The Neighbor Who Stole My Dreams

Not long ago, I made reference to an incident from my past which I rather sarcastically called my ‘little bedtime story’ and which some of you expressed an interest in reading.  I promised to write about it in a post but when it came down to it, I struggled.

Not with the writing of it but with the sharing of it.

Then I realised that actually this story needs to be told in its entirety and would be far too long for a blog post.  So what to do?

In the end I decided to go ahead with it.  This post is long, and I apologise for this as I know how much blog-reading there is to be done out there but while there is so much more to this story than I’m able to tell here, this post is as concise as I can make it.

Should you decide to read it,  I thank you in advance because I know that time is precious!

I’ll love and leave you with this as I’m going to be spending time with my boys this weekend so I will visit you all in a few days but meanwhile, I wish you all a great weekend.

So pull up a chair and a cup of something; tea, coffee or maybe in this case, brace yourself with a stiff G&T.

Then I shall tell you a story…

……………………………………………………………..

A few years after moving to California in 1986, my now ex-husband (EH) gained a promotion within the Department of Corrections and we purchased our first home in a small, rural town, population 500.

The sort of place where kingsnakes and tarantulas cross the road and tumble weeds dance across your driveway.

We moved on a scorching August day, the air so thick with heat that it grabbed me by the throat as soon as I stepped out of the rental van.

Our house - Eldest son playing happily in the front garden The neighbour's house is behind, to the right, barely visible from this shot. Our bedroom and living room is at the front. (c) copyright Sheri Matthews 2014

Our house – Eldest son playing happily in the front garden
The neighbour’s house is behind, to the right, barely visible from this shot. Our bedroom and living room are at the front. The park is across the road to the right.
(c) copyright Sheri Matthews 2014

That’s when I first saw him, our new neighbour, crouching down on the roof of his house which neighbored ours, dressed in what looked like all-black SWAT team gear, watching us from huge binoculars.

That was our first clue that we had made a big mistake in moving there. The second clue smacked us in the face a few days later when we were rudely awoken in the small hours by the cracking of gunfire from the front of our house.

EH took a careful look outside only to be greeted by the sight of our neighbour, again on his roof, shooting a high-powered rifle into the community park across the road from where we lived.

We later found out that he told the police he was shooting at wild pigs.

If I had been worried before, now I was scared. We hadn’t wanted to cause any trouble having only just moved in, strangers to this community, but something was very wrong.

We started asking around the neighbourhood about him and soon found out that this had been going on for a long time but nobody wanted to confront him about it.  People were scared of him and it was down to us to call the police, which we did.

They talked to him and for a short time the gunfire stopped.

Then the loud music started, late into the night, waking up my boys.  To this day the sound of Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple makes me feel sick for all the wrong reasons.

One night, having had enough, EH went over to the neighbour’s house and calmly asked him to turn the music down, since it was close to midnight and explaining that our eldest son had school the next day and couldn’t sleep.

The view from the back - the neighbour's house is in the photo and the boy's bedrooms directly faced this side of his house. My  boys playing on the monkey bars left behind.  I wanted them to be happy in their new home. (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

The view from the back as it first looked – the neighbour’s house is in the photo and the boy’s bedrooms directly faced this side of his house.
My boys playing on the monkey bars left behind. I wanted them to be happy and safe in their new home.
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

His response? To stand there staring at EH, eyes glazed, and say nothing.  EH told me he looked like he was out of his mind on drugs.

Then he turned the music even louder.  We brought the boys in to sleep with us at the front of the house.  I tried to be brave for them, soothing them back to sleep while EH slept in the living room.

By that time I was pregnant with my daughter and as I lay there in the dark, listening to the steady breathing of my boys, I cupped my hands over my unborn child as I cried myself to sleep, praying that we wouldn’t hear gunfire again.

After that, things got even worse.

In addition to the shooting and the loud music, letters arrived in the mail about funeral plans we had apparently inquired about (we hadn’t and we found out that he had gone through our trash to get information about us) and disturbing phone calls filled with nothing but peculiar, growling sounds.

Strange, because we weren’t listed in the phone book.

Yet, despite this man’s systematic campaign of abuse against us, we refused to let him destroy us.

In the cool of the evening, I took the children out into the garden to run and play and explore.

The property had been empty for over a year and needed a lot of work; there was an old shed full of junk which we set about clearing out, we brought day-old chicks and raised them in the once abandoned chicken run.  We got ducks too.

The back as it looked when we first moved in.  Notice the shed and the abandoned chicken run next to it.  Youngest son exlporing. (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

The back yard as it looked when we first moved in with the shed and the abandoned chicken run next to it.
Youngest son exploring.
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Work needed doing to this place! (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

A lot of work needed doing to this place!
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

I set about turning the back yard into a garden and planted my roses, of course, and we put trellis up for more privacy. We decorated the entire inside.

It was our first family house and I wanted it to be a safe, happy and secure home.

By the time we moved out it was looking a lot better. (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

By the time we moved out it was looking a lot better.
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

I prayed that we would be kept safe from the madman next door and then a miracle happened, or so I thought.  The neighbour disappeared.

What we thought was good news, however, soon turned into bad. He had been arrested for a previous crime but he was back soon enough and that’s when things really sparked off.

He started to follow our eldest son to school as he walked with his friends (school was only a five-minute walk away) by driving very slowly in his car, a few paces just behind him.

Then, one evening as I sat on the sofa in our living room reading to my little boy, we heard the sickening thud of something smashing into the window.

EH, who was in agony at this time from a ruptured, herniated disc in his lower back and awaiting surgery, managed to hobble over to the front door and open it.

There, in the dark, was the neighbour lurking on our front lawn glaring menacingly at EH, who thought he saw the glint of a gun in his hand before he skulked off.

We found the brick that he had thrown at our window which, by some miracle, hadn’t broken it. If it had gone through it would have struck my three-year old son on the head.

The thought of this today, even now, makes me weep.

This time the police took us very seriously but there was still nothing they could do other than to tell us that from now on, everything little thing he did, we were to call them so that we could build up a log of events.

