ST. LOUIS – Allegations continue to pile up against a St. Louis man accused of sending rape threats to multiple women online.
Robert Merkle, 48, is already charged with two counts of harassment in St. Louis City.
Thursday, he appeared in court where two of his other alleged victims asked a St. Louis County judge for permanent orders of protection.
The judge said the accusations reflect a pattern of behavior that concerned him and ordered Merkle to attend a sex offender treatment program.
One of Merkle's few comments was when he asked the judge not to make him pay court costs as he was unemployed.
The Judge's response? He'd send him a bill.
The I-Team found at least seven orders of protection in St Louis city and county filed against Merkle so far this year. Four of those orders were filed in the last two weeks.
The former Software analyst had no comment as he left the Clayton courthouse Thursday morning.
But two women who say they were stalked by Merkle after messaging on a dating website had a lot to tell judge Jason Dodson.
They were seeking full orders of protection against Merkle. They claimed that for months he had sent them threatening and violent messages about raping them.
They said he also taunted them with personal details they never disclosed to him.
"At a certain point he had figured out my address and where I lived and from there I decided to get an order of protection, hoping it would stop," said one Metro East woman who messaged with Merkle earlier this year on dating site OK-Cupid. (She asked we not identify her by name, out of fear for her safety.)
Despite never meeting Merkle, she said she received dozens of obscene messages from him.
"At first I was appalled. I thought it was childish. I blew it off at first. I immediately blocked the number,” said the woman. “Within five minutes, got a message from another phone number from him going into more detail and this went on.”
In all cases the I-Team has come across, the women allege Merkle used call spoofing technology- sending threatening messages from untraceable phone numbers.
"In the last text message I received, he was no longer telling me what he wanted to do to me, he was telling me what he was going to do to me. It's some pretty scary, predator, terrorizing behavior," said the woman.
Many of the women said police didn't take the messages seriously at first. Several victims claim that police reports were only written because a friend or contact on the force became involved.
"[My friend] had to tell people 'Ok my friend is going to call in and you need to do something about this.' He said he had no faith in the system. That they would just ignore it," said the woman.
There are resources available to help if you're being stalked or harassed online.
Victims advocates in the area said stalking cases have spiked recently. They do admit that filing a report can sometimes take several calls or visits.
But in the meantime, advocates said to keep track of the evidence until authorities can help.
"What we encourage our folks on the help line to do is keep documentation of what's happening. Screen shooting the images, with the personal identifying information, so in the case of something happening, they have something to fall back on," said Jess Cowl, with Safe Connections.
Here are some resources we found:
- Safe Connection’s 24-hour crisis helpline: 314-531-2003
- The St. Louis Victim's advocates center: (314) 652-3623
- The Stalking Resource Center: http://victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/stalking-resource-center