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Real Stories of Real Estate Risks & Dangers



The OverWatch Report, Real Stories of Real Estate Riskis a compilation of some of the incidents of attacks on Realtors, Home Sellers, and Buyers. This information is intended to open people’s eyes to the wide array of growing dangers inherent in today’s real estate transaction.

Warning: Graphic Content


March 8, 2008 JEFFERSON, Wisconsin, Ann Nelson — A convicted sex offender was charged Thursday with killing a 71-year-old Cambridge area Realtor whose body was found near a smoldering mattress in a home she had been showing him near Dane County, Wisconsin.

The criminal complaint alleges that James A. Hole admitted to strangling her with her scarf and hitting her over the head with a fireplace poker at least nine times. Hole then set the house on fire with the still-conscious grandmother of 16 inside, reported the local ABC station WISN. In January 2009 Hole was convicted of life in prison without parole, according to a report in the Watertown Daily Times. Hole said fellow prisoners had advised him to lure a Realtor to a vacant home as easy prey.

September 26, 2014 North Little Rock, Arkansas, Beverly Carter-- Pulaski County deputies are searching Friday for a real estate agent who disappeared after going to show a house. Beverly Carter, 49, of Scott, a Realtor for Crye Leike Realtors, was last heard from when she called her husband, Carl Carter, about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, September 25, 2014 to say she was going to show someone the home at 14202 Old River Drive in Scott, according to a Pulaski County sheriff’s report.

Carl Carter told deputies that he became worried about 9 p.m. when he hadn’t heard from his wife, so he went to the address to check on her, the report states. There, he found her brown Cadillac sport utility vehicle parked in the driveway with her purse inside it and saw the door to the home standing open, deputies said. Carl Carter searched for his wife inside the house but didn’t find her. Nothing seemed to be missing from her purse, but deputies couldn't find the home's door lock, according to the report.

Update: September 28, 2014, Jacksonville, Arkansas--A bench warrant has been issued for a man named Aaron M. Lewis, 33, on one count of kidnapping in the disappearance of Beverly Carter, 49, a Crye-Leike Realtor who vanished after going to show a house on Old River Drive in Scott on Thursday afternoon, September 25, 2014.

Update: September 30, 2014, Beverly Carter’s body found--Authorities found the body of Arkansas real estate agent Beverly Carter overnight, days after she vanished while showing a house to a prospective customer.

September 6, 2006 McKinney, Texas, Sarah Anne Walker--Nearly two months after a house-hunting couple found the body of Realtor Sarah Anne Walker in a model home, officials said they have a suspect in custody. McKinney Police Captain Randy Roland said they arrested 25-year-old Kosoul Chanthakoummane in connection with Walker's death.

Forty-year-old Realtor Sarah Anne Walker was found dead in a model home about 30 miles north of Dallas, on Saturday, July 8th, 2006. She was found lying face down in the kitchen of the model home she was holding open. Collin County, TX medical examiner, said Walker was viciously bitten, beaten, and stabbed 27 times with a sharp bladed instrument with wounds on her upper body, arms and hands and suffered some blunt force trauma. Chanthakoummane was later convicted of murder.

June 19, 2006, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Dottie Lanier-- a 27-year real estate veteran who worked for the Wiggins office of Prudential Gardner Realtors was shot four times during a triple-shooting Thursday that left a homeowner dead in Wiggins, Mississippi. Dottie was reportedly awaiting the arrival of a prospective home buyer at a for sale home on Colville Street in Wiggins. The owner of the home and the owner's nephew were also at the house. A man approached the home and reportedly raised a gun and started shooting when Lanier opened the door.

April 8, 2011, Des Moines, Iowa--Ashley Okland, a 27-year-old Realtor with Iowa Realty, was fatally shot in the chest and head while working at a model townhome by herself in Des Moines shortly before 2 p.m. on Friday, April 8, 2011.