We also found out that he was obsessed with all law enforcement – detested them in other words – and that he had become convinced that we had ‘shopped’ him when he had recently been arrested, which of course we hadn’t.  The man was paranoid.  And no wonder.

The police also told us that he was, in no particular order, a gun-runner, a drug addict/dealer and a paranoid schizophrenic with a long list of convictions.

Just your average friendly neighborhood guy then.

Quite why he was allowed to have guns I’ll never know.

No wonder he hadn’t greeted us on moving day with a cheery ‘welcome to the neighbourhood’, an apple pie and an invitation to tea.  Desperate Housewives? I was desperate alright, to move out.

We had put our house back on the market within months of moving in so that we could  get the hell out of dodge but wouldn’t you know it, the market had crashed at the same time (early 1990’s) and it was now worth half what we paid for it.

Who would want to buy it anyway, with the neighbour from hell living next door?

Needless to say, we couldn’t sell it, the bank wasn’t interested in a short sale, or ‘civil matters’ and we were trapped.

Before... (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Before…
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

After…

I tried to be brave but my lowest moment hadn’t yet arrived.

It came soon enough courtesy of a woman turning up at our front door three days after I returned home from the hospital having joyfully delivered my baby girl. Our family was complete, a darling daughter, a sister for my two gorgeous little boys.  What more could we ask for?

My joy and dreams of a normal, safe family life were destroyed in that single moment when the woman handed me a restraining order instructing us to stop ‘harassing’ our neighbour.

Everything he accused us of was exactly what he had done to us. He twisted everything and his lawyer had believed him.

All the fear and despair that I had tried to control for the sake of my children so that they wouldn’t see Mummy cowering and frightened and crying, exploded into such intense rage at the pure injustice of this man’s lies.  I wanted to go over and confront him but of course I didn’t.

In the end, we found a lawyer who reversed the restraining order against us since it was groundless and advised us to walk away from our house. We had no choice and we could no longer live there.

We lost everything but money and a house meant nothing compared to the safety and security of our children and family life, even if it meant it would be a long time before we could buy again.  Our credit was destroyed.

Weeks later, and desperate to find a house to rent, I remember standing outside what seemed to us to be the perfect home, talking to the landlady.  She had never met us but in the end she chose us over the long list of applicants for the simple reason that she ‘felt she could trust us’.

Our  new home (c) Sherri Matthews 2014

Our new home
(c) Sherri Matthews 2014

In the five years that we lived there, she never raised the rent, we were allowed to have our cats and dogs and the children were happy in their new schools.  It was our happiest time as a family and we loved living there.

It took me a full year before I stopped jumping at every little sound I thought I heard outside and as time went by I started to feel safe, once more, in my own home.

………………………………………………………

Even now, when I tell this story, I feel the pain of those two years when we were subjected to one man’s onslaught of harassment against us.  At a time when I should have delighted in the birth of my daughter,  I lived in fear of what this man might have done to us.  I had never prayed so hard in all my life for the safety of my family.

Many years later, I heard from an old friend that the people who eventually moved into our house after the bank sold it on also suffered a nasty experience. It even made the local papers.

One night a bullet fired straight through their bedroom wall, just above their heads where they were sleeping.  The police were called.  The neighbour’s excuse?  He was in his garage cleaning his gun and it ‘accidentally’ went off.

A few years after that I heard some more news via EH during one of his calls to the kids; The neighbour’s wife had come home from work one day only to find him lying on the living room floor, dead.

I’m a forgiving person and not one for revenge but when I heard that news I couldn’t help but think that God does indeed move in mysterious ways.

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri has been writing full time since 2011. Currently working on her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', she has been published in a variety of national magazines, websites and three anthologies. Sherri raised her three, now adult children, in California for twenty years and today, lives in England’s West Country with her hubby, Aspie youngest, two cats, a grumpy bunny and a family of Chinese Button Quails. She keeps out of mischief blogging, gardening, walking by the sea and snapping endless photographs. Her garden robin muse vists regularly.
This entry was posted in Family Life, Memoir, My California and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

121 Responses to The Neighbor Who Stole My Dreams

  1. Imelda says:

    I remember that post and I was one of the curious ones. I’ll get back to this at the end of the day when I can have a bigger chunk of uninterrupted computer time.

    Like

  2. restlessjo says:

    Oh Sherri! This isn’t a post that anyone could ‘like’. What torment he put you through! I know a little about bad neighbours but nothing on this scale. You must have been in agonies for your children. Thank God you now have a secure home, and a lovely family to share it with. You’ve earned it the hard way! Have a wonderful weekend (and then that holiday!) 🙂 Huge hugs!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, it was a long time ago yet telling the story again here brings it all back a little too clearly. Thanks so much Jo and for now, having just spent a wonderful weekend with my boys my heart is full of love for my family and gratefulness that we all came through it unscathed and undefeated by that madman.
      As for a holiday, well, let’s see what happens… 🙂

      Like

  3. suej says:

    What an awful experience, Sherri….very courageous of you to post.

    Like

  4. Talk about a neighbour from hell! Such trauma you and your family experienced.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      The neighbour from hell is right. He did indeed make our lives a living hell. Thank you for taking the time to read it Jennifer. I hope you are well.

