A Music Row executive who captured her alleged stalker on video refuses to become a victim. Now, she wants to raise awareness to help other women who may be living in similar situations.
Juanita Copeland was a successful, independent, confident executive who then met a man, she said, who destroyed her sense of safety.
She had started dating a male nurse named Gerald Millard in summer 2012. A couple months later, she said it was clear things were not working out, so she broke it off.
But that's when he allegedly began terrorizing her at her home.
"He came toward me and said, 'Why aren't you talking to me? Why aren't we compatible?' And he starts beating himself on the head with his fists," Copeland said. "He keeps saying, 'This is not over. You don't get to say when this is over,' and I am freaking out at this point."
Copeland was startled enough to call Metro police, who advised she get an order of protection.
"While I was sitting there making a report, he sent me a message saying, 'Don't worry. It will be painless.' The officer was very concerned he was talking about me," Copeland said.
Copeland had no trouble getting the order of protection, but even that was a scary process.
"As we were walking out of the court, he was right behind me and he said that it wasn't over. And it wasn't. That's when the nightmare began," Copeland said.
Copeland said there were letters, emails, texts and voicemail messages, all from Millard.
Then, she found her car with key scratches and the windshield wipers glued to the window while it sat in her own driveway in a remote part of a Davidson County.
Next, her tires started getting slashed again and again in her own driveway - four times in total.
"It's terrorism. I go home every night, wondering, 'Is he here?'" she said.
The alleged incidents that were strange at first, then scary, became downright terrifying on Sept. 14, 2012.
"I can see a cell phone flashing, like a camera, so I open the blinds and I see him standing there in the bushes. So I called 911, and this man was outside my window, 50 feet from my bed," Copeland said.
Copeland called the police, and a foot chase ensued.
"We could hear him running in the woods, and the police said, 'Son, come back down and turn yourself in,'" Copeland said.
After searching the nearby woods, police lost any trace of Millard near her home and leave.
"I went back in my house but couldn't go to sleep. I was panic stricken. Then, the next morning, I go outside and the tires are flat again. And I thought, 'Wait a minute,'" Copeland said.
In the weeks prior, Copeland had hired a private investigator to install security cameras all around the house, and one was pointed at the car.
"It dawned on me he came back, so I looked at the video and saw he started crawling up my driveway with a knife in his hands. I remember when I saw the video I couldn't breathe. It was like something from a bad horror movie. This man was terrorizing me, and he was 50 feet from my bed with a knife in his hands," Copeland said.
Millard was allegedly there for 17 minutes.
Officers later arrested the man and charged him with vandalism and violating an order of protection - but not stalking, which is defined by police as a "willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed or molested."
Millard pleaded guilty to vandalism and violating an order of protection and was ordered to pay for the damaged tires.
Copeland, however, was not satisfied and feels like the district attorney's office was too quick to cut a deal.
"I got him on video. He pled guilty. Everybody was happy patting each other on the back for that, but he was not charged with stalking," Copeland said.
The DA's office says it did everything it could and that there was just not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of stalking. However, the video did prove, the office said, vandalism and a violation of the order of protection.
Since her ordeal, Copeland has bought a shotgun, earned a gun carry permit and is certified to use a police baton. She also has cameras at her home and other secret defenses installed.
While she is empowered, she is not the same woman she was before she met Millard.
"This man has forever changed me. The woman I was before is gone," Copeland said.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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