A Rottlund Homes employee heard a commotion inside the model townhouse at 558 Stone Creek Court and went to investigate. Inside, the worker discovered Okland on the floor and called 911. Medics rushed Okland to the Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, where she later died.

Many years later this murder remains unsolved.


July 14, 2009 Westchester, California, Ricardo Contreras-- The body of Ricardo Contreras, 45, a real estate agent and notary public was found around 7 p.m. on a Saturday inside a bank-owned 1,900-square foot foreclosed home listed by the Modern Realty Co. for more than half a million dollars, reported KTLA news in Los Angeles. Contreras was stabbed multiple times. He had been missing since Tuesday evening when he didn't return home from work, according to his family, who put out fliers in an effort to find the father of five. Police at the scene said another real estate agent was preparing to show the three-bedroom, two-bath house when she discovered the key was missing from the lockbox.


July 1, 2008 Muskegon, Michigan, Troy VanderStelt-- When Muskegon, Mich. real estate agent Troy VanderStelt went into the conference room in his office to meet with former client Robert Johnson, 73, he had no way of knowing what was to come next. Johnson, believing he had paid too much for his home, shot Troy at point-blank range in the side of his head. Johnson reportedly became angry when he found that his home was worth far less than he paid for it and placed the blame not on the nose-diving real estate prices, but on the shoulders of 33-year-old Realtor and father, Troy VanderStelt.


September 22, 2010, Youngstown, Ohio, Vivian Martin--The body of Essence Realty owner was discovered on the kitchen floor by firefighters in a vacant burning home she had listed for sale. Youngstown police are treating her death as a homicide. The coroner said she had been strangled before her body was badly burned in a fire that gutted the house.

The two murderers have been charged separately with robbing another real estate agent last week in Boardman just outside Youngstown.

September 24, 2010 Cleveland, Ohio, Andrew Vonstein-- In the Kent area 40 miles from Youngstown, authorities issued an arrest warrant in the death of a prominent real estate agent in Ravenn found slain in a vacant house he was showing for sale. Andrew's body was found Tuesday with a single gunshot wound. His wallet and cell phone were missing.

August 16, 2004, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Garland Taylor-- During a showing of a $900,000 listing, Realtor Garland Taylor, 74, was shot to death by a "well-groomed and professionally dressed man who is believed to have called Taylor from a pay phone and arranged to see the luxury property," reported the NAR's Realty Times. Mario Lucas Chavez, 28, of Albuquerque was found guilty in 2006. Neighbors saw the Realtor entering the property with a younger man, a white or Hispanic male in his early to mid-30s. They became alarmed when they noticed the Realtor's van remained in the driveway all day.

November 3, 2003, Powder Springs, Georgia, Lori K. Brown and Cynthia Williams-- The bodies of Morris Homes' sales reps Lori Brown, 21, and Cynthia Williams, 33, were discovered murdered in a model home sales office of a subdivision in Ga. outside Atlanta. At approximately 12:40 p.m. on November 3, 2003, Humphreys, a convicted felon who was still on parole, entered a home construction company's sales office located in a model home for a new subdivision in Cobb County. Cindy Williams and Lori Brown were employed there as real estate agents. Finding Ms. Williams alone in the office, Humphreys used a stolen handgun to force her to undress and to reveal the personal identification number (PIN) for her automated teller machine (ATM) card. After calling Ms. Williams's bank to learn the amount of her current balance, Humphreys tied her underwear so tightly around her neck that, when her body was discovered, her neck bore a prominent ligature mark and her tongue was protruding from her mouth, which had turned purple. While choking Ms. Williams, Humphreys forced her to get down on her hands and knees and to move into Ms. Brown's office and behind Ms. Brown's desk. Humphreys placed his handgun at Ms. Williams back and positioned a bag of balloons between the gun and her body to muffle the sound of gunshots. He then fired a shot into her back that went through her lung and heart, fired a second shot through her head, and left her face-down on her hands and knees under the desk.

