When you have lived next door to a "Neighbor From Hell," it's somehow comforting to know that others have gone through the same miserable experience. That was my first thought recently after a dispatch from Indianapolis crossed our news desk about a 67-year-old woman who apparently has made it her mission in life to be an asshole to the people who live around her.
A video of Vicki New tearing up "No Trespassing" signs, throwing the pieces at her neighbors, and threatening to kill them went viral last week after one of the neighbors, Luvia Roman, posted it on her Facebook page. (See videos above and at the end of this post.) Last Wednesday, New was in the Marion County Jail on preliminary charges of criminal trespass and battery resulting in bodily injury. The county prosecutor's office said it is still reviewing the case before formal charges are filed.
The story even made Newsweek, which reported that the dispute has involved issues over property lines and calls to police, who seemed unable to get the situation under control.
If much of this sounds familiar, that's because it's a lot like our experience in Birmingham, Alabama, with a criminally inclined neighbor named Mike McGarity.
McGarity, his son, and guests trespassed on our property numerous times; McGarity threatened to sue us for attempting to protect our property rights; and we repeatedly were the targets of vandalism -- including an effort to burn down our mail box and having a metal object thrown at night through our front window. Also, McGarity fenced in about 400 square feet of our back yard -- and when we had the property re-surveyed and forced him to move his fence -- he refused to compensate us for land that he had essentially stolen.
We did not learn until later that McGarity has at least eight criminal convictions on his record; the records we found all involved misdemeanors, but they included offenses involving sex and violence.
It came as no surprise when McGarity struck me in the back with a roadside sign, which constituted a felony assault, under the law, but officials in Shelby County, AL, wrongly claimed it was a misdemeanor. (Much more on that incident, which included an eyewitness report, in a series of upcoming posts.)
The response from law enforcement on the assault was typical of deputies' inability to enforce Alabama's criminal-trespass law. Ms. Roman and her companion, Miguel Rios, apparently have faced a similarly inept response from cops in Indianapolis -- at least until New was stupid enough to get caught acting like a bully on a video that went viral. Only then did Indiana cops do something that might help resolve the situation.
Despite his lengthy criminal record, McGarity managed to find a job with a reputable employer -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama -- which, as a federal Medicare contractor, is supposed to do extensive background checks on potential employees. The BC/BS background-check process apparently is deeply flawed because it allowed McGarity to slip through the cracks.
While we essentially were dealing with a career criminal, the Indiana case apparently is driven by a neighbor who appears to be a racist. From the Newsweek account:
Miguel Rios and Luvia Roman are faced with the difficult situation of living next door to a woman who has allegedly harassed them repeatedly.
The couple lives in Indianapolis and Roman told Newsweek that they purchased their home about a year and a half ago. Since moving in, they’ve had multiple problems with their neighbor, including having the health department, narcotics and child protective services called to their home.
Roman explained that part of her believes it’s been a targeted attempt to get them to move because they’re Hispanic, but the woman also had problems with people in the neighborhood who are white. Roman posted a video of Sunday’s confrontation on Facebook, during which the woman is seen pulling a “no trespassing” sign out of the grass, snapping it over her knee and throwing the pieces at Rios.
“Touch me, I’ll kill you,” she tells Rios, who advised her to calm down.
The woman then takes a second “no trespassing” sign and does the same thing, snapping it in two and throwing it at the couple. She calls the couple “trash” and Roman encouraged her to call the police and have them come to the neighborhood. At least one other neighbor can be heard yelling from what appears to be across the street and the woman tells her to go “back in her f**king house” before making an obscene gesture.
What led up to this? Newsweek provides background:
Roman told Newsweek that there have been disputes over property lines in the past and to resolve the issue, she purchased the signs, the woman agreed to have them put up and a police officer put them in the woman’s yard.
However, on Friday night, when Rios and Roman came back from dinner, the signs had been thrown in their driveway. On Sunday, while Rios was cleaning his car, he put the signs back up in her yard, where the officer had placed them, which is when the confrontation ensued.
Roman and Rios aren’t the only ones in the neighborhood to feel threatened by the woman and Corey Banks, who lives across the street and witnessed the encounter, told WFTS that she’s called him the n-word multiple times.
Another neighbor told WFTS that the woman has harassed multiple neighbors who are minorities and one family ended up breaking their lease and moving out because the woman made living there “unbearable.”
What can we learn from the Indiana contretemps?
(1) Neighbors from Hell can be found anywhere, and it's damned hard to avoid them -- no matter how hard you might try. If you are wealthy enough to afford an estate-sized lot, with serious fencing, that probably helps.
(2) There probably is not a jurisdiction in the country that does not have criminal-trespass laws, but cops tend to be useless in dealing with such matters;
(3) An Indiana neighbor said New's actions made living in the neighborhood "unbearable." Based on experience, I can vouch for that assessment.
(4) Our neighbor issues started in December 1998, and we still are dealing with the legal fallout. Fortunately, advances in technology can provide a major weapon to fight back against neighborhood bullies. I'm pleased to see that Roman and Rios are making video and social media their friends. And I believe that's what caused police to finally take the matter seriously.