A Minneapolis man on provisional release from a state mental health facility is facing harassment charges after police say he mailed an ominous package to a former waitress that he pursued for several years in the 1980s.
William S. Douglas, 55, was charged Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court with one felony count of stalking. He is in the Hennepin County jail, where he awaits transfer back to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter. Douglas was civilly committed there in 1994 after stabbing a woman in the leg, leading the court to deem him “mentally ill and dangerous,” according to records.
He was discharged in February after two stints — totaling at least 18 years — in the facility, a term that included treatment for severe chemical dependency.
Last week, Douglas contacted a woman who filed a restraining order against him nearly 30 years ago, according to charges.
During the mid-1980s, Douglas frequented Hard Times Café, a vegetarian restaurant in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, where he took a keen interest in one of the young waitresses.
According to the criminal complaint:
The woman, then a student at the University of Minnesota, reported Douglas to the police after he began visiting her parents’ house to place letters and other items in the mailbox. On one occasion, he told her parents that she “came from good stock and that people came from miles away for her to pour their coffee.”
Over the next few years, Douglas acquired her class schedule and began appearing outside her lecture halls. Sometimes he would wait outside her apartment and call her phone to speak with her roommates. Unsure how he kept finding personal information, she began to fear for her safety.
In 1993, while the woman was still employed at Hard Times, Douglas attacked a fellow waitress outside the restaurant. She told police “he meant to stab me that day.”
He was charged with second-degree assault, but found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to St. Peter.
After more than 20 years of no contact, Douglas mailed a package to the victim’s Edina home last Thursday, even though he shouldn’t have known her current address. Inside was a typed letter asking her to reconnect, a prepaid envelope requesting return service and a sea shell.
She told authorities she was “alarmed” by the number of references to her personal life.
Douglas has a long history of mental health episodes, involving several civil commitments. The first dates to 1979, when he was hospitalized after threatening to burn down the family home. A decade later, Douglas was recommitted for sending dozens of harassing letters to a former girlfriend, according to civil files.
He made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon.