INDIANAPOLIS -- A Florida woman stalked and left threatening messages for NASCAR driver Tony Stewart and his family for more than a year over anger that he failed to give her an autograph at a race, according to criminal charges filed last week.
Kathi Russell, 68, of Cape Coral, Florida, was taken into custody on Tuesday on felony charges of stalking, terroristic mischief and intimidation for an alleged campaign of harassment against Stewart lasting from March 2016 through October of this year.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, Russell made hundreds of anonymous calls to Stewart and his mother and sister at all times of the day and night over that period.
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.
According to the affidavit, Russell told a DEA agent that the harassment started because Stewart declined to sign an item of memorabilia for her 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 she felt like she was ignored,” the affidavit reads.
Russell reportedly told the DEA agent that she would cease contacting Stewart and his family. Stewart’s mother also obtained a protection order against Russell.
On Sept. 27, investigators allege Russell sent an envelope filled with a large amount of an unknown white powdery substances to the Indianapolis law firm Ice Miller LLP, which had sent Russell a notice that she had violated a protective order against her by Stewart’s mother.
The envelope caused an Anthrax scare and the evacuation of the Ice Miller building in downtown Indianapolis. The powder was eventually determined to be baking soda.
According to the affidavit, investigators traced the powder to Russell because it arrived in the same envelope that Ice Miller had sent her the protection order violation in.
In all, investigators say Russell made 333 calls from six different phone numbers to people related to Stewart, his family, his company or his sponsors.
A spokesman for Stewart declined to comment on the case, saying he wanted to “let the legal process run its course.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Russell was being held at the Lee County Jail in Florida awaiting extradition back to Indiana.