Ms. Brown entered the office during or shortly after Humphreys's attack on Ms. Williams, and he attacked her too. Ms. Brown suffered a hemorrhage in her throat that was consistent with her having been choked in a headlock-type grip or having been struck in the throat. Humphreys also forced Ms. Brown to undress and to reveal her PIN, called her bank to obtain her balance, and made her kneel with her head facing the floor. Then, while standing over Ms. Brown, Humphreys fired one gunshot through her head, this time using both a bag of balloons and Ms. Brown's folded blouse to muffle the sound. He dragged her body to her desk, took both victims' driver's licenses and ATM and credit cards, and left the Open House at approximately 1:30 pm.

Oct. 30, 2007, New York, Linda Stein—"Real estate agent to the stars” and former manager of punk band The Ramones. In an alleged confession to police, Stein’s assistant, Natavia Lowery, said she whacked Stein several times in the head with the broker's own four-pound strength-building yoga stick killing her.

December 27, 2011, Youngstown, Ohio—A male REALTOR was inspecting and photographing a vacant house when he was approached by 3 black men in their late teens. They asked him about the possibility of renting. They then followed him to his car, opened his door and pulled a gun on him. He is OK, but they stole his watch, rings, money and cell phone. The agent made a police report.

September 22, 2010, Boardman, Ohio—A female REALTOR was robbed while showing a vacant apartment that was for sale. She was held at gunpoint, robbed of her purse and threatened with death if she called the police, Boardman police Capt. Donald Hawkins said. Her name was not released.

January 4, 2001, Seattle, Washington, Mike Emert—Mike and Mary Beth Emert were prosperous partners in Seattle-area real estate and had been married for several years. They lived in Redmond, Washington, and seemed to have the perfect life, but all that changed on January 4, 2001 when he went to meet a man named Steven who was interested in buying a house that he had shown him the previous day. He met with him at a local mall at around 11:30am that day, and they then went to the home in Woodinville that he had shown him the day before. It was in its own private lot, far away from neighboring houses.

At 12:30pm, its owner returned from work to have lunch and when she entered the garage, she was alarmed to find the front door ajar, then the sound of running water upstairs. She found a trail of blood that led to the bathroom, where she found Mike brutally murdered, stabbed 19 times, and his body in the bathtub with the shower running. The police discovered the crime had been meticulously planned, as the house was far away from any other homes, and that Steven may have been hired to kill him, with his handicap merely as a ruse, which would explain how a "crippled" man would be able to take him down. Investigators believe that the cane might have had a knife in one part of it which killed Mike.

June 23, 2006, Napa Valley, California, Kate Hanni-- A Napa real estate agent was assaulted by whom she thought was a potential buyer Wednesday afternoon. Kate Hanni said she received a call on her cell phone from a man saying he was interested in looking at property she had listed in the 100 block of Berna Avenue in Napa. Hanni told police she arrived at the home around 2 p.m. "It is a new house that is vacant," she said.

Kate was alone in the house turning on the lights when a man wearing a ski mask entered the home, according to Napa police. "I heard the front door open and close. I was in the kitchen. I came around the corner and saw this big guy wearing a ski mask about five feet away from me," said Hanni.

Hanni told police the suspect grabbed her and the two struggled. Police said Hanni was dragged toward the front door and that she bit the man in the hand. According to police, the suspect fled on foot, the agent called 911, left the house, drove to a nearby market and waited for police. She was taken to Queen of the Valley Hospital, where she was treated and released.

July 1, 2011, COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A Cobb County real estate agent fought off a man armed with a gun who attempted to rape her, Cobb County police said.

The assault happened at a new subdivision on Cheyenne Drive in Smyrna just before 4 p.m. Thursday.

According to investigators, a man walked into the subdivision’s business office and briefly spoke to the agent. Police said he pulled out a handgun, robbed her and forced her into a bathroom.

