Woman is wrongly tagged sex offender

By MICHAEL STANDAERT - Staff Writer The Register
9 June 2000

Marion, Ia. - Mary Churchill came home from Thursday church services one night in April to find notices tacked on her neighbors' doors notifying them that a sex offender lived in apartment No. 1 of her building.

No. 1 is Churchill's apartment. She is not a convicted sex offender, nor was there one living with her.

That is why Churchill, 50, is suing the city of Marion, its police chief, Harry Daugherty, and Lt. Steven Glenn, who is in charge of the notices.

She is asking is for $1, her good name back, and an assurance that such a mistake won't happen to anyone else.

"You can't imagine the humiliation, embarrassment and anxiety that a person feels when identified with a sex offender," Churchill said Thursday.

Attorney Tom Riley of Cedar Rapids filed the suit in Linn County District Court.

"It is not asking too much to verify these addresses," Riley said. "They are out putting these notices up in the neighborhood anyway, they could at least knock on the door."

The notice also was distributed to local radio and television stations.

Daugherty acknowledges the mistake, but said a lawsuit won't solve anything.

His office is responsible for tracking sex offenders and telling neighbors when they move in, "but 80 percent of the time the people aren't home, or they don't answer the door. It could take weeks to find them."

The high-risk offender involved was Marty Dean Ohlhauser, 27, who reportedly was seen in the area and had come to the police station to sign forms indicating that he was living in apartment No. 1. It was discovered later that he might have lived in a different apartment in the same building.

Churchill said she was given an eviction notice when her landlord saw the notice. She called police, she said, but never got a return call, let alone an apology.

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