Mirrormont family frightened by car vandalism

February 3, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Neighbor reports dog poisoning 

Christine Cunningham and her daughter Caitlin, 6,  look through one of the smashed-out windows of the family car last week in the driveway of their Mirrormont home. By Greg Farrar

Christine Cunningham and her daughter Caitlin, 6, look through one of the smashed-out windows of the family car last week in the driveway of their Mirrormont home. By Greg Farrar

Donnie Cunningham liked the solitude, tree-lined streets and nearby nature trails of the Mirrormont neighborhood so much that he moved his family there two months ago.

That tranquility was shattered in the early morning hours of Jan. 28.

“I heard a pop, pop, pop sound,” Cunningham said as he peered out his window shortly before 4 a.m. Not seeing anything, he went back to sleep. A few hours later, he discovered what interrupted his sleep. Someone had broken every single window of two sport utility vehicles and a minivan parked at his house. Cunningham did not hear a car drive up his driveway early that morning, so he suspects someone in the neighborhood shattered the windows.

The couple filed a report with the King County Sheriff’s Office and the incident was referred to a detective.

“Right now, we don’t have a lot to go on. We have no leads at this time,” said Detective Christy Marsalisi. “This is pretty severe. This kind of thing doesn’t happen in Mirrormont.”

She described the neighborhood as peaceful, with very few calls for service from the sheriff’s office.

Christine Cunningham and her daughter Caitlin, 6, assess the damage to one of the family cars last week in the driveway of their Mirrormont home. By Greg Farrar

Christine Cunningham and her daughter Caitlin, 6, assess the damage to one of the family cars last week in the driveway of their Mirrormont home. By Greg Farrar

 

Family members fear for their safety

“This took a lot of patience and planning, and I don’t think kids did this,” Cunningham said. “My 6-year-old daughter is scared to death, fearing they may come back again. The damage this person did is unimaginable.”

Because of the vandalism, Cunningham said he couldn’t drive to work and his three children — Caitlin, 6, Joseph, 11, and David, 13, who attend school in the Kent School District — couldn’t get to school. Cunningham works as a driver at the Salvation Army food bank in Renton; his wife Christine volunteers there three times a week.

“I don’t know why anyone would want to do this to us,” she said.

The couple rents the home from Janice N. Weitz and her husband, Raymond G. Boutilier. But they didn’t know when they moved in that Boutilier had been convicted of harassing his neighbors and violating an antiharassment court order a year ago when he and his wife lived in the home. The harassment included trespassing on neighbors’ property to physically assault their pets and verbally abuse the homeowners, according to court documents.

In the wake of the vandalism, Mirrormont Homeowners’ Association officials posted an announcement on their Web site. 

“This family moved into the home December of last year. This is the same home where the previous owner had displayed aggressive behavior towards neighborhood dogs,” the Web site said. “They are not in any way related. They are very nice, friendly people who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Shortly after Thanksgiving, the couple rented the two-story house from Boutilier. He and Donnie Cunningham met in September when Boutilier was performing community service hours at the food bank. A few months later, Boutilier called Cunningham to say he was having difficulty selling his Mirrormont house and offered to rent the home to the family.

Boutilier told the Cunninghams that he had problems with the neighbors’ dogs, but didn’t elaborate, Christine Cunningham said.

Boutilier pleaded guilty in February 2008, saying he probably would be found guilty of harassing his neighbors if the case went to court, according to court documents. Charges against him had originally included third-degree assault and violation of an antiharassment order, but when he pleaded guilty, the assault charge was dropped.

The charges stemmed from a March 1, 2007, incident between Boutilier and Mirrormont resident Dane Burns, who told police that Boutilier attacked his Rottweiler with a 7-foot tree branch as thick as a baseball bat. Burns told police he followed Boutilier in his car and after getting out to talk to other people on the street, Boutilier attempted to run him over. Burns’ hands and left knee were injured, according to court documents. 

As a result of his plea, Boutilier’s remaining 30 days of jail time was converted to community service and he agreed not to commit any criminal acts, not have contact with his victims, to obtain mental health evaluations and to follow treatment recommendations. 

“We pled him guilty to the charges, three of the charges to get him on probation,” said Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff of the King County Prosecutor’s Office. “He was also requested to move at some point, which the information indicates he’s moved out of the house he used to live in there.”


Neighborhood dog is poisoned

In addition to the vandalism, the sheriff’s office received a report of a dog being poisoned in the neighborhood on Jan. 3. The dog’s owner could not be reached for comment.

The owner told police that the family’s 9-year-old Labrador retriever, Cody, became violently ill that day. The family took the dog to Alpine Animal Hospital Jan. 4 because the dog was still very ill, according to the police report. 

The veterinarian told the family the dog had been poisoned with an unknown substance, the report said, and was euthanized as a result.

According to the police report, the dog’s owner said a man who walks the neighborhood is known to dislike dogs. He told police “the neighbor had served time in jail for a similar incident around a year ago,” the report said. 

The man said he believed that man could be responsible, but he had no proof and didn’t know the man’s name or address.

Boutilier has been to the home a few times since they moved in, Christine Cunningham said, including the day that their vehicles were vandalized.

“Raymond was shocked when he saw the damage,” Donnie Cunningham said.

Another concern for the Cunninghams, which they thought might be a reason for the vandalism, is that Donnie is black and Christine is white. But Marsalisi said there is no reason to believe the attack was a hate crime. 

Deputies are investigating the vandalism and the recent dog poisoning.

Boutilier is under investigation in the vandalism, Marsalisi said, but she declined to elaborate.

“Police are investigating both him and anybody else involved in the new incidents with the dog and any property damage that occurred subsequently,” Goodhew said. “We will bring him up on new charges if we find out that he is responsible.” 

Reach Reporters Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@isspress.com and Jim Feehan at ext. 239 or jfeehan@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.


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