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Neighbors go out of way to keep molester at bay

7-28-2007 Ohio:

Springfield police officer says sexually oriented offender being harassed

SPRINGFIELD TWP. - Michael Harig is a child molester. The two large signs on his neighbor's lawn tell you so in bright bold, red letters.

So does a third sign, equally imposing and written in the same red paint, placed on a lawn two doors down.

And just in case Harig is feeling lonely in his Gregory Drive home, his neighbor put a ``Welcome Home Child Molester'' sign on their adjoining backyard fence.

But it isn't Harig who concerns Springfield police. To officers, he's a victim.

It is his neighbor, 50-year-old James Cody, who officers say is harassing Harig, not only with the imposing signs, but also with threats and his unfounded claims of more sexual abuse.

It wasn't always this way between Cody and Harig, who moved in after his release from prison just more than three years ago. But ever since Cody saw a 16-year-old boy alone with Harig, the one-sided feud hasn't stopped boiling.

``I just wish there was more we could do for Mr. Harig because he's being harassed and he's in fear for his life, there's no doubt about that,'' said police Sgt. Denise Johnstonbaugh. ``The fact is, he did his time and he should be able to go on with his life.''

That isn't how Cody sees it.

In an interview Friday, Cody said he's known about his neighbor's past ever since Harig moved in. It was in 2004, just after Harig was released from prison after nearly a year of a four-year sentence for fondling three boys, ages 12, 13 and 14.

Two rules for neighbor

Cody, who also served a brief prison stint in 1981 on weapons charges, told his new neighbor that he would be watching his every move. He and his wife, Sharon Hall, also conducted their own research into Harig's crimes.

``I said we'll wipe the slate clean and hopefully you'll be a better person for this. I was real nice to this man, even though I didn't want to be,'' Cody said. ``I just told him: Mike, never lock your doors and never have a youngster over there.

``I said if you don't break those two rules, we'll be fine. But if I catch you doing something wrong, I'll be your worst (expletive) enemy.''

Cody said he spent the next several months watching Harig's home and his visitors. Always, the young children would be accompanied by an adult.

But this past spring, a 16-year-old boy visited the home to do yard work. Harig says the boy is someone he met through his church, someone he was counseling.

He now admits that was a mistake, simply because of the appearance of a teen boy at his home. It was through church and scouting that Harig met his victims.

Harig, 45, swears nothing occurred with the boy and that he is cured of his demons through God. The boy also told police and Children Services workers the same thing: nothing happened.

Threats increase

That finding by police has only fueled the feud.

Harig says that in the past several weeks, he's been physically threatened, his neighbors have pointed spotlights in his bedroom window, written his parents and contacted his victim's family.

``I'm not proud of my past,'' Harig said. ``I'm proud of the change God has made in my life. All I want to do is live in a peaceful neighborhood.''

Cody and Hall believe police have neglected their job. And they feel it is their duty to police Harig.

``The minute he brought a minor into the neighborhood, the gloves were off,'' said Hall, just after she burst inside Harig's house Friday and confronted him during his interview with the Beacon Journal.

When Cody saw the boy inside Harig's house that day, he rushed inside. He told police that Harig and the boy were looking at adult-themed movie listings on a computer. Police found no such evidence after taking Harig's computer.

And although he didn't tell police then, Cody now believes he saw Harig molesting the boy.

Since that day, the 8-foot-by-10-foot signs went up in Cody's yard, telling neighbors Harig's name, address and crimes. The signs say he is a legally defined habitual sexual offender. However, a judge this week lowered the label to a sexually oriented offender. Wherever Harig goes, he must register his address with authorities until 2014.

Harig's parole ended last year, and there are no other restrictions against him.

Neighbor Chriss Murphy, the mother of a 6-year-old boy, also has a sign in her yard, alerting anyone who passes of Harig's crimes and his address. She said the neighbors on the secluded street tolerated Harig -- until the teenager visited.

Now, she said it's time for Harig to move.

``I'm sorry it had to come to this,'' she said. ``But if it stops a child from being harmed, it's worth that ugly sign.''

Police hoped to have the signs removed, saying they disturb the tranquility of the neighborhood and frighten children who play along the street. But the signs don't violate any township zoning laws, and they don't appear to be coming down soon.

And although police have urged him to file criminal charges against Cody, Harig has declined. For now, Harig is sleeping away from his home, but he hasn't decided on his future.