      Like

  5. Sherri, I am so sorry.
    Earlier today, for some reason, I was thinking about how important ‘pride’ is.
    There are different meanings of the word. There is good, and bad ‘pride’.
    To me, even before I read this piece, from what I know about you through your blog,
    you embody good pride.
    I looked up the definition and it is: ‘A sense of one’s own proper dignity or value; self-respect.’
    Thank you for sharing this. You are an inspiration. A true example.
    I hope you and your boys had the wonderful weekend that you all deserve.
    Emma x.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Oh Emma, I had to read your words a few times to fully take in your message as the first time I read your beautifully kind words I shed a tear or two because you showed me something I’ve never even considered about myself before. I just wanted to keep my family as safe, secure and happy as possible despite the awful circumstances in which we found ourselves. So I would thank you so very much for sharing this, I can’t say enough what it means to me, I’m really moved.
      And we did have a really wonderful weekend, thank you…
      I hope you have a good week ahead in your beautiful home and garden… 🙂 xx

      Like

      • A friend sent this to me today, and I’d like to pass it on to you:
        ‘A strong woman is one who is able to walk with her head up and smile without letting anyone know she cried herself to sleep the night before’
        I hope that your days are filled with smiles, Sherri. Emma x

        Like

      • Sherri says:

        Again, you have blessed me so much with your beautiful message Emma, thank you so much. You can’t have known but I really, really needed this today. I shall keep it with my other snippets of inspirational readings and look upon it often and remember…
        You have indeed given me great cause to smile and I would hope the very same for you too…bless you, dear Emma ❤ xx

        Like

  6. Oh, Sherri, it’s so sad you had to endure this for two years; I wonder how long the previous owner had been there and what horrors they had to put up with; and so awful that someone had to die over the fact that nothing was done about it. Praise God He kept you and your family safe.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Yes Susan, I wondered that myself, and despite the fact that we tried to find out as much as possible about the place before we bought it and why it had been empty for so long etc. at no point did the issue of the neighbour come up. The entire saga was horrendous from start to finish and on the surface of it, yes, we did lose everything, materially, but what we retained, our safety and our life to come, free from it all, meant far, far more. Praise God indeed, he watched over us and brought us through. Thank you dear Susan for taking the time to read this and for your kindness to me and mine…

      Like

  7. So NOT fair. Not by a long shot. I’m surprised you have any hair on your head, Sherri.
    What is wrong with the law? You hear stories of horrible neighbors and nothing can be done? That you lasted as long as you did is a wonder.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      NOT FAIR is right Tess. It was awful from start to finish no doubt about it. That was the worst thing about it, we felt so helpless because in the eyes of the law there seemed to be nothing they could do about it ‘until he did something’. Like what…? I shudder at the thought. I think the stalking laws are different in California now so he wouldn’t have got away with it but back then it was an absolute nightmare.
      I really appreciate you taking the time to read it Tess, thank you so much…long, I know…and as for the hair on my head? Well, all I can say is it’s a good job I was blessed with thick, wavy hair (although I hated it when I was young…)… 😮

      Like

  8. cardamone5 says:

    Dearest Sherri:

    I am sorry for your pain and suffering.

    I had a neighbor exactly like yours before i moved. He also had guns, and mixed his psychiatric medication with drugs and alcohol, making him very unstable. For a while, he was friendly, but then, due to a misunderstanding over some bushes, he became nasty. He used to sneak up behind me while I was weeding. I had headphones on and was in my own little world, happily immersed in my garden. He’d tap me on the shoulder and make me jump. He also became very aggressive towards me, saying threatening things he never said to my husband. He shot a cat that was on my deck, and shot and skinned a squirrel and posted the skin to the outside of his garage, which faced our yard.

    Then, about a year before we moved his wife disappeared. We came to find out through neighbors that they divorced.

    A few months before we left, the cars disappeared and our neighbor was nowhere to be seen. It was the most peace I had had since moving in. A friend showed me a sheriff’s bulletin announcing my neighbor had been arrested for deliberately driving in front of a train. At the last minute, he tried to back up, but his car was hit and overturned, caused him to have eight stitches. Eight stitches? For getting hit by a train? Imagine if his car hit people in the area or anyone on the train had been hurt? I was never so glad to be free of someone in my whole life, so I know exactly what you went through, although on a smaller scale.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Oh Elizabeth, I’m so sorry too for all you had to endure from another nasty piece of work. What an awful time he put you through, so threatening and aggressive. I’m shaking my head at the eight stitches. Just unbelievable. Anyone else would have been crushed and killed but no, not him. And never mind, as you say, the terrible damage that could have been done to others by his utter selfishness. I was so elated when our neighbour disappeared and then when he came back and things got even worse I was devastated. I don’t know how his wife stayed with him. I used to hope that one of his guns would go off when he was cleaning it (which he was always doing in his garage for all to see) but with the dangerous end pointing at him. I’m so glad that you were free of him in the end, as were we and I can certainly relate to your sense of relief. Thank you so much for not only taking the time to read this long post but also for sharing your story. It’s great to know that we both came through it and are free now.
      Bless you dear Elizabeth… 🙂

      Like

  9. Holy shit! Thats awful Sherri. Everyone has had annoying neighbours but this guy sounds nuts! What the hell is wrong with the police that they would let someone fire guns in public?! Glad you got out

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Oh Mickey, thanks so much for reading….your comment did make me smile! You know, I had to restrain myself when I wrote it is as a lot of the old anger came out and a few swear words (more than a few) definitely filled my vocabulary!! We just couldn’t believe that the police didn’t do anything other than a slap on the wrist and a warning. How was he allowed to terrorise us for so long? I’ll be honest with you, there were many times when I hoped that his gun would ‘accidentally’ go off when he was cleaning it except when he was pointing it at himself..and I’m not a vengeful person but I was pushed beyond reason…

      Like

  10. Sherri, this story is unreal. I remember when you mentioned about the crazy neighbor, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined it to this extreme. It was like you were living in the middle of a movie being made for Hollywood, only it was real life. I’m so sorry you and your family had to endure this crazed maniac. It’s a real shame that officials often will wait for someone to be killed before stepping in. I’m thankful you all escaped safe. I’m going to print this for DFD to read. So glad you’re here to tell this story. xoxo

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Oh Jill, yes, at times I did wonder if I was living in some kind of bizarre movie and that I was going to wake up one morning and realise that it was just that, but sadly it was all too real. There is much more to this story as I explained in the beginning and the original post was even longer than this. I still can’t believe that we ended up in that situation but so, so glad we got out safely and were able to put it all behind us and start over in a new town (the one we wanted to live in in the first place). I’d be interested in knowing what DFD thinks of it…
      Thanks Jill, I’m glad to be here too… ! xoxo

