Animal cruelty witness living in fear
The witness in the drowned kittens case is fearful after alleged threats.Photo: Video by ktnv.com
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Witness intimidation is something you hear about in the movies, but one Valley woman says it's a reality in her backyard.
As Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears reports, it all started when a teenager found guilty of animal cruelty was released from jail.
"I've never had any problems and now since he's been out on house arrest these things are happening."
The things Christine Ohm says are happening in her backyard have left her living in fear.
"The basketballs over my back wall, that's fine. But when it hits my glass door for no reason, that scares me."
She also says her ceiling fans were vandalized -- one came crashing down on her glass table in the middle of the night after all the screws were removed.
"So that scares me that somebody came in my backyard while I was sleeping."
She doesn't know who's responsible, but suspects the neighbor with whom she shares a backyard wall.
The 16-year-old boy next door and his friend were convicted in July partially because of a photo Christine took. It shows the teens drowning newborn kittens in a cup of water by holding them down with a barbecue tool.
They spent a month in jail and are now on house arrest.
Darcy: What kind of environment have they created for you here?
Chris: Well I don't feel safe in my own backyard!
That's mostly because of a "No Trespassing" sign her neighbors put up on their patio cover. It faces Christine's backyard and threatens the use of deadly force.
"I think he wanted to intimidate me. It made me feel like why? Because I would never go over their yard. I would never even peep in their backyard. The only reason why I did before is because I heard the cat crying."
Christine wrote an email to the juvenile district attorney describing all the strange happenings in her yard and saying she fears for her life.
"We immediately followed up on those allegations and they were resolved to our satisfaction," says Fritz Reese, director of Clark County's Juvenile Justice Services.
The two metal hooks on the patio cover show where the sign was hanging before Juvenile Justice Services forced the family to take it down. It was facing directly into Christine Ohm's backyard. Not visible to the street or any other passersby.
Reese says the boy's father admitted to putting the sign up. The boy himself had a history of delinquent behavior before he and his friend drowned the kittens.
Court officials told the judge that his father condoned and justified what his son did.
Darcy: You think he's more angry that you caught him than about what his son did?
Chris: Oh yes! Because he's the one that told his son to do that. That's what the boys told me -- he told them to do it.
One condition of the boys' probation is that neither they nor any of their family members may have contact with any of the witnesses in the case.
"Particularly, too, if you have neighbors that live right next to each other, we hold fairly strict to absolutely no contact at all," Reese says.
Christine thinks they need to watch her neighbors more closely.
"I don't know that they're taking it serious and I know that the family's not taking it serious or they would never have put a sign like that up."
Authorities say both boys in the case are on GPS monitoring and are checked on twice a day. But they didn't know about the sign until Christine reported it days after it went up.
"The size of the caseloads for our field probation officers is fairly substantial," Reese explains, "and that along with the court responsibilities and supervision responsibilities -- you're stretched fairly thin."
Christine now worries about what will happen when their probation ends and no one is watching.
"It's not fair that me being a witness, I have to go through this."
Probation Services says what's going on between the neighbors boils down to bad judgment as opposed to a probation violation.
County officials counseled the family to make sure it doesn't happen again.
"What it does is establishes a baseline in terms of what our expectations are and that if those expectations aren't met, they know exactly what the result of that's gonna be and it's gonna be referral back to the judge," says Reese.
We'd like to know what you think of the sign. Should it be considered a violation of the court's "no contact" order or was it just bad judgment?
Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or sound off on our Facebook page.