The man tried to sexually assault the agent, but she fought back, police said. After a brief struggle, the woman ran out through a back door, police said.

May 26, 2004, DeKalb County, GA-- Within 11 days, three female real estate agents in DeKalb County reported being robbed at gunpoint by a man and woman. Police said the incidents appeared similar because each happened in the evening hours, involved a female real estate agent and was allegedly committed by an armed man and woman fitting similar descriptions.

The perpetrators would contact the Realtor, usually by phone. In one incident, the Realtor actually went to the MARTA station and picked them up, took them to the location, showed them the home, and as they were concluding their walk-through, she was robbed," said Officer Davis. The first robbery happened on May 13 about 6 p.m. at 1851 Valley Brook Road. Police say the assailants tied up and robbed the female Realtor, in addition to stealing her silver 2002 Toyota Camry with the Georgia license tag A-F-W-3-5-4-1. The car hasn’t been recovered yet.

Eight days later, on May 21, a female Realtor was robbed and bound by two suspects about 7 p.m. at 302 Summerlane Place, police said. Her black 1998 Toyota Camry with the Georgia license tag 1-2-5-M-W-L was also taken and has not been recovered.

The latest robbery occurred on May 23 at 2813 Harrow Drive. Police say two suspects robbed the third female Realtor at gunpoint and left her bound. The Realtor’s vehicles were also taken during the theft. A month earlier another DeKalb County agent was abducted and forced to withdraw $1,500 from an ATM machine then taken to a jewelry store where she used credit cards to purchase a $7,500 Rolex watch for the robber. During the incident he frequently threatened to shoot her or "dismember" her if she did not cooperate.

March 14, 2006, Daytona Beach, Florida--A Florida Realtor fought back against her attacker after she was hit over the head several times with a hammer while showing a house, according to reports. Janice Flasschoen, 56, a Realtor for Realty Xperts in Port Orange, Fla., who is recovering from the attack, required stitches and suffered cuts and bruises.

Balazs Kris Gombos, 30, a convicted felon from South Daytona, Fla., reportedly had arranged to meet Flasschoen on Monday to look at a house for sale in South Daytona, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Janice reportedly spent about 30 minutes showing the man around the one-story, three-bedroom concrete block home before Gombos asked her about an electric outlet that was missing a face plate in one of the bedrooms, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

He reportedly told her that he was worried his daughter might electrocute herself. When Janice knelt down to take a look at the outlet, Gombos allegedly pulled out a hammer and struck her twice in the back of the head.

She then ran out of the room, but Gombos reportedly blocked her escape, pulled out a gun and then told her, "I want your money. I don’t want to hurt you, but I will”, according to the News-Journal.


Flasschoen had received some self-defense training through a class offered by a local Realtor association, and she told the News-Journal that the training came back to her, and she kicked the man in the groin and kept kicking.

March, 2006, St. Petersburg, Florida-- Realtor Julie Roberts was lured into a home in 2006 by a man who claimed to be house-hunting. Instead he attacked her and robbed her of credit cards and jewelry.

Nearly six years passed as the armed robbery and battery case against James Parcher meandered through the legal system.

But on Wednesday, after her long and frustrating wait, Roberts finally got the chance to tell a jury how her attacker hit her "so hard it made me see stars and I came right out of my shoes."

It started in March 2006, when Roberts, then with Century 21, got a call from a man who said he had just come into an inheritance and wanted to look at houses. And he said he wanted to see vacant homes so he could move in more quickly, he said.

The man said his name was Craig, but authorities say it really was James Parcher, now 32.

Roberts showed him five houses in St. Petersburg. In a bedroom in the fifth house, in the 1200 block of 14th Street N, the man attacked her from behind by hitting her in the head with a pistol, she said.

He put his knee on her back, pulled her hands behind her and cuffed her with plastic ties. In the process, her elbow was fractured. Meanwhile he told her in a matter-of-fact voice, "be quiet or I'm going to kill you, don't say anything or I'll shoot you," she said.