      Like

  11. What a heart-wrenching story, Sherri. I don’t know how you endured living there for two whole years. It must have been terrifying, and you certainly had good reason to be afraid for the safety of your family with that madman next door. Who knows what went on in his head. He most probably needed psychiatric treatment, His end was very fitting indeed, and it’s a good thing that he would no longer be a threat to society. Enjoy your family weekend. xx

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      He was crazy and what gets me is that as someone who was so obviously mentally unwell he was able to get away with drug dealing and shooting guns into the park, and more besides (there is a lot more to this story). I admit that I was relieved to hear the news about his very fitting end.
      Thank you so much Sylvia, I do appreciate your kindness and we did indeed have a lovely weekend 🙂 xx

      Like

  12. Oh, Sherri. You deserve a relaxing weekend. Pamper yourself, and reach out your arms, bend them at the elbows, and pat yourself on the back. If you ever again doubt yourself or your ability to write a powerful story, you must come back and read this one again.
    The before and after pictures of the house and yard are exquisite parallels of the before and after images of your life…before and after the madman. And he was a madman, with emphasis on the mad. I was not surprised that when you bought the house none of this was disclosed to you; it’s appalling the things that are not shared in advance with potential buyers, the young families who have high hopes and will work hard to make a home out of a neglected space.
    Bless you and your family, Sherri, you wonderful stories and your willingness to share them. The neighbor stole your dreams for only awhile. By writing about that theft so eloquently, you have defeated him and taken back your dreams.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Your words are so powerful Marylin and give me so much strength. I felt sad writing this and didn’t feel that it was cathartic but now, returning on Monday and reading what you share here, really shows me that yes, he did steal my dreams but I got them back again and in the end, justice was served. In the end, we ended up in the town where we had always wanted to live, the kids had better schools and we lived in a really good, family-safe community, where we lived (in different houses) for the next 10 years until the kids and I moved back to the UK.
      We did indeed try to find out why this neighbour problem wasn’t disclosed to us at the time but we realised that we didn’t have a leg to stand on. We had been ripped off royally. We were helpless and in the end our only choice was to take matters into our own hands and walk away. But yes, you’re so right, it is appalling that this kind of thing goes on.
      This is the first time I’ve written about it strangely, and the timing was coincidental to me going away to spend the weekend with my boys but it was perfect timing as it turned out. Just what I needed. The strong, unending love in my heart for my kids and their love for me is a blessing beyond compare.
      So yes, that crazy madman didn’t win.
      Thank you so much dear Marylin for reminding of this…

      Like

  13. How awful! And I am just glad to hear that you were able to move out from that neighborhood safely! Such a shame though because you have already invested money and effort in that house. 😦

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thanks Jhanis, and yes, it was an awful time but in the end all the money, time and effort didn’t count for anything. What mattered is that we got out safe and together but yes, we did suffer financially for it and it hurt us in a lot of ways…

      Like

  14. Oh Sherri, what an absolutely horrendous experience for you to endure. The extent of your neighbor’s horrible and despicable acts makes this almost read like a fiction story. I only wish that it was. In the end, you made the only choice that was right for your family which was to move. How wonderful that you could be met with the kindness of the woman that allowed you to rent from her.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      It felt like a fiction story at times Heather, I have to say. In the end, as you say, the only choice left to us was to get out and that’s what we did. I was never so glad for the day when we drove out of that town and got the hell out, never going back again.
      It was amazing how that all came about with the rental we ended up with. Her faith in us and the way she treated us restored my faith in humanity and played a huge part in our healing in so many ways. I will never forget her kindness shown to my family. Thank you for taking the time to read it Heather.

      Like

  15. Sherri, I can’t imagine what it must have been like to go through that and especially with children to worry about too. You showed great courage staying there for as long as you did and trying, despite everything, to make it a home. We had a similar but less serious situation when we lived in Manchester. It was a flat in a big house and the guy downstairs who was initially friendly started shouting through the ceiling that he’d come and get us with an axe – fortunately we were only renting so in the end we did a flit at night, constantly worrying that he would come out and get us as we moved out. I’m so sorry that you had to go through this situation at all, but it will have made you stronger as a family.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you so much Andrea, I appreciate all you say and yes, it was a nightmare of a time, but I’m also so sorry for what you went through, that sounds just awful too. Another madman, but this time with an axe!! Thank goodness you got out of that horrendous situation too…it never ceases to amaze me how one person can have the power to create such fear for totally innocent families. Let’s hope it never happens again…

      Like

  16. Denise says:

    I thought this was a really searing post and it had me gripped. I could feel the tension that you must have experienced, and that was just reading for a few minutes. What you experienced must have all but destroyed you. It’s the unfairness, isn’t it? You’ve done nothing wrong yet you are the ones to lose out on all the things you have worked for and built up over a lifetime.
    You’ve written lots of accounts but this is one of the most memorable.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Hi Denise, and again, I thank you so very much for relaying to me your thoughts about this write-up and the story behind it. This is the first time I’ve ever written about it. Was it cathartic? I’m not sure…it just makes me sad that it had to happen at all. But, the responses of you and everyone here has shown me that I don’t have to be afraid to share these stories, no matter how painful they might be…

      Like

  17. Andy Oldham says:

    You took a run down home and worked so hard to make it so beautiful. What a horribly mean man who destroyed your happiness. I know there must be a special unhappy place for him after he passed. I’m glad that is all in the past and The Lord had blessed you so much more. Thanks for sharing! It was long as you said, but well worth the read. Blessings.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Dear Andy, I do thank you so much for taking the time to read this long post and then for your kind, supportive words afterwards. Yes, it was an awful time but we came through it in one piece and unscathed (relatively) and blessed indeed, thank God. I believe that in the end, with his ending, justice was at last served.

      Like

  18. Nida S. says:

    I am so sorry you and your family had to go through such torture! I feel enraged and just thinking you had children with you. I can’t understand why the police weren’t able to do much!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you very much Nida for taking the time to read this long post and for your kind words. Enraged is right, I felt like that many times and found it so hard not being able to do anything about it. Being so powerless and knowing that the police couldn’t help us made it so much worse.

