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For sale: ‘The Watcher’ house, where a stalker’s chilling letters scared a family into fleeing

The Washington Post The Washington Post 2/04/2016 Lindsey Bever

© Westfield Realty Service A notorious New Jersey home purportedly under a mysterious stalker’s watchful eye is back on the market — nearly two years after its owners said they bought it but became too terrified to move in.

The home, nestled in the bedroom community of Westfield, became embroiled in scandal last summer, when the new homeowners, Derek and Maria Broaddus, filed a civil lawsuit against the former owners for fraud, claiming the couple knew about the home’s longtime stalker — someone who called himself “the Watcher” and claimed the home had been “the subject of my family for decades,” according to court records.

“My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time,” a letter to the homeowners read, according to the complaint filed in Union County Superior Court. “I have been put in charge of watching and waiting for its second coming.”

“Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested?” it read. “Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them out to me.”

The colonial-style house, past the quaint mom-and-pop shops that line downtown Westfield, was put up for sale last week for $1.2 million — reduced from the purchase price of $1.3 million, according to Zillow. The site lists it as a “grand turn-of-the century home” with six bedrooms, four bathrooms and a finished basement.

The new owners relisted the house once before but later took it off the market.

Three days after the Broadduses bought the home in June 2014, they said, they started getting letters from “the Watcher” — someone with a “mentally disturbed fixation” and claim on the home, according to the complaint.

“Where are you?” the first letter read. “I will find out.”

Then came two more — one in June and one in July.

“Have they found out what is in the walls yet?”

“I am pleased to know your names now and the name of the young blood you have brought to me.”

“Will the young bloods play in the basement?”

“Who has the bedrooms facing the street? I’ll know as soon as you move in. … It will help me to know who is in which bedroom then I can plan better.”

One letter purportedly said the windows and doors “allow me to watch you and track you as you move through the house,” according to the complaint.

“Who I am?” the letter read. “I am the Watcher.”

The complaint states that the anonymous author mentioned the former owners, John and Andrea Woods, saying “it was their time to move on.”

The Broadduses, a married couple with three children, filed suit in June 2015, claiming that the Woods family concealed information about the “Watcher” when they sold them the home. Since then, Westfield — a town where the former NBC TV show “Ed” was shot — has been thrust into a national spotlight, and the former owners claim they have been pulled along for the ride.

In January, the Woods’ attorney, Richard Kaplow filed a response to the lawsuit calling the “Watcher” a “fictitious” character, and filed a counter claim for defamation, arguing the publicity had caused them emotional distress.

In the lawsuit, the Woods admits that before they moved out in May 2014, they did receive a note but they “deny that the note was ‘disturbing’ or in any way claimed a right of possession and/or ownership of the premises.”

“My clients have gone through having to experience serious allegations that have made their way to the Internet,” Kaplow told at the time. “They have been embarrassed and humiliated and subject to public ridicule.”

Attorney Lee Levitt, who represents the Broadduses, said they have not received a letter in 20 months but the memories still haunt them.

“These people are sick to their stomachs from this house,” he told The Washington Post on Wednesday. “They just have a very bad taste in their mouths.”

Levitt called the ordeal “a really horrible thing” that happened to “very good people.”

“All they wanted to do was buy their dream home and move in,” he said, “and that’s been stolen from them.”

The Westfield Police Department could not be immediately reached for comment.

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