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MAKEOVER Witnesses recall night of alleged stalking

Incident began at BEARCAT Hollow

By Janice Gregorson

gregor@postbulletin.com

Two key witnesses told jurors in Mower District Court on Wednesday how they feared for their safety during an incident last year that started outside an animal park near Racine and ended about 25 miles later in Iowa.

One of the witnesses was Clyde Boone of Racine, a passenger in a car driven by Mary Ruth Hartman of Rochester as they followed a semitrailer leaving the animal park the night of Feb. 24, 2002.

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The other witness was Court Garloff of Iowa, the passenger in the truck he claimed was being chased by Hartman and Boone.

Their testimony came during Hartman's trial on gross misdemeanor stalking and careless driving and speeding charges. She denies the allegations. Her attorney, Howard Bass, told jurors that the only reason Hartman and Boone were following the truck was to get the truck's license number because the truckers allegedly had forced Boone's son, Chad, off the road.

This morning, Judge Donald Rysavy granted a defense motion to dismiss the careless driving charge, but the trial continued on the stalking and speeding charges.

The defense began presenting its case early today, calling Chad Boone to the stand.

On Wednesday, Garloff testified that he and his neighbor, Craig Perry, who runs a business transporting exotic animals, had borrowed two young tigers from Ken and Nancy Kraft, owners of BEARCAT Hollow animal park, to display at a trade show in Mason City, Iowa. The incident that led to the charges occurred the night the pair returned the tigers to the animal park.

According to testimony, Mower County authorities were called about a semi blocking the road outside the park that night. Hartman was alerted to the semi by a BEARCAT Hollow neighbor because Hartman was driving to the area to drop off some documents. Hartman had called Boone, asking him to accompany her. Boone, when told of the semi, asked his son, Chad, to take pictures of the truck's license plate.

Boone's testimony

The elder Boone testified that his son told him he was forced off the road when the truckers, who had been inside the Kraft house, came outside. Boone said his son told him one of the men came into the middle of the road, his fists raised. Boone said his son was startled and hit the gas to avoid being attacked. He said his son told him he cranked the wheel to the right and swerved off the road after the second man came out from behind the truck with his arm up.

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Clyde Boone said he and Hartman went to the neighbor's house to get her to call 911, and then followed the truck, which was leaving. He said that, at one point, the truck was behind them heading into Racine, and he felt they were being chased.

"I told Mary we better get out of here. We were scared," he said.

Garloff's account

Garloff said he also was scared. He told jurors he and Perry were inside the Kraft home when he saw a flash outside by the truck. He said he was concerned it might be the flash from a muzzle. He said he and Perry went outside to check just as a car was leaving the scene. He said that the car turned around and came back. He said Perry was near the front of the truck and tried to stop the car. Garloff said the car stopped, and then the engine revved and "it was coming right at me."

"I stood there for a moment, frozen. I tried to move, and the car swerved. I pushed off the back of the car and watched it speed away. It scared the hell out of me."

He said he and Perry then left the area, heading back to Iowa. But he said they were followed, not by the car that he said had nearly run him over, but by another car, later identified as the one driven by Hartman.

He said they used a CB radio to ask other truckers in the area if they had seen any police officers along the road so they could get help. They were told an officer was on the highway near Chester, Iowa.

Garloff said that, when they came to the squad car, they stopped and jumped out. "I ran to the back of the truck (where the squad was located) with my jacket open so he could see I wasn't armed," he said, adding he then told the officer they were being chased by a car.

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"It was a very scary situation," Garloff said.

Under cross-examination from Bass, Garloff acknowledged that neither he nor Perry used their cell phones to call 911, although they called Kraft and talked to their wives.

Boone told jurors that he and Hartman made several attempts to reach law enforcement on their cell phones but had trouble getting signals until crossing into Iowa.

He admitted they made a conscious choice to follow the truck, "but we didn't chase it. We followed it to get the license number, but we never got close enough for that," he said, emphasizing that the reason for following the truck was because his son had been run off the road. He denied it had anything to do with the exotic animals being transported to or from BEARCAT Hollow.

Earlier in the day, jurors had heard how Hartman's daughter had been attacked by a tiger while visiting BEARCAT Hollow the previous summer, how the Hartmans had initiated a civil lawsuit, how the Krafts had accused Hartman of harassing them, how Boone's property had been damaged by a bear that escaped from the park and how Hartman and Boone had testified at a Racine City Council meeting in hopes the city would revoke the Krafts' permit for the facility.

Jurors could begin deliberating later today, according to Mower District Judge Donald Rysavy.

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