      Like

  19. Catherine Johnson says:

    Yikes that’s terrifying. I have experience of bad people twisting tge truth too, they know exactly what to say. It makes me sick. I’m so glad you moved.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      I’m so sorry you’ve had those experiences Catherine. It’s the injustice of it all isn’t it? There is so much more to this story, one part about the first lawyer who didn’t believe us either! It is so sickening…but thank you for taking the time to read and for your kind words.

      Like

      • Catherine Johnson says:

        I suppose the hardest part is forgetting. I bet writing it here will help you. Take care!

        Like

      • Sherri says:

        I think you’re right Catherine…it’s the first time I’ve written about it and the love, kindness and sharing here from everyone is helping more than I could have thought possible…you take care too and have a great week… 🙂

        Like

  20. Heyjude says:

    What a terrible experience to have. That’s one reason I like living in the UK. Not everyone has a gun! A courageous posting Sherri.
    Have a good weekend with your family xx

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      It’s a good job I don’t like guns either Jude when I was so enraged at what that madman was doing to us…it was really awful and the day we left that town was one of the happiest of my life. I appreciate you reading this, thank you, and yes, we had a lovely weekend. Hope you did too… xx

      Like

  21. Rachel M says:

    OMG Sherri, talk about the neighbour from hell. I’ve had bad neighbours before: we lived next to the Mongrel Mob (a Maori gang) in Christchurch for a short while but they were quite tame compared to your guy. You definitely did the right thing getting out of there. I’d have abandoned the place too.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Any bad neighbours are awful as they have the power to destroy so much…peace in our own homes for one. I’m sorry that you had to deal with a gang living next door, that must have been pretty awful too. Thanks for reading Rachel, I appreciate it…and let’s hope that we both have good neighbours from now on! The ones we have now are a delight…

      Like

  22. Wow – what a rotten person! I’m not so amazed at the lack of action by the law though – I’ve watched a couple of things about stalkers, and these evil guys often get away with murder. Thank goodness you moved out before he escalated things – can’t imagine how terrifying it must have been. Now we have our lovely Sherri safe and sound to spread her love all around. 🙂 XXXX

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      The stalking laws have changed in California as around that same time when we were being terrorised by that crazy madman there were a couple of awful murders by stalkers which scared everyone. One of the worst things was that the police couldn’t do any more because of the law and we felt so helpless. They would have if he had done something ‘worse’ though…and that’s what really terrified me and for my children…
      Thanks so much dear Jo and yes, I’m glad to be here I do admit… xxxxxxx 🙂

      Like

  23. bulldog says:

    Now that reads like a home from hell… I agree that it was probably damn good news to hear of his death, just a pity it didn’t happen earlier before you had to move out…

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      I do admit Bulldog that I was very happy to hear the news, I felt redeemed, justice had been served at last. And like you, I wish it had happened before we moved out….thanks for that…

      Like

  24. jennypellett says:

    Wow Sherri, what a nightmare for you all. I’m amazed that you had the will to create such a beautiful garden from that wilderness you inherited with that madman next door. I don’t think I’ll ever moan about my neighbours again. And I can totally understand how hearing certain music brings it all crashing back. You are one brave lady xxx

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Hi Jenny, lovely to have you back (sorry for this very long post that you came back to!). I don’t know how I did it either. I just tried to make the best of a horrible situation and I didn’t want to show my fear to my children but it wasn’t easy. I suppose I kept thinking that he would be taken away (or shoot himself) but it never happened. Ah well, it’s in the past now and thank goodness we were able to escape in the end… xx

      Like

  25. What a story! I can easily imagine the fear and nightmare your family went through. You must have been especially frightened since you were with two young children and then a baby for most of the day alone. I admire how you found the desire to improve your house and make a home. In the end, you’re right, this man lost and he certainly ruined lots of lives around him. Except yours. Despite the challenges, you went on. You never stopped taking care of your family. And you never stopped planting roses.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Dear Evelyne, all I can say is that your last few sentences brought tears to my eyes. You’ve shown me that despite all that we went through, through the fear and darkness that he spread into our lives, when we escaped I left behind something good and beautiful and strong…my roses. Now I am beginning to see at last that in writing about this (for the first time), although it made me sad to do so, there is something to be redeemed from the craziness. For that, I am eternally grateful to you…

      Like

  26. y. prior says:

    well thanks for the heads up about this being long – that was worded so well and what hospitality you have – and I am coming back later – with me tea – to soak up the read – and hope you are enjoying the weekend with the boys. 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh..thank you Yvette, I needed to give that warning and yes, I had a super time with my boys 🙂 The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as it turned out…and I look forward to seeing you later for a nice cuppa… 🙂

      Like

  27. jenniferkmarsh says:

    My goodness, Sherri, that sounds awful. I feel for you for your time spent there, he sounded insane! It’s just so baffling and infuriating when the authorities can’t – or won’t – do anything about people like that. Not feeling safe in your own home is one of the worst feelings ever..
    But, I am so glad to hear you ended up moving to a lovely home with a lovely landlady. Your suffering did not seem to be in vain. It is always darkest just before the dawn, after all..

    Your stories are always so sincere and heartfelt. Thanks for sharing them with us. I hope you are having a lovely, blessed weekend 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh dear Jenny Jen Jen…you are such a kind, caring and beautiful soul. It was awful not being able to feel safe in our home, and I never take that for granted any more. Our neighbours now are wonderful and what a blessing!!!
      It is indeed always darkest before dawn…I remember that quite often…
      I had a wonderful weekend with my boys, thank you so much, a blessed, beautiful time. I hope you had a lovely weekend too…and a good week ahead too… 🙂 x

      Like

  28. There are some disturbed people in this world. It can be frightening living in close proximity to them.

    Like

    • Mahesh Nair says:

      Though I consider myself strong, my heart beat faster than usual reading this post.

