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Gavin de becker


       September 06, 2011 1:13 PM

 Endless Fear


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For actress Theresa Saldana life was good in 1982. Two years earlier she had won acclaim for her role in Martin Scorcese's film Raging Bull, starring Robert DeNiro.


But as she stepped out of her apartment into the bright California sunshine on March 15, 1982, a strange man confronted her.


"Are you Theresa Saldana?" he asked. When she said "Yes," the man pulled a hunting knife and began stabbing her again and again.


Jeff Fenn was delivering water to a nearby apartment, saw the attack and wrestled the man to the ground. His intervention saved Theresa's life. Fenn subdued the man until police arrived. Stabbed 10 times and needing 26 pints of blood, Theresa survived four hours of heart-lung surgery and remained hospitalized for four months. Police identified her attacker as Arthur Jackson, a native of Scotland, and discovered he had twice been deported from the US, once for carrying a weapon and threatening to kill President Kennedy, and again after being committed to a hospital as a paranoid schizophrenic.


Jackson grew up in Aberdeen, Scotland. His mentally-ill mother, an obsessive compulsive, believed she had psychic powers. After Jackson's father left, the home became a scary place. Classmates thought there was something strange about Arthur Jackson, and teachers described him as "deeply troubled."


Jackson developed a passion for the movies, a harmless passion some thought. He pored over library books about Hollywood film stars, making detailed notes, and became obsessed with Gail Russell, a beautiful dark-haired actress. Jackson came to believe they were destined to be together. At one point, he was referred to psychiatrists at the local mental hospital. They concluded that he was obsessed with detail and unable to distinguish fantasy from reality and sent him on his way. After Gail Russell died at an early age, Jackson saw Raging Bull and became infatuated with Theresa Saldana. 


Jackson believed that if he killed her, he would be executed and they would be reunited in Heaven. After saving enough money for a trip to the United States, he tricked one of Theresa's relatives into telling him she lived in Los Angeles. He hired a private investigator to find Theresa's address, and, on that fateful day in March, executed his plan. Even while awaiting trial, he hounded her from his cell, sending her letters that drove her into a state of fear.


"Even when he was locked up," she later said, "I considered him a threat to me."


Jackson was convicted of attempted murder and inflicting great bodily harm, but was only sentenced to 12 years in jail--the maximum then allowed for these crimes.


Theresa fights back



After her recovery, Theresa founded Victim's for Victims, and played herself in the 1984 movie Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story, and also in an TV episode of Hunter.  She also authored a book, Beyond Survival, a memoir of her experiences. Her first marriage did not survive the attack and ended in divorce. Theresa wanted to get on with her career:

"I got so over-identified with the issues and the cause, I became Theresa Saldana: the girl who got stabbed. That's not really me."


Jackson remained in a California prison, where he befriended Sirhan Sirhan, who had been convicted of killing Robert F. Kennedy. Jackson made several death threats against President Bill Clinton. He also sent a letter to the Metropolitan Police in London, confessing to a murder that had taken place years earlier and remained unsolved. London police took it seriously. Jackson also mentioned a bank robbery he had committed in 1967 and being chased by a taxi driver, whom he shot dead.


But he was still obsessed with Theresa. In March 1988, he wrote to a television producer saying he planned to assassinate Theresa and threatened to harm her mother and her rescuer, Jeff Fenn. "Police and FBI protection for T.S. won't stop the hit squad," he wrote.


After his 1988 psychological evaluation in prison, the psychiatrist called Jackson extremely dangerous and capable of murder. "He is still psychotic, still delusional," she wrote, "still elaborately involved with Theresa Saldana ... Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston and Charles Bronson."


In 1989 Jackson spoke by phone to Ellen Greehan, a freelance reporter for the Scottish Daily Record. "He is just totally obsessed with Theresa." Even more alarming, said Greehan, "He seemed to have also developed an obsession with her mother."


Time off for Good Behavior


By 1989 Theresa had resumed her acting career. The scars on her body had faded, and she had won parts in two movies. That March she married actor Phil Peters and was looking forward to the birth of their baby. But then she learned that Jackson, now age 53, was about to be released on parole. 


His 12-year prison sentence had been reduced for good behavior.


Despite the fact that a prison psychiatrist believed Jackson should remain behind bars, her opinion carried no weight with the parole board. Others shared the psychiatrist's frustration, saying the laws tied their hands. The state courts had overturned as unconstitutional a law passed in 1985 that would keep prisoners incarcerated beyond their release date if state psychiatrists considered them still dangerous.


California legislators tried to rush through emergency legislation to address the court's concerns. Even so, Jackson would have been ineligible for further confinement because the courts had ruled that only crimes committed after January 1, 1986 could be considered.


In 1983, security expert Gavin de Becker had taken on Theresa as a client free of charge. In his opinion, Jackson posed a significant threat. "If someone says 'I'm ordered by God ... and this is my destiny'," de Becker said, "there is not a lot they can say later on to lessen the likelihood they will do it again."  Although the INS intended to deport him, de Becker believed Jackson remained dangerous to Theresa. "Even if he is 8000 miles away ... England is not Mars," he said, citing the fact that [Jackson] had traveled to many countries and "through 14 states in the U.S. trying to find a gun to kill Theresa."


