By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
When the 7-year-old girl climbed onto the witness stand, she didn't know her mother was in deep trouble. Dressed in pink, from the barrette in her sandy-brown hair to her shoes, Kylee Roberts had no idea that the man sitting across from her in the courtroom was trying to convict her mother, Georgia, on charges of stalking and battering Channel 10 anchorwoman Kristi Krueger.
The little girl instead thought Broward County prosecutor Nathan Avrunin was her mom's "helper."
Sitting at a table across from Avrunin was Georgia Roberts, who watched as her daughter raised her right arm to swear to tell the truth. The mother's mind flashed back three decades to another little girl making a courtroom oath. Like Kylee, that girl was 7. She was dressed like a "little American," in all white, including a tiny hat and gloves. It was a young Georgia, and she was being sworn into the United States as a new citizen.
The citizenship ceremony was a seminal event in the 37-year-old's childhood, a clue to how the Greek native became South Florida's most infamous stalking defendant, a veritable soccer mom from hell who invaded the life of a local celebrity and shook up the suburban town of Pembroke Pines. Her manic behavior spilled over at trial; Circuit Judge Marc Gold held her in contempt three times and put her in jail for two days. Yet she also seemed oddly at home in the courtroom, as if her life's path had led inexorably to that place. She was also curiously effective: A jury acquitted her on July 2.
But it's not over yet. As Georgia announced in her often startling fashion in early August, she's baaaa-aaack. The jury split on the lesser-included charge of misdemeanor stalking. The case is set for trial in December, and following it, she promises to sue the unlucky Krueger for malicious prosecution.
To make any sense of Georgia, a self-described "paradox of contradictions," one must go back to the youth she admittedly never outgrew. Only then can her adult life -- full of dreadful conflicts, dangerous obsessions, and legal battles -- be understood. It was a childhood that culminated in a blood-sprayed bedroom where her school's homecoming queen lay dead and Georgia held a smoking shotgun. It was ruled an accident. Some still suspect otherwise.
A little Greek girl sits alone at a table in a Chicago elementary school while the other girls eat together. A narrator speaks. "When I was growing up, I knew I was different. The other girls were blond and delicate, and I was a swarthy 6-year-old with sideburns. I so badly wanted to be like the popular girls all sitting together, talking, eating their Wonder Bread sandwiches... And while the pretty girls went to Brownies, I went to Greek school."
It's a scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a movie Georgia Roberts describes as "my life." And it seems chillingly accurate. Georgia's life has been largely consumed by an unsuccessful -- and often outrageous -- struggle to break into the upper reaches of American life. And Georgia thrives on conflict. "My mother had me after eight miscarriages," she says pridefully. "That tells you... I am a force to be reckoned with."
After immigrating to Chicago in 1968, her father, Angelo, got a job at a steel mill and the family settled in a two-story rowhouse in a northside neighborhood dominated by Greeks and Jews. Georgia, who had a younger brother and sister, fell in love with the idea of America.
But she was still an ocean away from typical American life. She wanted to lounge in her pajamas and watch Saturday-morning cartoons but instead had to hustle off to Greek school. Her gruff father forbade her from wearing pajamas outside of bed anyway -- they were for sleeping only. The family didn't speak at dinner either. It was time to eat, not jabber. Such constrictions, products of the cloistered Greek culture, dictated not only the minutiae of her behavior but also seemingly her destiny. It was preordained that Georgia would marry a nice Greek boy, stay chaste until marriage, and always live within the culture's confines. Her mother, Helen, told her so.
"My mother was beautiful," Georgia remembers. "White skin, dark eyes, black hair. She was a true lady. She walked a step behind, and she never took over the situation. My mother knew her place, because in the Greek tradition, the husband was the dominant force."
When Georgia was 10 years old, her mother began leaving the house for hours on mysterious appointments, and her father began having long secretive phone conversations with her uncle Pete. She would hide in the dark, eavesdropping, but all she could make out were the words "to kako."
The ruin of us.
When she was 12, her suspicion that her mom was sick was confirmed when her parents traveled to a place with a strange name. When neighbors told her that the "Mayo Clinic" was a hospital, it filled her with fear.
In her freshman year at Mather High School, the silence around the illness was broken. "My aunt Georgia took me for a walk around the block on a late Sunday, almost at dusk," she remembers. "She said I would have to be brave and I would have to take care of my brother and sister and that I would have to take the role of the mother. I said nothing. I did not cry. I was thinking, 'I don't believe I'm not going to have a mother.' I think I slept with my eyes open that night."