      It’s height of helplessness when law can’t do much for you. There’re laws and there’s
      implementation, but there’s also protection, and it’s an irony that ‘everyone’ is brought
      under the umbrella of protection. Yes, you can’t arrest someone on the basis of suspicion
      alone, but you ‘can’ on the basis of intimidation and threat – and you were intimidated and
      threatened (not everyone with criminal mindset will issue a threat openly).

      There had been cases against him and even if you couldn’t provide evidence, your mere complaint must have at least put him, in the initial stage itself, under the watch of the law enforcement. Don’t we need police personnel with psychological background – the ones who could make a case from psychological analysis alone – may not be valid under law – but if you see what the lethal mix of guns and criminal mindset is doing to this country. We may want to revisit how we approach criminality when guns are legal.

      From his crouching down on the roof of his house to lying on the living room floor dead,
      what you went through is inexplicable. I know you weren’t around when he was found dead, but his dread still scares you – SUCH was his assault! And imagine you were pregnant, and pregnancy itself brings not only cheer and joy but also anxiety and fear. Sorry Sherri that you had to go through this, but then as the saying goes that in our lifetime we must go through both the best and the worst experiences, and let’s be glad that your worst is over. Trust me when I say this. God bless, my dear!

      PS: Your Desperate Housewives humor was spot-on. My wife finished watching all the seasons (180+ episodes) on Netflix within a month, and I thought I was addicted to Breaking Bad.

      Like

      • Sherri says:

        Dear Mahesh, your wonderful comment had me nodding furiously in agreement (about the laws, the ‘umbrella of protection’, the terrifying sense of helplessness, the deadly mix of firearms, criminal mindset, mental illness and the way the law is twisted by those who know how to) and yes, the sheer dread and anxiety I experienced while pregnant with my daughter. The horrendous stress I was under couldn’t have been good and it was a mercy that she was delivered safely, albeit 2 weeks early…
        The stalking laws in California were changing at around the same time we went through that hell – 1991 – 1993 – and I would like to think that someone like that wouldn’t be able to get away with what he did now, especially with his past criminal convictions. But maybe not…we were stunned to find out that he was allowed to keep his guns despite his background. That was the worse thing, the guns…
        The day we left was one of the happiest of my life and I did believe that the worst was over. Yes, we went on to have a happy family life, for a time, and of course things were hard when I went through my divorce some 10 years later but that was quite different to what that madman put us through as a family. I will trust you my friend, and believe that the worst is indeed over…
        I take great strength from your lovely, kind and very thoughtful message, thank you so much and I would say God bless you too…
        and…
        I love that you picked up on the DH bit. And your wife, wow, I’m giving her five now!! Haha, that is some commitment! My daughter and I watched the entire series but over the years it was on, not altogether. We loved and we miss it. She got to see the set when she went to Universal Studios with her dad last spring in California…I was so jealous! Hope you’re enjoying Game of Thrones & Mad Men. I’ve still not watched the rest of Breaking Bad and I’m getting withdrawal symptoms… 😉

        Like

        • Mahesh Nair says:

          Thanks Sherri for your kind words 🙂 You are a very brave woman – anybody would’ve been scared but most wouldn’t have stayed put. You may not realize it but you are “strong”.

          Loved Mad Men. Watched all the 6 seasons on Netflix, and bought two episodes of the 7th season for $1.99 each – 5 more episodes to go from this season/year. I wasn’t keen on watching Mad Men after I loved BB – because I’d perhaps thought that MM lacked action. But there’s only action (a different kind from a different era) 🙂 I’m yet to watch Game of Thrones – is it good?

          Watch BB please 🙂 I want to know how you like the last two episodes.

          Like

      • Sherri says:

        Ahh…thanks Mahesh but I don’t feel very strong sometimes!
        So glad you liked Mad Men (you got a great deal!) and yes, we have episode 7 to watch now before they take a break and show the remaining 7 next year…grrrrrrrr….wish they wouldn’t do that!
        Well, yes, a very different kind of action and a very different era. Of course, I remember it so well being a kid in the 60’s…of course in England not America 😉
        Game of Thrones is action alright, and again, completely different to MM and BB. If you can keep with the first season you will enjoy it. It goes a bit fast with such a huge cast of characters at first but the way the stories all interconnect and the character development is fascinating. It is quite violent in parts and also very racy…be warned, haha 😉
        Right, I really must. I think I can stream BB now I’ve got a new deal on Amazon and netflix but have to get my daughter to help as hubby and I are useless at this kind of thing…but I will definitely be in touch when I’ve got BB up and running again..!
        Great chatting with you again Mahesh..enjoy the rest of your day 🙂

        Like

    • Sherri says:

      There certainly are Nav, and he was one of them. Having him so close like that was terrifying. He invaded our peace, our home, our way of life. When he started to threaten the kids that was it. The day we left that hell-hole was one of the happiest days of my life.
      I appreciate you taking the time to read this long post Nav…thank you so much…

      Like

  29. Queenie says:

    Wow that is a story! I’m so sorry that you and your family had to endure that! Thank you for sharing x

    Like

  30. sheketechad says:

    You display an amazing amount of resilience and strength; what a gift to your three children. Wishing you continued peace.

    Like

  31. Wow Sherri! How absolutely terrifying! Your poor family subjected to this for two years and the police could do nothing! That’s just so wrong. Thank the Heavens that it all worked out and you and your family were safe. I imagine it’s not something one forgets! BTW, you did a beautiful job with the yard. 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Well, yes it was awful and we felt so helpless when the police didn’t do anything. I like to think that the laws have changed now as this madman was stalking us and I know the laws in California are strict about that now. Still, it was awful to go through but the day we walked away was one of the happiest of my life. I’ve never written about it before and I felt quite sad doing it but glad I did it now, and the love & support from everyone here has blessed me so much. And your very sweet comment about the yard…thank you for that Maria, you made me smile… 🙂

      Like

  32. arlene says:

    I clicked “like” because I love how you told your story. You are lucky you got away on time. Having a neighbor like that is really scary.

