There Are Really Scary People on the Internet
It all began with a chance encounter outside the cafeteria at Kutztown University. Kourtney Reppert was a freshman, and beyond playing softball, the Berks County native didn’t know where her life was headed. One day a talent scout spotted her on campus and asked if she’d consider posing for photographs. The five-foot-five, curvy blonde figured she’d give it a shot. A few years later, Reppert moved to King of Prussia, and was booking modeling gigs across the East Coast and locally. (She was named “Philly’s Hottest Blonde” by WMMR’s Preston & Steve Show and posed in a Flyers jersey.) After a tough break-up last July, Reppert left town for Los Angeles and a shot at making it big. She never imagined that just a year later she’d appear on Good Morning America and Nightline, especially considering the reason why—the arrest of a man who’s been charged with cyberstalking Reppert and threatening her life.
At first, the 26-year-old’s story sounds like a cautionary tale about the price of seeking fame in the Internet age. Not everyone is born beautiful, but if you have the looks and Internet access, you can take some photos, launch a Facebook profile or a website, and try turning yourself into the next Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton. Reppert was getting work out west, and her website, Facebook and Twitter pages were gathering fans by the thousands—including, according to the FBI, 47-year-old Luis Plascencia, who lived with his mother in Chicago. Without hesitation, Reppert remembers the date of the first unsettling email she received—March 8th. More notes followed, and the stranger gave her a one-month deadline to take down her websites and abandon her career. It seemed like a lame prank, until the disturbing messages kept coming. “I thought it was something serious when I got the email that said ‘I’m going to kill you,’” she says, by phone from West Hollywood.
The threats arrived daily from a number of different accounts. Some warned of posting addresses and phone numbers for Reppert, her family and friends online. Others were more graphic and violent:
I HOPE YOU DIE IN AN AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT AND CRUSHES YOUR UGLY FACE THROUGH THE WINDSHIELD AND A LARGE PIECE OF GLASS CUTS YOUR THROAT
Reppert’s cyberstalker had gathered some disturbingly accurate information—everything from where she lived to the date and location of a friend’s birthday party. Each message seemed more sick and twisted than the last:
YOU JUST PISSED ME OFF/ / / / I WILL FUCKIN’ KILL YOU/ / / / / DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?????????…I WARNED YOU BEFORE ABOUT DOING THIS AND WILL CONTINUE MY WRATH UNTIL YOU STEP DOWN AS A MODEL GO BACK TO COLLEGE AND MOVE BACK NEAR YOUR FAMILY IN PHILLY
Scared for her safety, Reppert hired a private detective to track down her tormentor and provide her with security. The FBI stepped in and traced the emails and online postings to public library computers in Chicago. By the time Plascencia was arrested and charged with interstate stalking last month, Reppert had received over 400 emails. The relentless flood of disturbing notes took a toll. “I didn’t know who to trust,” she says. “I pushed a lot of people away, I was depressed, I missed a lot of work. Getting emails every day attacking me, saying I was a slut or a whore—it was just terrible. As much as I tried not to let it get in my head, it got in my head.” Plascencia’s arrest only served to open the emotional floodgates, as Reppert dealt with emotions she’d been trying to suppress. In the Nightline video, she breaks down while reading some of the hateful notes Plascencia allegedly sent her.
Some might think Reppert asked for this somehow, that she set herself up as a target. If you feel that way simply because she’s semi-nude in a number of her photos, well, there’s probably not much that will change your mind. Reppert says she never posted personal information online. She suspects her stalker found her personal email via PayPal, which she’d set up to sell posters of her glamour shots—not exactly something most of us would consider a risky breach of privacy. Still, the cynic might say that Reppert is speaking out about her cyberstalking nightmare to further her career. It’s a valid point—most bikini models don’t end up in interviews on national television.
But Reppert insists the media blitz is part of her healing process and her refusal to play the role of victim. “If I just said ‘oh, pity me,’ it would have been in and out of the news,” she says of her story. “I think turning such a negative thing into a positive is the key to being successful.” Now Reppert’s goals extend beyond her career—she’s teamed up with former Miss USA, Chelsea Cooley, to start a foundation to aid women who’ve been abused physically, emotionally or online. “We came up with this idea to help people,” she says. “You shouldn’t feel like there’s no life after something like this. You can get your happiness back.” Reppert laughs at the notion that her stalker picked on the wrong Flyers fan and says she’s beginning to enjoy the California sunshine again. “I feel good this morning, surprisingly. I’m going to come out of this a better person.”