Lover, Stalker, Killer: A Twisted, Terrifying True Crime Whodunnit

by | Apr 19, 2024 | Crime Writing | 0 comments

When Match.com became the first online dating website in 1995, not one of my single friends considered going out with someone they hadn’t met. They told me that part of the mystique, intrigue, and hope of meeting Mr. Right could never happen via computer. How could a photoshopped snapshot, padded resume, and pitch replete with buzz phrases possibly summarize a person on the hunt for a date, much less a mate?

In 2004, Match.com was the number one dating site in the Guinness Book of World Records, and according to Ryan Anderson, PhD, it’s estimated that “by 2040, 70% of us will have met our significant other online.” This led me to consider two questions: What are the risks and downsides of online dating?

“According to research conducted at Michigan State University, relationships that start out online are 28% more likely to break up in their first year than relationships where couples first meet face to face.” Why has a website become the preferred meeting place for a single person instead of a social event, mutual acquaintance, or coffee shop? What about the potential for danger, deception, or worse – murder? With my writing and research about crime, I’ve come to know a few things about women and murder.

For thirteen years, I wrote about my ride-along experiences with Detective John “Jigsaw” St. John – the LAPD’s renowned serial murder expert. My soon-to-be-released book, Jigsaw and Jane, Thirteen Years of Murder and Mayhem with Badge Number One, recounts those years as his secret weapon. One of those cases involved two women murdered by a serial killer.

Bill Bradford’s kill zone was the Mojave Desert, where he played out his sadistic fantasies. I asked myself, what woman would risk being alone with a man they’d never met? But Shari Miller and Tracey Campbell knew Bill Bradford. Shari met him at the neighborhood bar and Tracey chatted with him in their apartment complex. The aspiring artist and teenager trusted him to make their dream of becoming a model come true. They thought they knew him.   

Lover, Stalker, Killer was based on a love triangle/ murder plot that was so convoluted and confusing that I needed to diagram the timeline, plot twists, and characters’ behavior to keep the facts straight.

The Story: Garage mechanic Dave Kroupa, newly free to start dating after breaking up with his girlfriend, signed up on the dating website Plenty of Fish. He met and dated a single mom, Liz Goyer, with whom he shared common interests. A few months later, he met computer programmer Cari Farver. The relationship flourished until a chance meeting between Cari and Liz in Dave’s apartment. That brief encounter drove Liz into such a jealous rage that she stalked Dave, pretending it was Cari for two years, and put Mr. Kroupa into a never-ending nightmare.    

This story that began as a jealous obsession between a woman who felt betrayed by her lover who became romantically involved with another woman has been fodder for endless romance novels and Lifetime television series. My takeaway from this tragic true crime story was the same as the author, Dr. Anderson: “If something feels off, trust your gut. The most important thing to use here is your common sense. You don’t necessarily have to develop a trust no one and sleep with one eye open approach to online dating. But it’s probably worthwhile to have a healthy degree of skepticism.”

My admonition can be summed up in six words: “Trust your instincts to stay safe.”