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Family's terror comes to NBC

Published Oct. 10, 2005

(ran LA edition)

At one point, Linda Anello couldn't get anyone to pay attention to her daughter's problem with a stalker.

Next week, her family will receive national exposure: It's the subject of an NBC television movie.

Moment of Truth: Stalking Back, which airs from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday on WFLA-Ch. 8, tells the story of Laurisa Anello, Linda and Nelson Anello's teenage daughter, and the man who has followed, called, written and harassed her for nearly five years, Bruce Raines.

The Anellos became famous in Florida a few years back when Mrs. Anello started the push for a state stalking law. Largely because of her efforts, it has been a felony to stalk a person in Florida since July 1992.

Which is why Raines, if he watches the movie, will see it from a prison cell.

In the latest episode of the Anellos' real-life drama, Raines, 28, was sentenced to two years in state prison Aug. 9 for violating probation. Officials say he sent a letter to Laurisa Anello this summer, less than two months after he had been sentenced to house arrest on an aggravated stalking charge and warned to keep his distance.

"Any time he's out of prison, he's a problem," said Mrs. Anello. "And the movie is good because it gives you the feel of just what it was like to have to put up with this, the terror of having this man doing all of this."

Generally true to life

Mrs. Anello said she was surprised to learn in March that NBC was interested in making a film about her family's experience. "When someone told me Hollywood was calling, I said, "Oh yeah, right,'

" she recalled.

NBC and O'Hara-Horowitz Productions teamed up on the movie. The executive producers are Michael O'Hara and Lawrence Horowitz, who produced another Florida story for television, Switched at Birth, an account of the Kimberly Mays baby swap case. Priscilla English wrote the script for the stalking movie. Corey Allen, best known as "Buzz" in the James Dean classic, Rebel Without a Cause, directed.

The family has seen Moment of Truth, but Mrs. Anello found it strange to watch. "It was distracting because here were these people being us and using our names."

The Anellos give the movie thumbs up, calling it well-acted and well-scripted. But Mrs. Anello, who's played by Shanna Reed of Major Dad fame, does note a few discrepancies from reality.

"There's a scene in the movie where Laurisa is out with a boyfriend-type and Bruce is tailgating and blowing the horn and a scuffle takes place," Mrs. Anello said. "Laurisa said it looked just like it happened."

But in the movie, Laurisa accidentally gets hit in the mouth and starts bleeding. In real life, she wasn't decked.

Then there's the ending, where a confrontation takes place between Laurisa and Raines and he's finally arrested. Mrs. Anello said that didn't happen, either.

Police say they invited Raines to headquarters where they arrested him.

(In the movie, the stalker is named Curt Harper and played by Tom Kurlander, who had a role in Kindergarten Cop.)

And the film was shot in Phoenix. The city's tall buildings and the columned courthouse don't look much like St. Petersburg or the Pinellas courts complex.

But the fiction doesn't really bother the Anellos. "They needed the drama, to visualize it on television so that people would get the message," Mrs. Anello said. "That's important."

The movie accurately portrays simple things, such as the family's constant lookout for Raines' gray Hyundai and Laurisa's anguish at being unable to lead the life of a normal teenager.

St. Petersburg police officials, who helped the Anellos, were pleased not only to get some credit for their work on the case, but also to be portrayed positively in a television movie.

"We helped them with a few things," said spokesman Bill Doniel. "We sent them decals and pictures of uniforms.

Doniel was also happy to talk with Corey Allen, who starred in his favorite movie, Rebel Without a Cause.

"It was kind of a shock," said Officer Mark Martini, who first helped the Anellos as a detective in Youth Services. "I never thought anyone would make this into a movie."

Martini remembers the hard days of trying to talk with Raines. "He was a goofy kind of a guy and all the kids would pick on him except for Laurisa."

Martini makes an appearance in the movie, although he isn't called by name. The actor who plays him is in his 50s, not 25, Martini's age when he investigated the case.

Five calls in one day

The Anellos' first police report was filed in the summer of 1989, Martini said. Raines was 25 and an umpire for Little League in Northeast St. Petersburg. Laurisa, 14 at the time, was the only child not to tease Raines about some of his antics on the baseball field, Martini said.

He began sending cards, letters, flowers, pizzas and gifts to get Laurisa's attention. He followed her and told her he loved her.

"The letters in the movie are word-for-word what he sent us," Mrs. Anello said.

Family members told him repeatedly to leave Laurisa alone. Police reports say Raines threatened to kill himself at times.

At one point, Raines even agreed to stop bothering the family as part of an agreement reached through the Citizens Dispute Settlement Program. He quickly broke that pledge.

On July 6, 1990, Raines called the Anellos five times, according to one report.

Police said there was little they could do; Raines wasn't breaking any law. Then several reports rolled across Martini's desk. He took an interest and finally got the State Attorney's Office to try to press several charges, including trespassing, telephone harassment and child abuse charges.

Raines, a one-time pizza delivery person and volunteer firefighter, spent time in jail awaiting trial, was sentenced to probation more than once and even was under house arrest for a while.

Mrs. Anello says she and her family went to court 13 times in the past four years.

In the end, Mrs. Anello decided that the best way to make sure Raines got real prison time was to get the laws changed; the state's stalking law followed her efforts in Tallahassee.

For posterity

And how do the people involved feel about the movie?

The Anellos are pleased with the product because it provides an outlet for their story. They received some money from the movie that they are using to pay for Laurisa's college costs. Mrs. Anello didn't say how much the family got.

Martini said last week he still hasn't seen the movie, but looks forward to it.

Raines was unavailable for comment.

Laurisa Anello, now 19, couldn't be reached for comment, either. And the movie makes clear the reason why: She is still in hiding from Bruce Raines.

"Laurisa has seen it, but it took her three days to watch it," her mother said. "Some of it was so close to what happened, it was just scary for her."