to Amy Boyer, whose shooter purchased her Social Security number from the Docusearch site.