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Feuding neighbors frustrate sheriff with flood of 911 calls

The normally peaceful rural landscape along Sintz Road has been replaced by a tension-filled standoff between a group of neighbors that has led to hundreds of 911 calls, a frustrated sheriff and two individuals facing legal charges.

The situation involves nine households that for more than a year have waged a fierce verbal battle with law enforcement playing the role of referee.

“We are perplexed; we don’t know what else to do,” Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said.

Most of the well-kept homes in the 4000 block of Sintz Road are bunched together with multi-acre lots that extend far behind each residence. Cheri George, a 17-year resident of the area, said most of the people there had been friends with neighbor Josh McCullough, but discovered he had been filing complaints with the sheriff’s office over a miniature cannon that they fired to celebrate the Independence Day holiday in 2013.

Friends no more, George now wishes they had no interaction at all.

“I have lost sleep. I have missed work. I’m always stressed. I hate coming home,” she said.

In a written statement, McCullough blamed his neighbors for harassing him after having African-American friends visit. Neighbors said race has nothing to do with the dispute and that it is McCullough who is harassing them.

Kelly said he hasn’t heard of any racial tension in the neighborhood.

“There’s nothing in the reports about race,” the sheriff said. “I have tried everything (to solve the situation). They have never said that to me. (The McCullough family) has complained about many other things.”

Hundreds of calls

Each time McCullough or one of his neighbors calls 911 the sheriff’s office sends a deputy to investigate. Since neighbors have complained that the deputies are biased, a sergeant also responds, tying up two officers.

Kelly, who denies any bias, estimates his office has received hundreds of calls over the past year from both sides of the conflict, costing taxpayers thousands of dollars to respond.

The Sintz Road case has generated more 911 calls, incident reports, and video evidence than any other neighborhood dispute Kelly has seen in his long career.

Many complaints focus on noise, trash or people videotaping each other. During the recent Fourth of July weekend, deputies were called to Sintz Road multiple times, including three trips on Saturday, July 5.

Incident reports filed with the sheriff’s office included complaints of people yelling insults at each other. One neighbor reported that a woman was taunting her, calling her a witch and telling her to “get on her broom and come on over.”

Another call reported that a woman ran over a telephone book with a lawn tractor, sending pages into the street. The caller took a picture. The woman on the tractor then took a picture of the caller and posted an enlarged photo of the caller on a box truck parked in her driveway.

The photo was removed after a sheriff’s deputy intervened.

That same day, in a written complaint, one neighbor implored the sheriff to take action against the McCullough family. Cheri George wrote: “I feel one of these days one of us are going to be hurt by them. I am sure there is something that can be done to stop all this. Please help us!!!”

Security cameras

Neighbor Greg Long said he had to install security cameras on his property to protect himself. Long said last year he was accused of pulling a gun on someone, but he said no gun was involved and there was no confrontation.

Many times when a complaint is filed with the sheriff’s office, the caller comes forward with a DVD of security camera video. One video shows a man and a woman shouting insults at each other, but the sheriff said most of the videos do not appear to capture criminal activity.

In an effort to resolve their differences, the Sintz Road neighbors went to mediation. They met for multiple days at the sheriff’s office with a mediator from the Dayton Mediation Center. Michelle Zaremba, Center Coordinator, said the situation was unique because it involved nine families instead of the usual two or three.

“It seemed like it escalated to the point of police being called every day,” Zaremba said.

Kelly had high hopes that mediation would produce a settlement, but within weeks, the calls to 911 continued. With all other options exhausted, Kelly took evidence in the Sintz Road dispute to the prosecutor.

Josh McCullough and Paul George were charged in Clark County Municipal Court with disorderly conduct. Court records indicate McCullough is accused of excessive noise by playing a loud radio. George is accused of excessive noise by firing the cannon. Both cases are pending.

Sheriff Kelly said he was optimistic that taking the cases to court will do some good.

“We would hope that by citing into court that they would understand that this has to stop,” he said. “They are adults. They have to resolve these issues.”

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