    Like

  33. Sherri what a dreadful experience to have to live through. I am so glad that you got out without injury to any of you. A house and money is nothing if you aren’t around to spend it/live in it. I saw a cartoon today “one man walks onto a plane with a bomb in his shoes and the law is altered so we all have to take out shoes off for inspection. 1 man kills 36 people with a rifle and their is no law changed.” I don’t understand Americans and their gun mentality. They obviously can’t control who buys these weapons thus putting innocent people at risk. I hope you feel a little lighter having shared this story and hope you are having a wonderful weekend with your boys. Time for a wallk on your return. >3 🙂 Cheers Irene

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      What a very poignant and thought-provoking comment Irene and yes, I am with you on that. I just don’t understand it either. How could this madman have been allowed to keep his guns? Why was it his ‘right to bear arms’ when he could have killed a child in the park or us? When I heard the story of the bullet going through what was once our bedroom my blood turned cold. It’s a mercy he didn’t kill anyone although that is only to the best of my knowledge. That cartoon is very true.
      I felt quite sad sharing it, the photos especially, bringing it all back, and I didn’t feel cathartic writing it, but I’m glad I did in the end. It’s the first time I’ve done so but reading all the different comments here and the perspectives and the support I know I did the right thing. After all, not all stories can be uplifting and happy can they, as we all know. There is a lot more to this story, perhaps I shall write it all down one of these days, but not on this blog. This was long enough for a post!
      I do feel lighter now and yes, thank you Irene, had a super weekend with my boys, perfect timing as it turned out, helped to put all this behind us and remember all the great blessings and joy in our family life.
      So lovely to come back here on Monday and head out on a walk with you my friend. I’ll get my shoes on, you tell me when and where and off we go…can’t wait 🙂

      Like

  34. Ste J says:

    Wow, that is grim…I am glad you got out of it, you never know what people are like and people with guns are worrying. I am a Brit though so not used to anything like that. That said…if the guy is was schizophrenic then surely there should have been something the police could have done to protect people…the fact that they couldn’t is really scary.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, as a fellow Brit I found this whole thing with guns very frightening and couldn’t understand how someone like this could be allowed to have guns and yes, surely he should have been better monitored than this? But no…all about his rights and ‘until he did something’ the police were ‘handcuffed’ – pun intended. It was the feeling of helplessness that was so awful. Still, as you say, we got out and thanks very much Ste J for reading this long post 🙂

      Like

      • Ste J says:

        I do enjoy an epic read, I blame it on Tolstoy! I suppose it is a case of civil freedom’s verses a life…I am sure the complex moral grey areas of the in between are almost a blog post in itself.

        Like

  35. merrildsmith says:

    Wow! What an awful experience. Your neighbor was truly the neighbor from hell, and I don’t know how he was allowed to have guns either. (Not all Americans believe in the right to bear arms for everyone all the time!) I’m glad you had a good experience with your landlady and neighbors after you moved.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you so much Merril for reading and for your very kind comment, I appreciate it. I quite agree with your comment about Americans and guns too, from personal experience 🙂

      Like

  36. elizfrat says:

    Although I pressed ‘like’, I of course couldn’t like the theme of your post. What an absolutely horrific experience and well done on coming through it and removing your family from such a toxic situation. I have 6 year old twins and understand how scared you must have been on your children’s behalf. So glad things are so very different for you now!
    Elizabeth x

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Ahh….well, I thank you for taking the time to read this long post Elizabeth. It was truly horrific and so scary, and so glad to have escaped. Wanting to protect my children and keep them from his evil intent to harm, which I have no doubt he would have done given half the chance, was the only thing I could think about. It was really traumatic. And thank you for your kind words, yes, things are definitely so much better now 🙂

      Like

  37. Getting a bad neighbour is a real worry, especially when the house next door goes up for sale. You had some bad luck there!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, it is always so stressful when you don’t know who your neighbours are going to be. Bad luck indeed! Thanks so much for reading and commenting Andrew.

      Like

  38. You told that story well. My heart was in my throat with you. It’s awful how so many of those people are walking the streets loose to torment others. I’m going back to read more of your stories as time permits.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you so much for coming over to my blog, and for taking to read this long post. Sorry it was so heart-wrenching though… 😦
      I look forward to seeing you again and hope you enjoy what you find here at my summerhouse. I also look forward to checking out your blog.
      Lovely to meet you – Sherri 🙂

      Like

      • Sherri says:

        Dear Marlene, I have come over to your blog and tried to comment but could not. I’m having a lot of problems today, so very frustrating, but I wanted you to know that I love your blog and resonate so much with what you share. The kitties are adorable and I really do hope and pray that your move goes through and you can have peace and joy in your new life. I look forward to following your journey…and I’ll be back once this problem is resolved – Sherri 🙂

        Like

  39. Sherri, I’m so glad that your story had a happy ending for you and your children. Your garden restoration work was amazing. How lovely that you had a place of respite at the new place after all that trauma. I admire your courage.

    Blessings ~ Wendy ❀

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you so much Wendy, for coming over, taking the time to read this and also to leave such a lovely, supportive comment. It was a shame to leave it all behind but it didn’t matter in the end, just the safety of our family. We did indeed go on and enjoy 10 years in the new town where we moved to, until I returned to the UK in 2003, and for those years I’m very grateful.
      Lovely to meet you….blessings to you too 🙂

      Like

  40. thirdhandart says:

    A gripping blog post! I didn’t notice the length as I was fully engaged in the harrowing plot line. I’m so sorry that you had to endure such trauma while living in the United States, and so relieved that the neighbor from hell didn’t physically hurt you or your lovely family. God bless you Sherri 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you very much Theresa for taking the time to read this and I’m glad that you didn’t notice the length. You can see why it was so long and the original is much longer than this! It was awful but there are horrible people everywhere, not just in America. It was our misfortune that we got stuck next to the neighbour from hell but thank God we all got out safely. God bless you too my friend 🙂

