On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part, Atlantic County, Docket No. FV-01-1893-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Kestin and Lihotz.
Defendant, R.B., appeals from the entry of a final restraining order (FRO) under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 to -35 (PDVA). P.H.-S. is R.B.'s ex-wife. She filed a complaint for relief, alleging harassment, N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4, by R.B. after she received an unsigned letter. P.H.-S. attributed the letter to R.B., and asserted the correspondence was designed to intimidate and threaten her because she and R.B. were embroiled in matrimonial litigation regarding R.B.'s efforts to emancipate the parties' child and terminate child support.
During the final hearing held on June 21, 2006, P.H.-S. established that she received the following correspondence on June 3, 2006:
You think that the two messages sent from above would have woke you up to be a better person/parent.
The two messages sent were: Not being allowed to bring another child into the world and a almost fatal car crash.
Being raised as a Christian, you would think you would learn the values of family and friends as well as being a good person who can portray proper family values to her child.
I am looking down on you from the heavens with disbelief and heartache. I think its time to send you another message. You have not heeded the first two, I sincerely hope this one wakes you to start doing the Christian thing. If you don't know what it means to be a good Christian, see your local priest and find out, but do it quickly, TIME IS RUNNING OUT FOR YOU!"
P.H.-S. testified she believed the letter was sent by R.B. for several reasons. First, she argued that the letter was extremely personal in nature, and could have been sent only by someone who had knowledge of her prior miscarriage, her religious beliefs, and her past car accident. Second, she asserted that the letter was routed through San Bernardino, California, which is approximately sixty to seventy miles from R.B.'s residence and past letters received from R.B. were similarly postmarked. Third, P.H-S., related an incident occurring fourteen years earlier suggesting the parties' past history included domestic violence. She described R.B.'s actions as "stalking," when he followed her and a man she was dating one evening, called her several times that same evening, and attempted to enter her residence. Finally, P.H.-S. suggested that three matrimonial motions filed by R.B. over a two-month period were designed for the sole purpose of harassing her. The receipt of this letter, four days following the denial of R.B.'s motion to emancipate the parties' child, suggested to her that it was tied to the matrimonial controversy. Two days later, R.B. filed another motion. P.H.-S. testified that she felt the letter was sent "to scare [her] not to do anything" about the matrimonial motion filed by R.B.
R.B., who lives in California, entered his appearance telephonically. R.B. explained that the parties' marriage ended in divorce approximately thirteen years ago, but matrimonial litigation had continued throughout that time period. He denied that he wrote or sent the letter, suggesting it was contrived by P.H.-S. to "make [him] look bad in the [matrimonial] Court." He challenged the explanation of the ...