Erin Napier Recalls Terrifying Incident When Stranger Came to Laurel to 'Protect' Her Daughter: 'Scared Me to Death'

The HGTV star detailed the man bought a house one block from her family's and lived with nothing in it except a suitcase and toys he brought for for "little Helen"

Erin Napier attends Build Series to discuss the new season of "Home Town" at Build Studio
Photo: Manny Carabel/Getty Images

Erin Napier is opening up about a chilling incident in her small town of Laurel, Mississippi.

On Wednesday, the Home Town star took to Instagram to recount the unsettling event that happened last year. "May the 4th be with you. Not my favorite day, one year ago," the HGTV star began her caption.

"We were filming the reveal for Donelle's episode [of Home Town] and CBS Sunday Morning when Ben started getting messages from lots of folks in town about a 54-year-old California man dressed like a Star Wars storm trooper, wearing an ankle monitor bracelet, who had come to town and was saying some very strange things."

Some of the man's comments were about the residents of Laurel, which has become a tourist destination following the success of Erin and her husband Ben's series. Others were about the couple's family in particular. The most chilling, she wrote, was, "God sent me here to protect the women of Laurel, specifically little Helen."

The photo she posted included a blurry image of several Barbie dolls, along with a baseball and a mini Clifford The Big Red Dog stuffed animal amid a playset. In the post, Napier detailed the man bought a house one block from her family's; he lived with nothing in it except a suitcase and the pictured toys for when her then 3-year-old daughter "comes to visit," she wrote in quotes using his words.

Napier spoke with PEOPLE about the incident, sharing she was also pregnant at the time.

"It was really, really scary at the time. When you're nine and a half months pregnant everything feels elevated," she says. "So even more intense and stressful than it normally would be." Erin and Ben welcomed their second daughter, Mae, on May 28, 2021.

She said the day it happened, she and Ben were trying to film, but he seemed distant as he kept staring at his phone and leaving the room.

"No one wanted me to know. Everybody was trying to keep it from me because I was pregnant and stressed out," she says. "And then when we got in the car and he told me what was going on, it scared me to death, gave me chills. I haven't talked about it at all publicly since then."

According to her Instagram post, the man even encountered the child and nanny of the HGTV stars' friends Jim and Mallorie Rasberry, co-owners of the Napiers' store, Laurel Mercantile.

Ben and Erin Napier. courtesy HGTV

"In those two weeks that followed, before he was finally sent back to California, he found Mal and Jim's baby girl on walks with her nanny and said unsettling things. Disgusting things," Napier wrote in her Instagram.

The Home Town star said they had 24-hour security officers at home while they slept and worked in order to protect their family. "[Helen] had no idea why [the security officer] was there or who he was, but we just pretended he was a friend of ours and she was like, 'Mommy why does he sleep in his car in the driveway?' and we said, 'He just likes to,'" she tells PEOPLE.

The HGTV star said it was a "very strange time" and they even had to go to court, which was "not super fun" as they prepared to welcome Mae.

Despite the bizarre occurrence, the mom of two is sure "it'll never happen again" and she tells PEOPLE she and Ben would never leave Laurel.

"It was such a weird one-time thing, but no, we're good. We're fine," she adds.

Looking back on the incident, she wrote, "I'm thankful for the way our neighborhood guarded us and put up a hedge of protection when we needed it and it further validated what I already knew: protect your kids in the online world much as you can."

Erin Napier
Erin Napier and daughter Helen. Ben Napier/ instagram

Napier has been vocal about not posting her daughter's face on social media. In December of 2020, she deleted an Instagram photo of the back of Helen's head after backlash ensued. She then shared another post addressing why.

"Your quarterly PSA about how to be a decent person on social media," she captioned a behind-the-scenes photo of her HGTV film crew.

"Because Ben and I have this job, it means we open ourselves up to the public in ways that are sometimes vulnerable and I think there's value in that," she wrote. "I think there is a fine line between privacy and helping others by being vulnerable about some aspects of your life when you're in the spotlight."

She then addressed the hurtful comments she received.

"But tonight, because of this job we have, after posting a photo of the back of my daughter's head (why do we never show her face? for her privacy and because of vicious strangers who lurk and comment or could seek her out) there were cruel comments within moments," she added.

Napier ended the post by saying she immediately deleted the photo from her feed "to be a good steward of my baby's image and protector of my heart."

Updated by
Antonia DeBianchi
Antonia DeBianchi headshot

Antonia DeBianchi is an Associate Editor, Food & Lifestyle, at PEOPLE.

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