      Like

  41. Lisa Reiter says:

    Totally gripping and so horrible, Sherri. I am so glad there’s the happy ending! Lisa x

    Like

  42. Scary stuff. When it comes to our children we will do whatever it takes to keep them safe.

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Absolutely Donna, and that was what was so troubling about all of this – the threats made against my children, our whole family. That madman made our lives a living hell but thank God we got out safe and sound; leaving everything behind meant nothing…

      Like

  43. tieshka says:

    That was one crazy neighbor! Glad you made the right decision and moved on. What town was that? I can’t live in a small place at all- after my days in Switzerland I’d say I need at least half a million people around. 🙂

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Yes, he was a nutter as we say over here and he made our lives a living hell. I’ve never been so scared and couldn’t even feel safe in our own home. The whole story is much longer than this so I tried to capture it as best I could. It was in Shandon, we moved there from Los Osos before we finally made it to Paso Robles where we lived for the next 10 years. We made some lovely friends in Shandon who helped us and supported us and we kept in touch with them. Thankfully they lived out towards Cholame on the road that takes you to the ‘Y’ to Bakersfield and Fresno. Very hot and very dry! I thought that living in a small community like that would be good for the kids!!! How wrong I was! It was always meant to be a stop-gap anyway so that we could get to Paso but not like that! We lost everything and had to start over but none of that mattered. What mattered is that we made it out of there safely and in one piece and for that I’m eternally grateful. Thanks Tieshka, and judging by your experience in Switzerland, it sounds as if you are in the right place in LA 😎

      Like

      • tieshka says:

        You did quite a good job shortening your story on that guy… I would probably have nightmares about him! And yes, family is what matters most- not all the material things in life- they don’t go on with us anyways…..Never heard of Shandon- will have to look it up on the map.

        I still am very fond of Switzerland, I just could never live in a town with 4,000 people again.. I’m definitely more of a Lausanne or Geneva type of person!

        Have a great rest of the week and I look forward to catching up on the rest of your posts a bit later! I still continue to remain behind on Everything, which might be the case for the next month or so- it’s all I can do to write one post a week myself and work a little bit on my chapter book.

        Like

        • Sherri says:

          You are a very busy lady Tieshka and writing is very time consuming, as well as everything else! It’s great to see you here and I really appreciate you taking the time to read my posts. You have a good week and a super weekend and will catch up with you again soon, and all the best with your book writing! I know how that goes… 🙂

          Like

  44. Pingback: Blogging Brings Surprises, Joy And Frustration | A View From My Summerhouse

  45. Norah says:

    What a dreadful story, Sherri, and how brave of you to share it. I was surprised, at the end, to find that your neighbour had a wife. I thought he must have lived alone. How you coped for those two years I can imagine; but I’m pleased you did! Thank you for sharing what is a more horrifying story than most fictional horror stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      Thank you so much Norah for your kind words. It was a harrowing time to say the least and yes, he had a wife but quite why she stayed with him I’ll never know. I’m so glad we came through it too and wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

      Liked by 1 person

  46. OMG, Sherri, what a horrendous story and such an injustice that he got away with all that harassment. Have you any idea what he died of? I wonder if he had an undiagnosed brain tumour that made him behave so violently, or if he was an untreated paranoid schizophrenic. Having said that, I do think there are some people in this world who are plain evil. Thank the Lord that you and your family survived the ordeal, although to lose your home and suffer such immense stress and fear at the hands of one man, one wishes the Lord had sorted him out a lot earlier!

    Like

    • Sherri says:

      Dear Sarah, I can’t believe that I have only just read your comment here from December 9th! I am so very sorry that I did not see it, nor reply. A complete oversight, and I can only blame the stress of the run up to Christmas…but I am so cross with myself right now, grrrrrrr…..
      Reading your comment, I think oh, I could tell you so much and there is a lot more to this woeful tale. Yes, he was a paranoid schizophrenic who was allowed to keep loaded guns at his property, took illegal drugs as well as dealt them and had a criminal record. Quite why the police couldn’t do more to protect us we will never know. It was an utter nightmare. I don’t know what he died of, his wife came home from work and found him dead on the floor was what I heard through the grapevine, so I don’t expect I’ll ever hear the full story. I prayed and prayed when we lived there for protection and yes, we got out in one piece, mercifully. But yes, I too wish my prayers to remove him way before that were answered. I hoped that his gun would go off while he was cleaning it and shoot his head clean off, I admit. Not very Christian, but that’s me being totally honest. I wonder to this day if the stress he put us under affected my daughter during my pregnancy with her and her infancy, even though I did my level best to protect the children from it all and keep things as ‘normal’ as I could under the circumstances, determined not to let him rob us of our family life. I will never understand why we had to go through all of that, but there it is. Thank you Sarah for your concern, it means a lot knowing that.

      Like

  47. Well. My neighbors are looking downright cheery! Holy crap, Sherri. I am so glad you got the hell out of there with your family. That is unbelievable. I’m about to pull a Hulk about why the police didn’t do more about this situation. I’ve seen this before and I will never understand it. Everything falls on the victim to prove something or other and, even then, it’s never quite enough. I’m happy you found a lovely home to live and raise your beautiful children.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sherri says:

      It stinks doesn’t it? Ha…I knew you would feel strongly about this for some strange reason 😉 You know, I still can’t get over how helpless we felt during the whole awful time. But as you say, yes, we got out and went on to live our lives. In the end, that madman didn’t steal our dreams but he did a b***** good job of trying. I like to think that justice was served in the end…
      Thanks for coming over and reading Sarah and for showing such care and concern… ❤

      Like

  48. No way! This reads like a film script. I’m just sitting here frozen in horror, over what y’all went thru! And yes, thank God he’s dead! I ain’t skeerdt to say it! Thank God for His protection over your family. You made the only choice, to flee for your lives.
    Wow, just wow. Makes any little problems I’ve ever experienced seem miniscule in comparision!
    God bless you abundantly!
    Melinda

    Liked by 1 person

Lovely to chat...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s