``I screwed up, but I learned what the triggers are. I've stayed accountable and I've learned the limits and I know I won't cross them,'' Harig said. ``I just want people to know that God heals and restores lives.'' ..more.. by Phil Trexler

Sex offender harassed by neighbors
9-7-2007 Ohio:

SPRINGFIELD — In August, The Suburbanite first reported on Michael Harig, a registered sex offender living in Springfield Township. His neighbors, James Cody, 50, and Sharon Hall, 45, had placed large signs in their yard and along Massillon Road warning those passing by there was a sex offender living in the neighborhood.

Cody and his girlfriend, Hall, have since been arrested on charges of criminal trespass, violating a temporary protection order, resisting arrest, aggravated menacing and a noise nuisance violation.

Harig stated that Cody had said he was going to enter Harig’s house whenever deemed necessary to check up on Harig.

Since that time in March, Cody has entered the property several times. He has threatened to kill Harig, his dogs and burn the house down, according to reports. Police also have videotape from Harig’s video camera of Cody breaking a tree branch threatening that was what he was going to do to his (Harig’s) neck.

Cody was arrested at his home on two warrants for aggravated menacing and one warrant for aggravated trespassing.

Harig stated that Hall entered his house without permission while an Akron Beacon Journal reporter and photographer were there interviewing him. Witnesses did verify that Hall had entered Harig’s home without knocking or receiving permission to enter, much less being invited. Police have also seen Cody entering Harig’s house without permission.

Cody has been playing loud music to ‘bother’ Harig. He had a boom box at the side of his garage pointed toward Harig’s house blasting music according to Denise Johnstonbaugh, sergeant with the Springfield Police Department. When the department received the complaint about the music, officer’s arriving to check on the complaint could hear the music two houses before getting to Harig’s. Cody also had an obscene sign in his yard about Harig.

When officers attempted to arrest Cody, he turned and walked away and tightened his arms to keep from being handcuffed. He was taken to the department and then transported to the Summit County Jail. Hall also was transported to the Summit County Jail.

Cody and Hall state that police have not done their job investigating an incident involving a 16-year-old boy visiting Harig’s home. However, the department says they have investigated and they found no crimes committed by Harig. ..more.. by C.R. Rae

Neighbor convicted of stalking sex offender
12-13-2007 Ohio:

A Springfield Township neighbor who placed large signs with red letters announcing a convicted child molester lives next door has been convicted of stalking the man.

James Z. Cody, 50, was sentenced to 30 days in jail Thursday by Akron Municipal Court Judge Kathryn Michael. The jail sentence came, court officials said, after Cody declined to be placed on probation for six months.

Cody was acquitted by a jury of charges of violating a protection order, aggravating menacing and resisting arrest. He is set to begin his jail stay on Jan. 3.

Assistant Akron prosecutor Gerald Larson said Cody engaged in a personal crusade against Michael Harig, 45, who spent nearly a year in prison for fondling three boys, ages 12, 13 and 14 in 2004. Harig is registered as a sexually oriented offender and lives next door to Cody on Gregory Drive.

Larson said he prepped jurors not to hold Harig's past against him, but he conceded that it was unusual to have a sex offender portrayed in court as a victim.

''That was an obstacle, but the jury swore ahead of time that they would apply the law to the evidence, whether they liked an individual or not,'' he said.

Larson said the stalking charge involved an on-going series of events perpetrated by Cody against Harig that included death threats, the placement of several signs outside his home and Cody bursting inside Harig's home and threatening him.

Cody's attorney, Mark Lavelle of Youngstown, could not be reached for comment.

The feud began last summer after Cody and his wife, Sharon Hall accused police of not fully investigating an incident involving a 16-year-old boy visiting Harig's home.

Cody claimed he walked past his neighbor's window and he witnessed Harig molesting the boy. He said he was seeking to protect the teen and others after police failed to investigate the case.

Later, the couple erected large signs with red letters in front of their house warning passersby of Harig's crimes.

Harig said that he has been harassed, spotlights have been pointed into his bedroom window, a radio has been blared toward his home and physical threats have been made against him.

Township police have said they talked to the boy and found no crimes committed by Harig. Police then warned Cody to stay away from Harig.

Hall was charged in August with criminal trespassing for entering Harig's home, but the case was eventually dropped. Prosecutors say she has since helped bring peace to the dispute. Harig continues to live next door. ..more.. by Beacon Journal staff report

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