SILVER CREEK, NY - A dispute between neighbors, which according to one of them apparently started over some chickens, has escalated into a form of what the chicken owners say is harassment directed at them, and a quandary for police.
Jeff Martin, his wife Michelle, and their three children live in a home on Hanover Road.
They say not long after they got 17 chickens and two ducks who live in a coop behind their house, their neighbor, Todd Schilling began harassing them.
“He claimed our chickens caused the oral cancer of his dogs,” Martin said of Schilling, who lives next door with his mother Mary O’Brien.
According to Martin, his neighbor, who he once got along with, put up Nazi flags and signs featuring graphic symbols and foul language along a fence facing their yard.
In addition, Martin claims Schilling installed cameras (since taken down) which pointed “directly” at his daughter’s bedroom window, blasted music and shot off his gun in his ongoing efforts to intimidate and annoy his family.
Moreover, Martin says his complaints to authorities have not resulted in any action to resolve the situation.
Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace tells Channel 2 News that he is reviewing the matter, and confirmed that his deputies responded to a call by the Martins in May.
However, at that time -according to the Sheriff,- his deputy was told by the District Attorney that there was not enough evidence to have Schilling charged with anything.
“There is sometimes a fine between what constitutes harassment and someone’s right to free speech. But, I will be looking into this matter further,” Gerace said.
"The deputies think I have to prove that his intent was for him to alarm or annoy us and I said to the deputies the signage is apparent of his attempt to annoy and alarm us is there," Martin said.
When asked what they tell their children about the signs they view whenever they play in their back yard , Michelle Martin said, "we remind them that we are Christians, ...and that man needs help, and to pray for God to give him some."
Others Try To Assist
In the meantime, Silver Creek resident Kaitlin Fish has started a Go Fund Me page in which she hopes to raise money to help theMartin family build their own privacy fence which would then block the flags and signs that they are currently forced to look at.
"I was shocked I didn't know that was happening in my town," Fish told Two on Your Side. "It's insane to me that in 2018 families are having to deal with that," she said.
While appreciative of the support, Jefff Martin told us his family has enough money to erect a fence if that's what they choose to do, and would direct any money raised on the family''s behalf to charity.
Schilling Pulls No Punches in Response
Schilling did not answer a knock on his door when we sought to obtain his side of the story early Tuesday afternoon.
However, in a lengthy telephone interview with Channel 2 on Tuesday evening, Schilling defended his actions, and said the Martins were being less than truthful in describing their dispute.
“I’m very surprised he was so calm cool and collected on camera, but that’s a sure sign of a pathological liar on ‘roids’,” said Schilling in describing Jeff Martin.
He also viewed calls made by the Martins to police as a form of harassment against him.
“They’re harassing me with calling the cops, because they’re making up lies and the police will not do anything about it.”
Schilling acknowledged that the dispute with his neighbors began over the chickens, but after that his story diverges dramatically from the one told by the Martins.
“The chickens were flying over the fence and getting into our yards. My mother, who I live with and who is 74, injured her ankle trying to chase them out one day so our dogs wouldn’t harm them. When we asked the Martins to do something, Mr. Martin rolled his eyes,” Schilling said.
He also accused Martin of trespassing on his property.
Schilling seemed especially perturbed with the Martin’s accusation that he had installed a camera on his home, which was aimed at the window of their daughter’s bedroom.
“The camera was a fake…. but they called the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department and said I’m stalking their daughter."
About Those Signs
Asked about the Nazi symbols and other signs depicting graphic images and foul language, Schilling referred to the lot of them as “decorations”.
“I’m using a neutral term,” said Schilling, in particular reference to a Nazi naval battle flag and other paraphernalia symbolic of the Third Reich.
“They’re history flags…and if someone is afraid to remember history, that’s their problem. History should not be forgotten and as far as that offending him, why should it?”
Schilling said he put up the signage in response to one he claims Martin put up facing his yard, which referred to a “Oedipus complex” which Schilling interpreted as a suggestion by Martin that Schilling had a desire to have sex with his own Mother.
“Shame on the Buffalo school system for letting a piece of garbage like that teach,” Schilling said.
When asked if he went too far in putting his signage in full view of Martin’s children who are home schooled, Schilling said, “those children are nothing but props and tax deductions that they’re using to fight with. I feel bad for the kids because the kids are going to turn out just like them.”
Finally, when asked if he felt that he could patch things up with his neighbors and end their dispute, Schilling replied, “Probably not, because when you’re a phony, you’re a phony and there’s no two ways about it. What I want them to do is to get some help. They should stop lying. They should send their kids to school, or put up them up for adoption.”