Little people, big problem: Roloffs get death threats

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ore. - One of Oregon's most famous local families is getting death threats.

You know the Roloffs from their reality TV show "Little People, Big World." And a trip to their pumpkin patch is a fall tradition for thousands. Their fame has attracted unwanted attention before.

The Roloffs are a resilient bunch. They've been on television in some form for a decade. But this latest twist in their celebrity life includes threats like "death to the midgets" along with attacks on their disabilities, the sexual orientation of their kids and even their Christianity.

It has them scared.

Matt and Amy Roloff are no strangers to public scrutiny. As reality show stars, they've willingly put their lives on television, inviting criticism, ridicule and attacks. But they've never experienced anything like this.

"My boy's girlfriend came in and was mortified," said Matt.

She had received a threatening message on Facebook.

"So we all went on Facebook to check our messages and sure enough we were getting similar ones," Matt said.

Since April, the Roloffs say they've been getting Facebook messages and emails threatening to kill and rape Amy and their daughter Molly by tying them to their beds. There's also a threat to use a bomb to blow up the farm where they live.

"I'm scared at night," Amy said. "I'm a lot more afraid at night when it's dark here. I stay in my house, because they could be half a mile on my property."

The written messages are only part of their concern. They say there have been strange phone calls too in the middle of night. And late last month, Matt called 911.

"I'm leaving at four in the morning for the airport, there's a suspicious car outside our gate that's raced off - I tried to chase it - I called 911, and I'm trying to follow it. I'm like, 'OK, I've got the guy on a dead-end road, I know he's got to come out of there.' And they're like, 'Well, OK, we'll try to dispatch somebody' (click)."

The Roloffs say they don't know who's doing this, and if it's just one person or a group. They've reached out to the FBI as well as the Washington County Sheriff's Office. But they're not confident their concerns are being taken seriously.

"We're saying we're getting death threats, strange cars, phone calls in the middle of the night - can't you at least track and find out who it is?" said Matt.

While skeptics may say this sort of thing is the price of fame, Amy says there is a limit.

"Just because I choose to give up some of my privacy does not mean you have 100 percent of my privacy," she said. "If you don't like me, I'm OK with that. If you express yourself: 'I don't like what you believe in, I don't like what you say,' I'm OK with that. But at this level? It goes beyond the disliked and the good and bad of being a celebrity."

Despite measures they've taken to protect themselves: a gated entry to their home, surveillance cameras and signage all over their property, Matt and Amy feel unsettled.

"It's concerning," Matt said. "And I'd be lying if I didn't say I was keeping my clip in my weapon at night, wondering if someone's going to come into the house and carry out some of these threats."

"When these types of threats come and the horrific-ness of it all, unfortunately, I begin to shut down," Amy said. "I begin to say, 'OK, what do I need to close off' so that I can protect myself but more importantly, protect my kids."

She said she'd like to have those responsible for the threats exposed.

"What I'd like to see happen is that you can't hide behind Facebook or emails or any electronic stuff," she said.

"If you're going to go out and do death threats, you need to be accountable to it," Matt said. "So I think society has to come up with ways to expose people that put out stuff like this."

They're not just little people with a big problem; they're people facing a changing world. And the very transparency the Roloffs live with ends up as their enemy.

A spokesman for the Washington County Sheriff's Office says they did send units out that morning - when Matt called 911 - but couldn't find a car matching the description that Matt gave.

The sergeant who spoke to KATU News did make a point of following up with the Roloffs Wednesday afternoon to track down why so little had been done about what they'd reported to Washington County. He said they are now taking this very seriously.

The FBI will neither confirm nor deny it has an active investigation into the Roloff's concerns.

The person or persons behind the threats are using emails and Facebook profiles, but it is unclear whether those are actual people making the threats or if those innocent people had their profiles hacked.