September 24, 1997 in Nation/World

The Trouble With Harry Is That He Has Rights, Too Woman Fears Return Of Neighbor Charged With Stalking Her

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Barbara Lindley deadbolts her doors, even when she’s home on sunny days.

A 100-pound German shepherd roams among the potted marigolds in the back yard of her tidy rented house near Nevada and Wellesley in north Spokane.

“He’s my protector,” says Lindley, who can’t walk because of rheumatoid arthritis.

The 50-year-old grandmother, who has an oil painting of Jesus hanging in her living room, sometimes thinks about buying a gun.

Lindley is convinced her next-door neighbor is stalking her and that he may turn violent.

“We’re scared to death of Harry,” says Lindley, whose 8-year-old granddaughter, Mikki, lives with her. “I don’t want him to get out.”

The source of her fears - Harry Rautanen - could be free by Friday afternoon. Mental health officials say there’s not much they can do about that, but they’re willing to help Lindley relocate.

Rautanen, 48, is charged with one felony count of stalking Lindley.

He currently is being held at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake for a mental evaluation.

Rautanen has a hearing Friday to determine if he should be hospitalized for a longer period or be sent to the Spokane County Jail, where his bail is set at $200,000 cash on the stalking charge.

Should he be released from Eastern and make bail, there’s nothing to keep him from returning home, authorities say.

“He has as much a right as she does to live in that neighborhood,” said Terriann Fredette, community relations coordinator for Spokane Mental Health. “It’s a difficult situation, but people like Harry have rights as well.”

Fredette said her agency has offered to help Lindley find a new home and may pay her moving costs.

“She’s in a crisis situation,” she said. “We’re not going to pay for her housing beyond that, but we’re certainly going to help her through that initial stage.”

That doesn’t sit well with Lindley, who has a civil protection order against Rautenan.

“I know life isn’t fair, but the system should at least be just,” said Lindley, who wonders why she has to move “when I’m the victim.”

Police Officer Larry Lyle, who has investigated some of Lindley’s claims, said mentally ill people who disrupt the lives of others are a sticky problem with no easy solutions.

“There’s a crack in the system,” Lyle said. “It’s too bad the system isn’t built to protect people like Barbara.”

Lindley told police Rautanen watches her through her fence, pounds on her doors and walls in the middle of the night and screams obscenities.

Neighbors have reported seeing Rautanen in Lindley’s yard on several occasions.

Peggy Alexander, who lives down the street, told police she is so frightened she put her house up for sale.

Virginia Drury, who manages the nearby Taco John’s, said she called police about a month ago after Rautanen showed up inside her restaurant half-dressed and started strumming a guitar and singing profanities.

Lindley said the odd behavior is disconcerting, and she’s afraid it may lead to violence.

Three years ago, Rautanen was charged with murdering his elderly mother in their apartment in Tulsa, Okla.

A judge later ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him and dismissed the charge, a decision the prosecutor in the case protests to this day.

“Circumstantial evidence pointed very strongly to him,” said Elizabeth Hocker, the Tulsa County prosecutor who handled the case.

Rautanen, reached at Eastern State Hospital, denies any wrongdoing. He says the situation with his neighbors is the result of a misunderstanding and his sometimes heavy drinking.

“Tell them that they have nothing to be afraid of,” Rautanen said Tuesday. “I did not know that I was scaring them.”

Rautanen said the problems began shortly after his house was burglarized in mid-August. He said he came home one night to find his front window broken and nearly $4,000 in electronics equipment stolen.

“It was about 11 at night, and I went knocking on people’s doors to see if they had seen the looters,” he said. “When nobody answered, I started banging on the doors. I guess I shouldn’t have done that.”

The next day, he said, he whacked a metal pole near his house several times with a crowbar and walked around with a guitar singing songs. He also said he tried to stop moving cars on Nevada, which got him arrested on a charge of impeding traffic, according to court records.

“I was trying to advertise the fact that I’d been looted,” Rautanen said. “What I did wrong was very, very minor.”

Rautanen said he doesn’t know what to think of Lindley’s claims that he’s stalking her. He denies watching her through the fence or harassing her in any way.

He only recalls talking to her once - for about two minutes - and that was about the best way to water her lawn.

“I’m legally blind. I have 20-1,500 vision. How can I stalk her? I can’t recognize faces beyond a distance of two feet,” he said. “I think she’s just a paranoid woman.”

Rautanen says he has “a history of mental illness,” but declines to discuss a specific diagnosis. “I don’t want any personal things made public,” he said.

His mother, he said, died of a heart attack. “It was never proven that she was murdered,” he said, despite the fact that a medical examiner ruled her death a homicide. “That’s just wrong.”

Rautanen, who moved back to Spokane after his mother’s death, said the latest upheaval has left him tired. He said he just wants to keep a low profile and be left alone. “I might consider moving out of the neighborhood,” he said. “If it’s this bad, I don’t want to live there anymore.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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