TEMPLE, TX — Realtor Virginia Freeman was brutally murdered while showing property to an unknown man on December 1, 1981. It wasn't until June 25, 2018 that investigators cracked the 36-year-old cold case. James Otto Earhart was the convicted killer.
Since Earhart was previously executed in 1999 for kidnapping and murdering a 9-year-old girl, investigators asked Earhart's son to undergo a DNA specimen test.
Stories like Freeman's remind realtors across Central Texas to always practice caution while on the job. Ali Thompson has been selling since 2004, but didn't realize how dangerous her job can be.
"Once I got in it and realized that I was meeting people at vacant homes it dawned on me at that time that I was needing to make a plan to stay safe," Thompson said.
Thompson hearing stories like Freeman's and other realtors being assaulted convinced her to come up with a safety plan.
"You always want to stick to the plan," Thompson said. "I have clients visit me at my office and I get a copy of their driver's license, I let them know that its company policy," Thompson said.
That way Thompson gets a sense of what her client is like, her co-workers meet the clients and the clients meet a level of safety for Thompson's peace of mind. Buyers can be antsy to go out and find their new home, so when Thompson asks for them to visit the office first they sometimes don't understand.
"60,40 60% understand and 40% still just don't get it that we're going to be out looking at property I'm going to be by myself - I don't know you from Adam," Thompson said.
But it's not just female realtors who practice safety while on the job.
"My wife Jennifer always knows where I'm at and I've let her know - this is where I am, if I'm not calling you within an hour or so, I need you to start looking for me or call the police," Realtor Quinton Locklin said.
Lockin says it is also important for the home seller to be aware of keeping themselves safe too.
"i walked into a home and I see a 22-rifle sitting in the corner, so I always tell my listings make sure all your medications are secured make sure all your firearms are secured," Locklin said.
Whether you are a home buyer, seller or realtor it's important to always have a safety plan like Locklin and Thompson.
"There could be any a number of things going on in a house once you enter it so you really need to be alert at all times," Thompson said.
Realtors are also using smartphones to stay safe while showing properties so when and if something goes wrong, help is in the palm of their hands. The National Assocition of Realtors is working to educate professionals about many safety applications that will allow them to quickly summon police.
Though most smartphone services cost money, there are some free apps available like Homesnap Pro. This free service allows realtors to set a safety timer. Prior to a showing, a timer and realtors select emergency contacts who will be notified when the timer expires. Upon expiration, a text message is sent out alerting others that the realtor is in distress. In addition, realtors can call for help with just one tap.
The Waco Association of Realtors is also offering a free self defense training class and are constantly providing materials for realtors in the community. For more information visit their website.