"I asked him if this was a rape, a robbery or a murder," Roberts testified. He told her it was a robbery, and she saw that he had both a gun and what looked like a hunting knife. He took about $7,000 in jewelry, she said. Eventually, he left. She jumped out a bedroom window and ran to a neighboring house.

Parcher was arrested after using Roberts' ATM card in Tampa, according to police.

Julie Roberts said she has gotten out of real estate and now works for an airline.

September 16, 2010, Corona, California-- A real estate agent tearfully told a jury Wednesday how she fought a man who raped and stabbed her inside a foreclosed home she was trying to sell in Corona.

The woman walked into the Riverside courtroom sobbing, at first too distraught to testify.

Shawn David Yates, 36, of Corona, is charged with seven felonies, including attempted murder, kidnapping and three counts of rape stemming from the 2008 attack.

Yates refused to look up until ordered by the judge.

The woman's name is not being used because The Press-Enterprise does not identify victims of sex crimes.

She described pleading with her attacker.

"I said I had just dropped my son off at school and didn't kiss him goodbye," the woman said. "I didn't care what he did to me. I just wanted to go home to see my son."

Yates has pleaded not guilty to the crimes. He could face multiple life sentences if convicted on all charges. His attorney reserved an opening statement until after the prosecution's case.

According to the woman, a man who identified himself as "Ron Jones" arranged to see the Silvestre Court house at 10 a.m. March 7, 2008. She identified Yates in court as the man.

After walking through the house, the man ordered the woman to the ground while pointing a pellet gun at her. He bound her wrists and ankles with tape and stole her keys, purse and phone.

The man held the gun to the back of her head while he raped her.

Afterward, he beat her on the head with the pellet gun until it shattered and said, "I'm going to kill you now."

"I was thinking if he was going to rape me, I can deal with that," the woman said. "I'm not going to let him kill me without fighting. I'm going to go down on my terms, not his."

The woman started scratching, punching and biting the man while he choked her and pulled a knife, she said.

She tried to barricade herself in the bathroom but he overpowered her. She begged him to let her pray and die in peace.

She said she pretended to be dead after he stabbed her in the neck and side and then left the house.

After he was gone, she stumbled outside where she collapsed on the sidewalk.

Once police arrived, they found a trail of blood leading to Yates' home nearby, Deputy District Attorney Michael Carney said. Yates admitted he attacked the woman after detectives found the woman's purse in his bedroom as well as the bloody clothes, the knife and gun, Carney said.

November 3, 2005, DIAMOND BAR, California-- A man who had just received his real estate license was shot and critically wounded while canvassing a neighborhood for clients in this suburban Los Angeles city, authorities said.

"He was just hoping to make a sale before Christmas, and he gets shot," said Jean Bethel, the mother-in-law of the real estate agent, Eric Hinks.

July 2004, Baltimore, MD-- Maryland State Police warned REALTOR®’s about a man who allegedly injured one agent and could be stalking others.

A female agent was assaulted during an open house by a visitor who looked around the house then picked up an object and struck the agent on the back of the head. Police had first viewed it as an isolated incident but other agents reported a man matching the description had attended open houses in the area and in one case tried to lure the host agent into an isolated part of the house.

The agent who was hit was able to fend off her attacker but police believe it was intended as a sexual assault.

September 19, 2006 MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota -- The Minnesota Association of Realtors sent an alert to its members Tuesday after receiving news that someone posing as a potential home buyer may have raped a woman in Minneapolis.

August 23, 2006, KANSAS CITY, Missouri -- Police are asking for the public's help after a man abducted and robbed a real estate agent on Aug. 6. Investigators said the woman met the man in Grandview to show him several houses. After seeing a few homes, the victim told police the man pulled a gun on her and forced her to drive to several banks and stores in Grandview and south Kansas City to withdraw money, police said.

