Former state trooper gets probation in stalking of ex-wife
08/30/2012 11:02 PM
08/31/2012 9:04 AM
FORT WORTH -- She tried to ignore the hateful texts and e-mails, thinking they'd blow over. She began to get frantic when slut and other insults were spray-painted on her home and vehicles and threatening phone calls were made to her family.
But she finally got scared, really scared, when strange men began showing up at her home at night, believing she'd invited them to have sex through an adult website.
"There was no safety left," Lawana Siney told the Star-Telegram Thursday. "I didn't sleep for months."
The three-year nightmare ended this week when Siney's ex-husband, Kevin Safford, 41, of Fort Worth, was convicted of stalking and impersonating her online. A jury in state District Judge Sharen Wilson's court convicted the former state trooper on all three counts against him and on Thursday sentenced him to four years' probation and a $5,000 fine.
Siney stood in court to face him Thursday after the sentencing.
"You took complete advantage of my trust," she told Safford, who sat quietly, looking at her. "So now we are in a courtroom and you're a convicted felon. I really hope now that you realize you are not above the law."
Siney said that the conviction was a long time coming. In the interview, she said Saginaw police initially didn't take her complaints seriously, and apparently didn't want to believe that a former law enforcement officer would launch a hate campaign against a former spouse.
"When the men showed up at my house is when I made sure they knew this was serious and that I wasn't just a disgruntled ex-wife making this up," she said.
The first man arrived on Oct. 26, 2009, eager for a wild date. She told him he had the wrong address, and he left, disappointed.
In a day or two, another showed up, believing he'd been chatting with her online and that she'd invited him to her home. Just walk right in, he'd been told, and go straight back to the bedroom.
He had the sense, at least, to knock, but it took a while for him to understand that he'd been duped.
"But I spoke to you. You look just like the girl in the picture," he protested, when Siney tried to explain she had nothing to do with the online profile with her name and picture on the adult dating website.
After that, she didn't answer the door. She just called police and kept the men there until officers could arrive to question them.
"It took just a very, very short time for me to realize that I was the target of something," she told the Star-Telegram.
The website profile was a racy come-on, a plea for sex partners to arrive in the night, after the kids were asleep.
"I just want to get laid," it began. "I don't get it often because of my kids...I'll let you know if I want you, but you better be kinky."
It featured a smiling picture of Siney, a medical secretary, that had been taken at work, a photo she had e-mailed to Safford and no one else.
In all, about 15 men showed up at her doorstep. Many more called her at work, hoping to arrange a rendezvous. One even showed up with a six-pack of Miller Lite, her favorite brand of beer.
It took two years before Safford was indicted and another year before he went to trial.
"It was very long and drawn out," she said.
Over the months, her vehicles and home were vandalized with orange paint. Once, all her patio furniture was moved to the street with the garbage, but a police officer noticed and stopped to ask about it.
The same officer almost caught an intruder near her vehicle one night, but he ran before the officer could get to him. The man, the officer said, looked like Safford, but he couldn't be certain.
Prosecutors Steven Gebhardt and Andrea Townsend had asked the jury to consider the maximum 10-year sentence if they were considering probation for Safford. They urged jurors to send a message to the community and set the bar high in case Safford failed to meet the terms of his probation.
"The level of violence on the part of the defendant was escalating beyond simple harassment," Gebhardt said afterward, in a written statement. "The jury sent the message that this type of behavior simply will not be tolerated in Tarrant County."
Defense attorneys Harold Johnson and Liz Cortright, however, had urged jurors to consider probation, noting that Safford had no prior convictions.
Safford's father, Larry Safford Sr., and his teen-age daughter testified tearfully on Safford's behalf during the punishment phase.
The elder Safford told jurors that his son has worked tirelessly to help his parents as their health has declined. He and his wife have been married 43 years, he said, and he worked hard to create the strong family that he never had as a child.
"I wanted a Leave it to Beaver family because I didn't have it," he said tearfully.
He said Kevin dropped out of college to enlist in the Marines because he was worried about the cost. He said Kevin was discharged early -- and honorably --after his father, recovering from a heart attack, had a stroke.
He came home to help, Larry Safford said.
"We called him Kevin from Heaven because he was a gift to us from God," Larry Safford Sr. said. "He's a good person."
Larry Safford told jurors that his son was in an elite unite of the Marines and received an honorable discharge. He then began working in law enforcement, first as a jailer for the Tarrant County Sheriff's Department and then as a police officer at Lake Worth. He left Lake Worth to become a state trooper, and worked there five years. He eventually was asked to resign from the DPS in the midst of allegations he had falsified traffic tickets, and voluntarily gave up his peace officer's certificate, officials said.
He now owns a construction business.
Safford has had custody of two children since he and his first wife divorced years ago. The oldest child recently graduated from high school and the youngest, a girl, is now 13.
His daughter told jurors it was important that she be able to stay with her dad.
"He gives me a better life than my mom could," she testified.
Saginaw police Detective Robert Richardson also urged jurors to consider probation. He said he and Kevin Safford have been friends since they were patrol officers together in Lake Worth. He said he doesn't excuse Safford's behavior, but believes he can contribute to society going forward.
In court, Siney told Kevin Safford that he believed he was above the law, that he could get away with things that others could not because of his law enforcement background.
She told him that he owed an apology to her family -- her mother and her aunt, who received threatening phone calls, and her two teenage sons.
And she told him he also owed an apology to his own family for the turmoil he had caused.
"As for me," she said. "I don't want an apology. I want nothing from you. Nothing."
She later said she accepted the probationary sentence, and didn't know if Safford would be able to complete the terms set out by the court. "I don't know," she said. "Some people learn; some people don't."
Dianna Hunt, 817-390-7084
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