By Jeff Lehr
A Carthage man pleaded guilty Thursday to a reduced charge in a felony stalking case, and was assessed a suspended sentence and probation.
Richard A. Shipman, 59, was scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Jasper County Circuit Court on the stalking charge, but he pleaded guilty instead to a misdemeanor offense of harassment in a plea agreement with the prosecutor’s office.
The defendant was arrested in July of last year on the complaint of a neighbor, Nataly Patterson, who alleged that he had been stalking her and her family for about six years. On the night of his arrest, he reportedly had stood in her yard and glared at Patterson and two friends as they sat on her porch on Morningside Drive in Carthage.
A probable-cause affidavit filed with the court states that police had been to Patterson’s residence three times in the preceding year for stalking-related incidents involving Shipman.
Patterson told police that she would spot him on her property three or four times a week, peering through her windows or doors. He occasionally would throw rocks at her house, and he once accused her of stealing his trash can when in actuality the wind had blown it into a ditch, according to the affidavit.
Shipman in the past reportedly had followed Patterson’s daughter and her friend to the municipal swimming pool and watched them for several minutes. On another occasion, he had revved the engine of his vehicle in a menacing manner as the daughter rode her bicycle past his driveway, the affidavit alleges.
The defendant told an officer a year ago that he went to her home the night she and her friends were on her porch because he was angry with someone else and did not know if that person was there or not. In the same conversation, he told the officer that he was getting angry with him for staring at him while they talked, according to the affidavit.
Associate Circuit Judge Richard Copeland accepted the defendant’s plea and assessed him one year in jail, with execution of the sentence suspended and the defendant placed on supervised probation for two years. The judge also ordered that he have no further contact with Patterson or her family.