United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Privacy, Identity Theft, and the Protection of Your Personal
Information in the 21st Century?
February 14, 2002
Executive Director , Doris Tate Crime Victims Bureau
In December of 1987, just a days before Christmas, my 28 year-old brother
Ron Ruse was ambushed & shot in the back outside of his apartment in Carlsbad,
Ron was murdered after being stalked for over a year by Linda
Ricchio, a woman who had become obsessed with him. Ron had stopped
dating Ricchio a few years before the stalking began. He had difficulty
extricating himself from the relationship with Ricchio because
his attempts to leave would always be followed by her manipulation
of him with staged suicide attempts, public scenes meant to embarrass
him and threats of violence against him and his friends and family.
From the moment that Ron ended their relationship, Ricchio began
to access personal information about him in order to track his
whereabouts and to know who he talked to and who he spent time
She was easily able to get copies of phone bills and utility
bills. She was able to trace Ron's fiancée and his fiancée' s mother
by accessing DMV information. Since that time, Congress has passed
legislation to protect driver's license information. There are
loopholes in the current law that still leave people vulnerable.
Senator Feinstein's bill mandates that you must give consent before
the information on your diver's license can be sold.
In mid-1987, Ricchio quit her job and stopped going to school
in order to pursue Ron on a fulltime basis. She stalked him so
relentlessly that she neglected everything else in her life; even
letting her cats die of starvation inside her apartment. In November,
Ron was compelled to get a restraining order in an attempt to protect
himself and save his job. The San Diego County judge who issued
the restraining order told him that he should be flattered by the
attention. Ricchio's response to the order was to legally purchase
a gun and to become proficient in its use, shooting at the head
and crotch of a silhouette target.
In late November the daily contacts stopped. We learned later
that Linda Ricchio had gone to San Francisco during that period,
to visit her brother and to enlist his help in developing over
200 surveillance photos that she had taken of Ron. During that
time Ron moved for the third time in 1987. He was trying to buy
a little time, trying to decide what to do, and rapidly coming
to the conclusion that there was really nothing that he could do
if she decided to become violent. With her ability to track him
down, he was convinced that even if he left the state, she would
eventually find him using phone records or one of the other kinds
of trails that we leave simply by living in the world.
On December 9th, after once again tracing his whereabouts, Ricchio
rented the apartment next door to Ron without his knowledge. The
two second-story apartments were separated by a privacy wall, Linda's
at the back of the balcony and Ron's at the front by the stairs.
On Monday, December 14th Ron went home from work in the dark, carrying
a bag of groceries, keys and a checkbook. He turned his back to
the privacy wall and bent over to put his key in the door. At this
point, Ricchio stepped out from behind the wall and shot Ron in
the back two times, killing him.
At the time that my brother was killed there were no stalking
laws in California. It was not new behavior by any stretch of the
imagination; it was simply referred to as harassment or domestic
violence. California was the first state to pass a law that specifically
made stalking a crime. In the years following my brother's murder,
I have been very involved in advocating anti-stalking legislation
in California and in working directly with stalking victims; in
fact most stalking victims in San Diego County eventually find
their way to the Crime Victims Bureau through referrals from law
enforcement, DA's and counselors. While many things have changed,
both in the criminal justice system and in the way that we view
stalkers since my brother's murder in 1987, the pathology of stalking
remains the same. We have recently an increased use of internet
venues being used, particularly by domestic violence type stalkers
to cntact and harrass their victims.
And while we have been able to legislate safeguards into many
of the avenues of access that stalkers once used to obtain personal
information about their victims, new avenues are opening up all
the time. Stalkers often have a narcissistic, sociopathithc, borderline
personality. This type of person has the intelligence and the drive
necessary to access any information available in order to track
their victim, and would most certainly be willing to purchase information.
Information on the internet that is not safeguarded is fair game.
Everyone should have the ability to protect themselves by protecting
personal information about themselves. Senator Feinstein's Privacy
Act of 2001 mandates the kind of informed consent necessary to
do just that by providing that first, you must be notified if a
company intends to sell your personal information, then it provides
an avenue for you to stop that sale and it permits you to sue any
company that misuses your social security number. This legislation
gives individuals increased ability to protect themselves from
those who would seek to harm them