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       August 15, 2011 11:46 AM

 How to kill a career


Gunter Parche

Gunter Parche was a fanatical tennis fan. A native of Germany, he adored German tennis star Steffi Graf, ranked in 1990 as the world’s #1 female tennis player. That changed in 1991 when Monica Seles ended Steffi’s 186-week hold on the top spot. Incensed and bent on revenge,  Parche decided to get even.

As security expert Gavin De Becker points out in his book, The Gift of Fear, the rich and famous are especially vulnerable to stalkers. Movie and TV stars, athletes and musicians may have money, resources and power, but this may not stop a fanatical stalker. Over the years Monica Seles had received numerous threats alluding to the political situation in her native Yugoslavia; she had also received death threats, including a letter saying a bomb had been planted in the house where she was staying for Wimbledon. But nothing came of these threats.

Parche began stalking Monica. It wasn't difficult. Her schedule was well publicized. He sent her no messages but kept a close watch as the Monica-Steffi rivalry continued. In 1991 Steffi defeated Monica to win a match in San Antonio and another in Hamburg. Parche may have been there to celebrate Steffi's victory. But in 1992 Monica defeated Steffi to win the French Open. (below)

The next year proved fateful. In 1993 Monica remained the top ranked player, having won the French open 3 consecutive years and both the U.S. Open and Australian Open in consecutive years. In January 1993, she defeated Steffi in the finals to win the Australian Open, her third win in four Grand Slam final matches with Steffi. Imagine the outrage Gunter Parche felt as he watched the match on TV. This may have been the final straw.

In April, Monica, age 19 and still ranked # 1, returned to Hamburg for a tournament. On the bright sunny afternoon of April 30, she faced Magdalene Maleeva in a quarter-final match. During a break between sets, both women went to the sidelines. In full view of 6,000 spectators, and despite the presence of two nearby security guards, a heavy-set, disheveled man leaned over a 3-feet-high barrier and stabbed Monica in the back with a 10-inch boning knife.

Monica never knew what hit her. She screamed, stood up and took several steps, and collapsed into the arms of a tennis official. "At first, everything seemed calm. Very calm," said the official. "People were trying to figure out what it was. She jumped up and ran near the net, holding her back over her shoulder. You thought maybe it was a back spasm."

Lisa Grattan, a WTA tour director, was one of the first to reach Seles. "I was sitting right across from where it happened," Grattan said. "I heard a scream and I looked over there. It looked to me like he just hit her. I thought, "What the hell is he doing?' She got up, then she grabbed her back, (and) I knew she was hurt."

When Monica asked if she was bleeding, Grattan told her she would be okay, held a towel to the wound to stem the flow of blood, and tried to comfort her. Monica was rushed to the hospital with a one-inch deep wound in her back. The inch-deep slit cut some muscle tissue but it missed her spinal cord and did not injure her lungs. While Monica was hospitalized, she received another emotional blow: her father was diagnosed with cancer.

Meanwhile, police had arrested Gunter Parche, a 39-year-old unemployed man from East Germany.  In October 1993, a German court convicted him of causing Monica Seles grievous bodily harm, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. However, he had been found to be psychologically impaired. The prosecutor asked for a sentence of 2 years, 9 months. Because of diminished responsibility, Parche could have received a maximum of 3 years, 9 months. Instead, he received no jail time at all and was sentenced to 2 years of probation and psychological treatment.

Outraged, Monica vowed never to play tennis in Germany again. "What people seem to be forgetting,” she said, "is that this man stabbed me intentionally and he did not serve any punishment for it.” 


The Harm Stalkers Inflict

Parche falls under the category of Resentful Stalkers, who pursue vengeance because of some perceived grievance. Parche admitted that he had stabbed Monica so that Steffi would again be the world’s #1 female tennis player. For Parche, Monica's rise to the top of the women’s tennis rankings, deposing Steffi from the top spot, was reason enough to stalk and stab her. He may or may not have intended to kill her. That he intended to frighten and harm her is certain.

It also had a negative impact on Steffi Graf, (left) another innocent victim. She did not know Parche and had no part in the stabbing, but many of Monica's fans blamed her for the attack.

Stalking is a terrifying experience for the victim. In addition to causing physical harm, it inflicts emotional damage and psychological trauma that can last for years. In this case, it may have killed a promising career. Monica recovered from the physical injury; however, although doctors said she could resume competition in about three months, the emotional trauma kept her off the tour for more than two years. A tragic result considering her early promise.

A Young Tennis Star

Monica was barely into her teens when her family moved from Yugoslavia to Florida. With her father's encouragement and guidance, she played her first professional tournament in 1988 at the age of 14. She won her first tournament in 1989. A month later she played her first French Open and reached the finals where, ironically, she was defeated by Steffi Graf. At the end of the tour she was ranked #6 in the world.

After the 1993 stabbing she was never quite the same, never as consistent or unshakably confident. In August 1995 she won her comeback tournament, the Canadian Open. In 1996 she won her 4th Australian Open, but this was her last Grand Slam title. Three weeks after the death of her beloved father in 1998, she lost the French Open.

However, the scale of her accomplishments is remarkable, on and off the court. After becoming a United States citizen in 1994, she helped the U.S. tennis team win the Fed Cup in 1996, 1999 and 2000. She won a bronze medal in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. In 2003 she sustained a foot injury and never again played an official tour match. In 2008, at the age of 34, she announced her retirement. Her humanitarian awards are also impressive: Goodwill Ambassador Facilitator to the United Nations; Ambassador for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. In 2009 Monica Seles was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

For more details on this and other cases see DARK DEEDS, Volume 1


I look forward to your comments on the courage of Monica Seles or the act of her despicable stalker. My most recent crime thriller, DIVA, was inspired by an actual stalker ... click the book cover below right for details.


St. Petersburg Times, Disturbed fan stabs top-ranked Seles, Bruce Lowitt, 10/7/1999

WTA News: Looking Back at a Legend, Monica Seles

The Gift of Fear, Gavin De Becker

View a video of the stabbing at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vl-2uVhNLJI

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[ Posted by Myrna Griffith, August 16, 2011 12:37 PM ]
     The insight you've shown in this posting makes reading "Diva" even more exciting, Susan.

[ Posted by Art Smukler, August 16, 2011 8:05 PM ]
     Fascinating. Are you sure you're not a psychiatrist? Thanks. Art

[ Posted by Jenny Milchman, August 16, 2011 10:47 PM ]
     What a sad story of bravery and lost potential. The injustice of it must still rankle many. I wonder where Parche is now?

[ Posted by Jenny Milchman, August 16, 2011 10:49 PM ]
     I'm not sure if my last comment posted. Thanks for sharing this tale of lost potential and bravery.

[ Posted by admin, August 17, 2011 1:02 PM ]
     Thanks for your comments Art and Jenny. Not a psychiatrist, Art, but I've read about this type of stalker ...

Got both comments Jenny. I'm not sure where Parche is now. I know the lenient treatment he received rankled Monica Seles for quite some time, but she managed to rise above it. I admire her a lot for her accomplishments.

[ Posted by Helaine Smith, August 18, 2011 9:07 AM ]
     Excellent info about a very interesting story. I am glad Monica came through with dignity and grace. Her stalker is sick and should never see the light of day. But we know legal systems do not work that way. Looking forward to next weeks blog!

posted by SUSAN FLEET   August 15, 2011 11:46 AM  Stalkers 


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