Amazingly, some felt that Theresa was over-reacting or motivated by revenge.


"My life is in jeopardy," Theresa told one interviewer. ... I'm not saying to kill this person [but] I believe that we have an obligation to protect the public's safety."


In December 1990, Jackson was put on trial for sending her death threats, convicted and sentenced to 5 years and 8 months in prison. Under the Victim's Bill of Rights law, Theresa spoke at the sentencing.


Gathering her courage to look straight at him, she said: "Arthur Jackson, I ask you to please leave me and my family alone. Take me out of your thoughts."


After his release five years later Jackson was deported to Britain. He was later tried for the murder he had confessed to in his letter to London police, found guilty of manslaughter and sent to a hospital for the criminally insane. A psychiatrist there described Jackson as "one of the most psychotic and chronic schizophrenics" he had ever encountered. In 1999 Jackson was sent to Broadmoor Hospital for the criminally insane. At his request he was later transferred to Carstairs Hospital in Scotland. In 2004, at the age of 69, Jackson died there.


At last, Theresa could live life without fear.


She could also take pride in her accomplishments in her effort to thwart stalkers. She helped lobby for the 1990 anti-stalking law and the 1994 Driver's Privacy Protection Act. Her career continued to flourish with starring roles in the TV drama, The Commish, and various films. Her rescuer, Jeff Fenn, awarded a Carnegie Medal for heroism in 1982, went on to work in law enforcement. After applying to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, he passed the entrance exam, graduated from the academy and became a deputy sheriff.


On June 6, 2016, after a brief hospitalization, Theresa died at the age of 61. She is survived by her husband, Phil Peters, and a daughter.


I look forward to your comments on the courage of Theresa, her relentless stalker and the need for laws to ensure that dangerous stalkers are not allowed to threaten the public safety.


My most recent crime thriller, DIVA, involves a stalker's sexual obsession with a beautiful flute soloist. He’ll stop at nothing to have her ... . Click the book cover below for details.


        Citations: The Gift of Fear, Gavin De Becker, 1997  

"A Crime Without End: Theresa Saldana's Nightmare," Dianne Klein, LA Times, 6/2/89

 LA Times articles: December 1990 -- January 1991

www.protectionservices/The Stalker of Hollywood, 7-24-2008


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COMMENTS


[ Posted by Donna Fletcher Crow, September 07, 2011 6:19 PM ]
     Susan, an amazing story--and you told it so well. What a tribute to Theresa's courage, too. It's so important to tell victim's stories. you're doing a great job to raise awareness.

[ Posted by Patty Mooney, September 07, 2011 8:39 PM ]
     Susan,
This was riveting. Very well written. Thank you!
Patty Mooney
"A Diary Left Open"


[ Posted by Art Smukler, September 08, 2011 12:11 AM ]
     Endless Fear was well written and fascinating. It is depressing how inadequate our criminal justice system has become.

[ Posted by admin, September 08, 2011 7:51 AM ]
     Thank you Donna and Patty for visiting and leaving your comments. Yes, Art, it is beyond depressing how inadequate the laws are when it comes to protecting women, for the most part.

However, laws to protect witnesses of crime, many of them young males, are also inadequate. Recent gang retaliations in the Boston area have proven this.


[ Posted by Kerry shepherd, September 08, 2011 10:05 AM ]
     Cool site ,very fascinating look forward to reading more ...kind regards

[ Posted by R. Doug Wicker, September 17, 2011 6:22 PM ]
     That's just an amazing story. And expertly told, I might add.

Well done.


[ Posted by admin, September 17, 2011 6:43 PM ]
     Thank you for stopping by, Doug. It is indeed an amazing story. So happy you enjoyed it!
Susan


[ Posted by Jonathan Doe, November 16, 2011 8:34 AM ]
     An evocative telling of a frightening story that turned out OK. One minor nitpick--there's a missing "not" here: ".. the need for laws to ensure that dangerous stalkers are allowed to threaten.."

[ Posted by admin, November 16, 2011 10:53 AM ]
     Hi Jonathan, thanks for the comment, and also for your not so nitpick re the missing word!

[ Posted by casey, September 15, 2015 1:42 AM ]
     I searched a number of times for current info on the perp of this crime. From earlier searches, it seemed like he got out of prison early and was then deported, but then there wasn't much info after that. After learning of this heinous crime, and that Theresa survived, I NEEDED to know if her attacker ever went free, especially since he only got 12 years, then released early for 'good behavior', even though he continued to send her threats. This article puts that question to rest. I'm glad he died in custody; he was a legitimate psycho.

[ Posted by admin, September 15, 2015 7:53 AM ]
     Thanks for the comment, Casey. Glad my post put the question to rest!
Susan


[ Posted by jeffrey fenn, November 17, 2015 8:59 AM ]
     Susan, Just came across your article. Outstanding job and very factual, unlike others that I have read over the years. Thanks for getting it right, Jeffrey Fenn

[ Posted by admin, November 17, 2015 12:49 PM ]
     Thanks for the comment, Jeffrey. In my posts, I try to focus on the victims rather than sensationalize the killers. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Susan


[ Posted by Terry, June 07, 2016 9:08 PM ]
     RIP Theresa Saldana

posted by SUSAN FLEET   September 06, 2011 1:13 PM  Stalkers 



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