Jennifer Nime Palumbo never worried about having a high-profile career. That all changed in the fall of 2000 when she found a four-page letter with a rose on the windshield of her car, which was parked outside her home. “The thought that someone had followed me home from work terrified me,” she said.
The man wrote, “It’s not like I’ve been lurking in the bushes or watching you from across the way with a pair of binoculars. Although, I have thought about it (just kidding).”
She described the rest of the letter as rambling and confusing. “The red flags were flying in all directions,” Palumbo recalled.
She called the Lexington Police department. The case was on their radar, but there was not much they could do because they did not know who the man was. In the meantime, she lived in fear. She worked the night shift and lived alone. One co-worker would watch her get in her car when she left work, another would stay on the phone with her as she did a safety walkthrough when she got home.
The precautions were necessary. Her alarm system sounded several times when she wasn’t home. No one was ever there by the time police arrived, but one time they did find evidence that someone tried to break in. During that time she received another disturbing letter.
Then the threat to her safety escalated. After working a late night covering the 2000 Vice Presidential debate at Centre College, Palumbo came home to find a stretch limousine parked outside her townhome.
She remembered an ominous warning in one of her stalker’s letters. “If you do happen to notice the odd car with dark tint pulling in behind you, hope it’s me.” She drove to Kroger and called 911.
Lexington Police found her stalker in front of her home. He had removed the license plate from the car and had a loaded gun on the front seat. He told officers he just wanted to make sure she got home from work safely.
“I will never know if he was planning to hurt me that night, but it definitely looked like it” she said.
Palumbo’s stalker was convicted on a misdemeanor and spent less than a week in jail. Not long after that, Kentucky State Police told her he had shot someone.
“I never thought I would become a crime victim. Then it happened. You never know when it might happen to you or someone you love,” Palumbo said.
The experience opened her eyes. She learned that Kentucky is one of 15 states wherein the state Constitution does not give crime victims the same rights as the accused.
“That means the courts and law enforcement have no obligation to keep victims and their loved ones informed. I was fortunate that Lexington Police and prosecutors kept me updated. That is not happening everywhere,” she said.
Marsy’s Law would change that. It is a national movement with strong support in Kentucky. Marsy’s Law was named after a California college student who was killed by a stalker, her ex-boyfriend, in 1983. A week later, her mother walked into a grocery store and was confronted by the accused killer. The family had no idea he was free on bail.
Marsy’s Law gives victims everything from the right to be notified of court proceedings to a chance to be heard at plea or sentencing hearings. Kentucky lawmakers approved the bill in January, and it will be on the November ballot as a constitutional amendment for voters to decide.
“I will do whatever they need me to do to raise awareness about the need for voters to approve this constitutional amendment in November,” she said.
Palumbo will host a Marsy’s Law campaign rally on April 14th at the state Capitol to share her story. “If I can use my terrifying experience as a stalking victim to help other crime victims and get Marsy’s Law in Kentucky, then it will be worth it,” she said.
Palumbo was born in Columbus, Ohio, and raised in Cincinnati. A self-described bookworm, she loved reading from an early age because it took her places she had never been.
Palumbo fell in love with journalism in high school when she was the editor of the high school newspaper. She planned to major in journalism in college, but an Army ROTC scholarship landed her at Vanderbilt University.
“The scholarship was too good to pass up, but I had to major in math to get it. I realized during my freshman year that journalism was my passion,” she said.
Since Vanderbilt didn’t have a journalism school, Palumbo transferred to Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism. Internships followed at CNN in Atlanta, WCPO in Cincinnati, and the ABC News bureau in London, England.
Palumbo returned to the states and got her first on-air job at WYMT, in Hazard. She did it all from anchoring to shooting video. A year later, in 1995, she was hired at WKYT in Lexington. There she produced, reported, and anchored for 27 as well as FOX 56.
“I used to think I’d move here then move on to the next TV job, but I fell in love with the city and eventually my husband, Joe Palumbo, and I’ve been here ever since,” she said.
Palumbo embraces her role as advocate. After 24 years in TV news, she took a break last year to spend more time with her family. She and her husband Joe have two children, Anna who is 13 and John who is 11.
Palumbo also volunteers for Jarrett’s Joy Cart at Kentucky Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House as well as being on the boards of the Kids Cancer Alliance and OperaLex.
“My most important and fulfilling jobs will always be as a wife and mom. I thank God every day for giving me this blessed life, and I will never take it for granted,” she said. •