Woman charged with bizarrely stalking Tony Stewart, family over autograph snub
A Florida woman apparently angered that Tony Stewart wouldn't give her an autograph has been charged with stalking and harassing the former NASCAR driver and his family for more than a year, according to RTV-6, the ABC affiliate in Indianapolis.
Criminal charges were filed last week and Kathi Russell, 68, of Cape Coral, Fla., was taken into custody Tuesday on felony charges of stalking, terroristic mischief and intimidation, all for harassing Stewart from March 2016 until last month.
Citing information from investigators in a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, RTV-6 reported that Russell made 333 calls from six different phone numbers to people related to Stewart, his family, his company or his sponsors.
According to the affidavit, Russell told a DEA agent that her behavior stemmed from being snubbed by Stewart at a racing event.
“Ms. Russell stated she repeatedly tried to get Mr. Stewart’s attention and get him to sign an item of racing memorabilia, but Mr. Stewart ignored Ms. Russell’s attempts and Ms. Russell state(d) she felt like she was ignored,” the affidavit reads.
That triggered her oftentimes bizarre efforts to harass Stewart and his family, according to the affidavit.
In some of the calls, according to the affidavit, nothing was heard on the line. In others, Russell allegedly played an audio clip saying, “We came, we saw, he died” — a soundbite by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi — followed by “maniacal laughter.” In others, a clip from the Talking Heads song “Psycho Killer” would play.
Russell is also accused of placing an anonymous phone call reporting that a plane landing in Fort Worth, Texas, would be transporting narcotics. Investigators determined the plane was occupied by Stewart, and that the call was a false report that came from Russell.
Investigators believe Russell also made a series of calls to members of the media, Stewart’s sponsors and other NASCAR drivers with anonymous “tips” about Stewart.
Although Russell reportedly told a DEA agent that she would quit contacting Stewart and his family, Stewart's mother was moved to obtain a protection order against Russell.
On Sept. 27, according to investigators, Russell is alleged to have sent an envelope filled with a large amount of an unknown white, powdery substance to the Indianapolis law firm Ice Miller LLP, which, representing Stewart's mother, had sent Russell a notice that she had violated the protective order.
The powder eventually was determined to be baking soda but not before the envelope triggered an evacuation of the Ice Miller building in downtown Indianapolis over the fear the powder was anthrax.
According to the probable-cause affidavit, investigators traced the powder to Russell because it arrived in the same envelope in which Ice Miller had sent her the notification of the protection-order violation.