CHARLESTON - Ask the woman, Karl Ehrens interrupted the bond hearing, his hands in cuffs in the Charleston County Detention Center. Ask her if she thinks it's fair.
And the 18-year-old woman Ehrens is accused of stalking quivered and began to cry, there in front of the video screen where he appeared.
Her mother put an arm around her shoulder and squeezed. A bailiff brought her a handful of tissue paper. And Magistrate Alvin Bligen on Friday evening held Ehrens, a former surgeon in training, without bail until he gets a mental health evaluation.
"This girl, when my life was destroyed by MUSC, gave me a hug," Ehrens pleaded. That hug meant a lot to him, he said. Everything he's done since has been to show her he can make something of his life.
"I've been evaluated by every single person at MUSC they could throw at me," Ehrens said. He was not put on medication. The worst thing they found was an "adjustment disorder."
Ehrens, 29, was arrested Thursday night by a U.S. marshal and several Charleston County sheriff's deputies after a brief chase near his West Ashley home. He is charged with first-degree harassment, a misdemeanor.
The arrest capped an intensive two-day search for a suspect investigators considered potentially dangerous, based on what officers described as an escalating pattern of stalking and harassing the woman over a few months, even after she obtained a restraining order, and on a cryptic reference he made online about Sept. 1 being a decisive day.
Stuffed animals were left July 20 in boxes stacked in a driveway where the woman moved to escape being stalked. The animals resembled the images of dolls embedded in Internet messages she received from Ehrens, she told police.
The allusion to Sept. 1 had officers
concerned, and they wanted to apprehend the suspect quickly, said sheriff's Maj. John Clark. "If you look at the progress of where this was going, we were afraid for our victim."
On Friday, the woman stood in the courtroom in a pink blouse, with two "silly bands" around one wrist. Her eyes were bloodshot from tears. Asked if she wanted to say something, she said in a choked voice that she was sorry to have things turn out like this.
"We were friends. That's all we were. I'm sorry he couldn't accept that," she said.
On Friday, Ehrens stood on camera from the detention center in a sleeveless undershirt and couldn't quite stand still, shifting his weight from one leg to the other as he stared at the tiny screen in his hearing booth. He repeatedly interrupted the magistrate and witnesses, asking if he could interject.
The Medical University of South Carolina stated Thursday that Ehrens started a residency program in general surgery on July 1, 2008; he left the program on Feb. 9, 2009. The release did not say why he left. The training is a five-year program at MUSC.
At the hearing, Ehrens said he was terminated, then reinstated when he challenged the termination as unfair labor practice. But MUSC had not contacted him since, and while he planned to go to the hospital ask for his job back, he hadn't yet.
"You can't show up on the downslope of a roller coaster," he said in an aside to the magistrate. He asked the magistrate if the evaluation could be taken care of today.
"Is there any way possible I can just get out of here as soon as possible?" he said.
Easter Laroche, the victim's advocate, asked Bligen for the mental health hearing among a number of moves to delay his release and keep him from contacting the victim. They included the evaluation, a bond of as much as $500,000, an order to make contact -- "no contact, period," a satellite monitoring disk and/or house arrest.
"We're serious about this case," she said. "We're asking you to keep him away."
Outside the bond hearing room, the woman's mother spoke briefly to the news media as the woman stood off to one side with her arms wrapped around herself. The family is appreciative that this case ended up in court rather than her daughter's photo on a missing person poster, the victim's mother said.
"She has point-blank said, 'You're too old for me.' It's too big an age difference," the mother said. "Some men can't take rejection."
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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