SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio - The spring of 1998, after Sandra Prugh and her family moved into their new Ohio home, she decided much-needed pulling of weeds from the side of her yard had to go. Prugh's son Michael said that that's the day it started.
"He came running up immediately and told her to stop weeding. That was when it all started," said Michael Prugh. "It still doesn't make any sense. One day he poured fabric softener in our yard where my mom was working," said Prugh.
The homes of each owner on Trebisky Road in South Euclid are within spitting distance from each other. Unfortunately for the Prughs that's just what their neighbor, 62-year-old Edmond Aviv did often.
"He spit in my mom's face. He's thrown dog feces into our yard and on our car's windshield. He attempted to sue us because of where our laundry vent is, saying we were trying to kill him with fabric softener," added Prugh.
Each year, Prugh said, Aviv's harassment would escalate, often targeting anything that was going on in the yard or in their home.
"One day I was using the weed-whacker and I had that sense someone was watching me. I looked up and there he was. He's a short man, and my brother and I are much bigger. He just stares at us. This time I looked at him as a raised the weed-whacker to the bushes. He was about to spit at me, but just swallowed it. He just spits or throws things in our yard all the time. This tree in our yard, it was here before us, if leaves fall or blow into his yard he picks them up and throws them into our yard," said Prugh.
Being a crabby neighbor isn't new to the world, but Prugh said Aviv puts more effort into it.
"One time our neighbors on the other side said they smelled gas, or fuel. It turned out it was coming from his house. We called the fire department and they found that it was coming from a high dryer vent he had rigged, he's an electrician by trade, to blow kerosene fumes out from inside his garage at our house. By disabled brother had gotten sick from the fumes and had to be taken to the hospital. Another time he threw dog feces on a wheelchair ramp we were having built so that they couldn't proceed. It's been going on forever," said Prugh.
Forever will hopefully come to an end soon.
South Euclid Administrative and Presiding Judge Gayle Williams-Byers found herself shaking her head at how long of a record Aviv had, as she read the multiple dockets Thursday from her court's folder. Williams-Byers had heard testimony from a family with "diverse disabilities, as well as "abilities and challenges" that often requires patience.
According to neighbors Aviv had not "gotten along well" with any neighbors long before the Prughs moved in.
Aviv had just been convicted and sentenced in the Prugh case in Williams-Byers courtroom. She discussed the case and Aviv's sentencing Thursday.
"The way that this defendant responded to them, not nearly in one instance, or two instances, but over what seemed like a decade and a half, was just appalling," said Williams-Byers.
Judge Williams-Byers decided this was not a normal crime, dancing on the line of a felony. To this point, Aviv had only had to pay fines for his actions in multiple other court appearances. This conviction, however, incurred a fourth degree misdemeanor. This week's sentence meant to send a message to Aviv that he will have to turn his future behavior around.
"This was seemingly a pattern of conduct that had continued over such a long period of time and that the behavior had ratcheted up to such a degree that it had become dangerous for all of the parties that were involved," said Williams-Byers.
The Prugh family, who are white, had adopted two African-American children with disabilities. Aviv had called her a "Monkey Momma" one day while Sandra Prugh held the two in her arms.
"I sentenced him to 30 days in jail with a suspended 15-day sentence. I also required that the defendant complete anger-management counseling. That he also complete diversity counseling at the Diversity Center. On Sunday, April 13th, he in fact will be standing on the corner of Trebisky and Monticello holding a sign that says exactly what I believe his actions indicated. That he is a bully. That he picks on disabled children and that he is intolerant of those that are different from himself. That responds as the sanction, or the punishment, or the penalty to what he's done here. He was fined the maximum, just $250 plus court costs. I don't have the authority to fine him greater than that," said Judge Gayle Williams-Byers.
Aviv was ordered by the court to apologize in a letter to the victims. His letter read, "I want to express my sincere apology for acting irrationally towards your house and the safety of your children." Aviv also stated, "I understand my actions
could have caused harm but that I was not really thinking about it."
Aviv will be out Sunday with his sign, after it is approved by the court Friday. He will be there on the corner of Trebisky Road and Monticello Blvd. in South Euclid from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.