LENEXA, Kan. — A grieving father from the Kansas City area is talking publicly for the first time about his daughter’s murder.
Police believe her ex-boyfriend tracked her with a GPS device before she was shot and killed, prompting her father, Desmond Theel, to call for changes so that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.
The KSHB 41 I-Team discovered that nearly two dozen states have laws on the books regulating private use of the devices to track someone else's movement. Missouri and Kansas do not.
A father's grief: 'Something was awry'
“We all lost here; we really did,” Theel said.
Theel said he knew his daughter was being tracked by her ex-boyfriend, but he didn’t know how.
“He would show up in places that only her and her friend would know that they were going — and he would just show up,” he said.
Theel said Beck and her ex-boyfriend had been broken up for about seven months and it’s his belief that his daughter was tracked for most, if not, that entire time.
“We all knew that something was awry,” said Theel, who added that the ex-boyfriend never showed signs of violence.
When the two broke up, Beck moved out, got a new job and returned to college.
She also had more time to focus on her passion, riding horses.
“I used to tell her all the time, ride like the wind and don’t look back,” Theel said.
That all changed in February when Lenexa police responded to a home on Laurelwood Street, where three people died in what investigators called a double homicide-suicide.
Police identified the victims as Beck and Mikey Williamson, an acquaintance of Beck's. Beck’s ex-boyfriend pulled the trigger before taking his own life, according to Lenexa police.
“I just think that it was more than he could handle to see her thrive without him,” Theel said.
Increase in high-tech stalking
Officer Danny Chavez, a spokesperson for Lenexa police, confirmed that investigators believe the ex-boyfriend used high-tech methods to stalk Beck.
“Her ex-boyfriend, we believe, was tracking her with GPS devices, tracked her here to a location in Lenexa where he murdered her,” Chavez said.
The device used tracks in real time on a map, but police said the ex-boyfriend also set up a geofence that would automatically notify him when Beck showed up at work, at her friend’s house and at her home.
“The police have to have a warrant in order to do that to somebody," Theel said. "Now, we got the general public just doing it."
While the case is now closed, it’s not the first one Lenexa police have investigated involving stalking with a location tracker. Since 2018, they’ve investigated four others, but none turned deadly until three months ago.
“Whether they ended in violence or not, they’re pretty terrifying for all of the victims involved,” Chavez said.
Theel said he never imagined this would happen to his daughter.
“Not in a million years," he said. "I had asked Sara repeatedly, are you scared? Are you scared for your safety or anything like that?"
Other states' laws
At least 23 states and the District of Columbia have addressed privacy concerns when it comes to someone tracking another person without them knowing, according the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin, it’s against the law to put a tracker on a car unless the owner gives consent.
In Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma and in D.C., tracking someone without their knowledge is included in stalking laws.
There are some exceptions, including for law enforcement if they get a warrant first.
Kansas and Missouri don’t have any similar statutes on the books.
“Until somebody with a lot of power and a lot of money’s children happens to, this thing is going to go on," Theel said. "I’m just a regular old Joe."
Hearing from lawmakers
Rep. Jo Ella Hoye represents Lenexa in the Kansas legislature and has taken an interest in improving stalking laws after the double homicide-murder.
“This should’ve never happened in the first place and I don’t know how somebody in a position of power could just move on after hearing more details about this,” Hoye said.
She’s now looking into what can be done.
“It is very concerning to hear how technology can make stalking more serious and it does put into my mind that we need an enhancement of the severity of stalking as a crime if something like this is used,” Hoye said.
She said she would support legislation that does precisely that.
“I think we can look at definitions of stalking and the technology," Hoye said. "I think there’s something there."
Theel certainly hopes lawmakers will follow through. He also hopes that his daughter’s story will serve as a warning for others.
“If this is going on, you've got to do something," Theel said. "Don’t wait."
The KSHB 41 News I-Team reached out to three Missouri legislators for the story with no response.
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