Whidbey woman seeks end to stalking saga

Former WGH paramedic awaits sentencing

Friday can’t come soon enough for Yvette Esparza.

Esparza is waiting for the Jan. 4 sentencing of Tracy Adams, a former Whidbey General Hospital paramedic who Esparaza says started stalking her after they broke up more than two years ago.

Adams, who worked for the ambulance crew of South End’s Whidbey 3 in Freeland, was convicted of 10 counts of first-degree computer trespass after a week-long trial in Island County Superior Court in early November. His convictions were upheld two weeks ago after Adams’ attorney unsuccessfully tried to have the charges tossed over a technicality that centered on the evidence used during his trial.

Adams faces up to 90 days in jail.

Though he was not convicted of cyberstalking, officials said he secretly accessed Esparza’s e-mail by using computers at his home and at Whidbey General Hospital where he worked.

“The counts he was convicted of, all but three involved the use of hospital facilities to get into Yvette Pena’s (Esparza) e-mail accounts,” said Island County Prosecuting Attorney Greg Banks.

Banks had also attempted to prosecute Adams on two counts of burglary and one count of criminal trespass, as well, but the jury could not agree on those charges.

“In a criminal trial, the jury has to be unanimous to either convict or acquit,” Banks said. “And they were neither on those three charges.”

“We could retry him on those. I still haven’t decided if I will. It will depend on what happens at the sentencing hearing,” he added.

Esparza said the stalking case has changed her life. She is afraid to do many things by herself, like going for a walk or a bike ride, because of Adams’ unwanted attention since their relationship soured.

Esparza met Adams, 39, when she was in the Navy and assigned to the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colo. She was taking classes for a nurse practitioner degree and Adams was working as a paramedic.

The two had something else in common. Adams, the father of five children, had been divorced. And Esparza, a mother of two, was also ending her marriage and becoming a single parent. They enjoyed an initial friendship that turned romantic.

“I felt like a gem or a princess. He focused all his attention on me,” she said.

Adams later told Esparza that he wanted to move her and her daughter to Whidbey Island; the money was better there, and he had a job lined up at Whidbey General Hospital.

She stayed behind in Colorado to complete her studies while he traveled to Whidbey and bought a house for them to share.

A risky move

The move proved stressful, she said. Her parents didn’t approve of Adams, and thought less of her moving to Washington and leaving all of her friends behind.

“I had to make it work. I had kids involved. He had kids. I became very close to them,” she said.

Problems soon arose, however.

“He immediately began to have problems with depression. The relationship was all about trying to make him happy and trying to do things to not make him upset,” she said.

The couple worked opposite schedules. And that was when the many phone calls at work began, she said. Adams would be checking up on her to make sure she was there, or to know when she was coming home.

“I didn’t want to make him mad, because when he was mad, my life got miserable and so did my daughter’s,” she said.

Family problems

Esparza said Adams became overbearing, telling her that he resented her daughter because his own kids could not live with him.

“He did not treat her very well and was overly strict with her. He basically told me he resented the fact that she existed because he did not have custody of his children, and I had mine,” she said.

Esparza tried to leave the relationship several times but he always convinced her to return.

“He would say, ‘I can’t live without you. If I don’t have you, I have nothing and If I can’t have you, nobody will.’ It was scary,” she said.

“I couldn’t walk away quickly because he was not stable, because I was afraid of what he might do to me. I was afraid he might hurt me or himself. He told me multiple times that he would kill himself if I ever left him,” Esparza said. “It’s not easy to walk away like that when you feel responsible.”

Things got more complicated when Adams’ 15-year-old son moved in.

The last time Esparza tried to end the relationship, his son remained at her home for a while but it gave Adams numerous excuses to come over unannounced.

“Trace always had an excuse to come over,” Esparza said. “It was hard to get him out my life when I had his son. His son didn’t want to live with his dad.”

“Eventually, I had to kick him out because I needed to get on with my life.”

In October 2005, the teen moved out. But a few weeks later, he committed suicide.

“I was at a loss. I left the guy. His son killed himself. I blame myself for that death because maybe if I had let him live with me, he’d still be alive,” she said.

Esparza said Adams became obsessive. She said he stole her cellphone, and would also watch her while she was at work. What she didn’t know was that he’d also stolen her computer passwords and had begun logging into her online accounts and was reading her e-mail, too.

“By that time, Trace was already doing a lot of stalking, a lot of controlling, stealing my cell phone, reading my text messages, checking my e-mails, breaking into things and my home,” she said. “He would get information about where I was and what I was doing.”

Stalking continues

By January 2006, Adams moved off island. But the stalking didn’t end, she said.

“He’d moved in with one of the girls from his unit. I went on with my life and ended up getting married to my friend,” she said.

“I went on a vacation in March for spring break and when I got home, my house had been broken into again,” Esparza said. “My computer had been broken into, my passwords stolen and he damaged or deleted anything personal that meant anything to me.”

Police said they found more than 180 illegal accesses into her accounts during a three-week period.

Esparza said the stalking has affected her life.

“I don’t walk alone, hike alone or bike alone. I don’t do anything alone. I don’t have the energy to do too much any more because

I don’t sleep,” she said. “I am a mom of two but I am not as good a mom as I could be. I have yet to enjoy being married.”

“It’s not over for me,” Esparza said. “I cannot sleep at night until he goes to prison.”

Whidbey General Hospital has since taken steps to fire Adams, said hospital spokeswoman Trish Rose.

“Once the verdict was given, Trace was immediately placed on administration leave pending termination,” Rose said.

“He is part of a union and there are these legal steps that we have to take. We had a pre-termination hearing and we sent a termination letter,” she added.

“In our eyes, we have terminated him. Under the laws in the union, he still has rights to challenge the termination. But from our perspective, we have terminated his employment.”

Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or swebster@south

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