Photo: Nikki and Ben Goeser
Published March 12, 2021
By Nikki Goeser [contributor to The Tennessee Conservative] –
The Tennessee State Senate unanimously passed the Lifetime Order of Protection Bill this week. The final vote will take place on Monday, March 15th on the House Floor.
This bill is to help prevent victims of violent crimes from being re-victimized.
My situation is only one example of why this legislation is needed here in TN. Unfortunately, there are other victims of horrific crimes in our state who need help also.
On April 2, 2009, my life was turned upside down. Completely Shattered. My husband Ben was murdered in front of me by a man who was stalking me. This man’s name is Hank Wise. My husband and I were inside a restaurant and my stalker showed up out of nowhere. My husband had already asked him to leave me alone about a month prior. I realized at that point that I was being stalked. I asked management to remove him from the establishment.
When management confronted him and asked him to leave, he pulled a .45 from under his jacket and came up behind my husband, shot him in the head, then stood over Ben and continued to fire 6 more rounds into him. In front of myself, 50 witnesses and security cameras.
He put the gun back under his jacket and started to walk out like no one would know he was the shooter. I knelt beside my husband in a pool of his blood wishing his life back into him, but it was no use, Ben was dead.
The horrific scene will be with me for the rest of my life.
A United States Marine who just happened to be in the crowd, tackled that man and he was held until the police came.
When the police searched his vehicle at the crime scene, they found 2 more guns, ammunition, a baseball bat, binoculars, gloves, rope, and a knife. The detectives said he purchased the binoculars and baseball bat that very day.
Before the murder trial took place, Ben’s murderer sent me two letters from prison. What he did was send letters meant for me, to my former attorney that I used for my wrongful death suit against him. It was the only address he had. I was already dealing with grief, trauma, and loss. This was just too much. I sent copies of these letters to the prosecutor, I told him this needed to stop, I wanted a restraining order and extra charges filed. Nothing ever happened. The prosecutor did nothing.
So I gave up. I told my attorney to please not tell me anymore if other letters came. It was the only way I could protect myself mentally and emotionally, since no one else would help me. My attorney honored that request from a very distraught widow. For years, he did not tell me.
In late 2019, I reached out to my former attorney and that’s when he finally told me of all the other letters that had come after many years. Twisted love letters. This is trauma on top of trauma for me.
My stalker sent pictures of himself, Valentines, Christmas cards. Holidays that people spend time with their spouse, holidays that I have been forced to spend alone because he took my husband from me.
He writes things like “Even if you move on and find someone new, I will always love you” He asks me to “write him” and he “wants me to come visit him in prison” and he “thinks about me everyday.” These letters are meant to terrify me, letting me know “I’m still here, I’m not going anywhere, and he wants to see me.” This fixation has lasted for many years.
A one year order of protection is not going to help me.
These letters show a continued fixation and obsession that is a clear threat to myself. Many victims of stalking worry about what their stalker may be capable of. I don’t have to guess what he may be capable of, I KNOW what he IS capable of. He has proven that already.
Much to my dismay, TN Department of Correction has allowed Hank Wise early-release “good behavior credits” and he is scheduled to be released early in 2028.
My fear is that he will come looking for me one day. And that day will be here before I know it. If he is willing to do this from prison, what will he do when he is released? I fear for myself and my loved ones.
I worry for other victims out there who are facing similar horrific circumstances. This Lifetime Order of Protection is only a piece of paper, so there are no guarantees for safety, but at least victims will know that the Legislature, Judges and Law have our back.
While it will be helpful to have this law, I encourage victims to have a backup plan for their safety. I personally choose to legally carry a gun for my own self defense. I carry it everyday and have had consistent training over the years. However, victims can choose for themselves what steps to take to best protect themselves. This is certainly an extra option. One I hope victims will take into consideration.
About the Author:
Nikki Goeser is Executive Director of the Crime Prevention Research Center
and author of “Stalked and Defenseless.“