Three years before her estranged husband killed her, Sandra Bentley told friends that her computer was doing things she did not want.
The cursor would highlight words by itself. It floated over them and even changed them spontaneously. Documents she created and saved disappeared from memory. Folders stored in one file were altered and saved somewhere else, Sandra's friend Charma Meek said.
Sandra, 50, of Grapevine, told friends that she feared her reality was imploding, just like her mother's mind disintegrated just before schizophrenia was diagnosed.
But Sandra wasn't hallucinating or losing her mind, said her attorney, V. Wayne Ward. "Takeover" software had been planted in her computer.
Meek and another of Sandra's friends, Marinda Stankiewicz, said they believe that Curtis Bentley planted it.
"He had established a ghost on her computer," Meek said.
Now when domestic abuse counselors gather with victims, they tell Sandra's story as a cautionary tale. Technology marketed to parents to let them control and monitor their children, they warn, can also be misused to manipulate or track others.
"Used to be, if a spouse ran away in the night, it was quite a bit of work to find her," said Aaron Hughes, a computer forensics expert based in Houston. "Now a lot of people have access to things that they never even thought about before."
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