July 20, 2005, MICHIGAN STATE POLICE Adrian, MI--The suspect drove up to the open house about 2:30 pm and was shown around the home by the agent. When asked to see the basement, that agent provided the suspect with a flash light to look around in the basement. The home did not have electrical services. After looking around the basement for a few minutes, the man asked the agent to come down to the basement to answer a question about the fireplace. After going downstairs to show the fireplace, the agent headed back up the stairs where the man grabbed her from behind, covering her mouth and nose with one hand, and wrapping his other hand around her waist. The man pulled the agent into a corner where he sexually assaulted her.

COLUMBIA, MISSISSIPPI 10/30/04 Eight Defendants Charged in Murder of Mississippi Realtor

Eight defendants have been charged in the recent murder of a Mississippi Realtor whose body was found in a shallow grave inside of a barn. Prosecutors confirmed today that one of the defendants may have been a former renter of the 63-year-old Realtor victim, Janell Hatton of Columbia, Mississippi. Sheriff Richard "Rip" Stringer said the victim's husband, Jerry, arrived home in Columbia at 2:04 p.m. on Oct. 30 and found a large amount of blood in the home. He said his wife, Janell, was missing, as were a large number of U.S, coins. Police were immediately contacted, and investigators were led to a residence in Kokomo. They found the victim's body in a shallow grave in a barn located on the property. Hatton was shot twice, according to the Marion County coroner's office.

BALTIMORE, MD 10/25/2004 - Man Confesses To Assaulting Real Estate Agent

A Carroll County man faces charges after reportedly confessing to assaulting a real estate agent earlier this year in Sykesville. Maryland State Police identified the man as Kent E. Stover, 37, of Sykesville. Police said that after an interrogation, Stover confessed late Sunday to assaulting a real estate agent. Troopers said the investigation began on April 15 when Stover allegedly walked through a model home unaccompanied in the 700 block of Old Liberty Road in Sykesville. Authorities said that Stover then struck a female real estate agent on the head using a decorative metal ball displayed inside the house.

June 11, 2004, DECATUR, Georgia-- DeKalb County police have arrested two people in connection with the robberies of three real estate agents. Police arrested 27-year-old Zaki Murray and 32-year-old Anikia Casada on Thursday. Both are charged with three counts of armed robbery for the attacks on three agents -- all of them women. Authorities say the separate attacks took place in May. In all three cases, the victims' cars were stolen.

April 29, 1998, Phoenix, ARIZONA-- Arizona executes killer of real-estate agent. Convicted murderer Arthur Martin Ross was put to death by lethal injection at 12:03 a.m. (3:03 a.m. EDT) in the death house at the state prison complex southeast of Phoenix. The fatal dose killed the 43-year-old three minutes later, officials said. Ross, called a career criminal by prosecutors, was sentenced to die in 1991 after killing and robbing a 26-year-old Tucson, Arizona, real estate agent.

August 14, 2013. HOUSTON, TX -- Two women are accused of posing as a real estate agent and prospective buyer to burglarize a house in the Heights, Houston police said. Police said the women had given the license number and name of a legitimate real estate agent to obtain permission to enter. Once inside, they allegedly took watches, jewelry and a credit card. It is believed that they may have done this multiple times, Officer Barnes said. In some instances, they may not have taken anything because they were guided through with another real estate agent.

The women are believed to have stolen more than $30,000 in items. So far none of it has been recovered. It happened in the 700 block of E. 17th Street at about 1:20 p.m. on July 5, 2013.


LOCAL SAFETY THREAT 2/9/2015: Metro MLS has become aware of recent reports of individuals attempting to access properties by pretending to be the assistant of another agent. Fortunately, the REALTORS® who received these bogus inquires exercised proper procedures for verifying agent codes, which likely prevented a crime from occurring. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a new assistant for an agent, take extra caution.

Be Safe, Alert, and Prepared.