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Mahoning County police offer safety tips on how to fend off a stalker

Published: Sun, February 19, 2012 @ 12:10 a.m.


and Elise Franco



Police say they’ll do all they can to protect anyone who is being stalked, but it’s also important for victims to do as much as possible to ensure personal safety.

“Document everything and keep all records yourself. Record the activity if you can and pursue [protection] orders because there has to be a boundary line with that person,” advised Youngstown Police Chief Rod Foley.

The chief said a stalking victim must record any violation of the order using a video or audio device if necessary. He said being apathetic will give the stalker more power to affect the victim’s life.

When Robert P. McLaughin, 64, of Painesville killed Stacey Sutera on Feb. 8 outside her Canfield condo, he was on probation for felony charges stemming from harassing and stalking her.

Police said McLaughlin had been harassing Sutera, a teacher at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center, since March 2010 by sending emails threatening to reveal personal information about her, as well as creating and distributing defamatory websites to educators across the Mahoning Valley.

McLaughlin was sentenced Nov. 29 to five years’ probation and 500 hours of community service and fined $2,500. The conviction required him to register as a Tier I Sex Offender with his county sheriff’s department annually for 15 years. Additionally, Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court ordered McLaughlin to take anger-management classes and have no contact with the victim.

In a civil case filed exactly a year before Sutera’s murder, McLaughlin was under a civil protection order from Magistrate Eugene J. Fehr of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, effective until Dec. 27, 2015, barring McLaughlin from having a firearm or from having any contact with the victim.

In her affidavit in support of that order, Sutera said the criminal charges then pending against McLaughlin “all relate to his course of conduct designed to cause me mental distress and/or fear of physical harm.”

Austintown Detective Sgt. Kathy Dina, who deals mostly with juvenile and domestic-violence cases, said most of the time a protection order serves its intended purpose.

“I think protection orders are effective in a lot of cases — I’d say most cases,” she said.

Dina said sometimes, however, no amount of precaution will matter.

“You’re always going to have that person who, far and beyond, nothing’s going to stop him,” she said. “So, are protection orders effective? Yes, but if somebody really wants to do something, they’re just going to do it.”

Maj. Leonard Sliwinski and Detective Jeff Allen of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office have said victims are encouraged to seek police intervention for telephone harassment or anything that may lead to menacing by stalking.

Allen said victims are told to obtain an order against a suspect when the harassment is persistent or begins to increase in frequency or type of harassment. A protection order gives officers the authority to make an arrest if the person continues to harass or threaten the victim.

Boardman Sgt. Rick Balog said that in specific instances, where police are working to build a case against someone, protection orders are very beneficial.

“A lot of times it helps to show a pattern for the complainant and gives the case a little bit more teeth,” he said.

Dina said she thinks McLaughlin exhibited signs early on that a violent attack would only be a matter of time.

“I know there were a lot of issues. I mean, there’s evidence that he killed her dog,” she said. “He showed signs of violence in a progressive manner.”

Whether Sutera had a concealed-carry gun permit is not known, and law-enforcement officials are torn on the issue of civilians carrying weapons.

Capt. Mark Milstead of the Youngstown Police Department said victims are definitely encouraged to seek protection orders and call police if the suspected stalker violates that protection order, but there also are other options.

“If you are physically able, you have a right to protect yourself. Maybe it would be possible to look into a concealed-carry permit,” he said.

Ohio permits residents who are at least 21 years old, pass a background check and undergo firearm training to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm for personal protection.

Dina said that in some circumstances she thinks it could be risky for a person who’s taken out a protection order to carry a gun.

“A person like that could already be on edge because they have to have a protection order,” she said. “I’d be afraid that they might be too quick in pulling that weapon if they run into that person in a public place.”

Balog, however, said that his stance on concealed-carry depends on a person’s situation.

“I’m not opposed to someone who’s being stalked having a weapon, as they go through the proper training and don’t just go out and get a gun,” he said.


1NoBS(2845 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Sgt Dina is living in La-La Land. Protection orders may work *some* of the time, on first-offenders, but they don't work on nut cases and they don't work on thugs who've seen how ineffective our legal system is. A piece of paper that has "don't do that any more" written on it is zero protection.

McLaughlin's history proves that nothing short of removal of the stalker from society makes the victim any safer.

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2endthismess(464 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

If you feel you need a CCW, then get one. Go through the proper legal channels. And know this... REMEMBER.....you have it for protection. Not a toy. Not to show off. Not to makes casual or visual threat. Keep your mouth shut about what you own, what it looks like or how much it costs. No bragging. That is it. Very staright forward. Very simple. This is about the private business of personal survival. And.... if it ever comes down to you or them...it may be your first, last and only single solitary chance to survive a life threatening confrontation. Better believe me, you'll be very glad you have invseted in your CCW. And....respect what you own. Follow the law. Go to target practice, too. And yes, REALTORS, go get your CCW. Make sure your license covers states outside of Ohio if you have other state sales licenses. Sorry to say, a CCW has become more than a practical necessary part of equipment today.

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3NoBS(2845 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

All very good points, endthismess. Remember, the operative word in "CCW" is CONCEALED.

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4steelwagon(284 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I totaly agree with endthismess.
Get your ccw,go to the range and practice.
Make sure you know the weapon inside and out.
Above all keep quiet it..very important !!

And most importantly .....
Don't ever pull the weapon unless you're 100% commited to pulling the trigger with the intent to end a life.
You never make threats and you don't shoot to wound.

If you're in a situation where pulling your weapon is necessary it's your life or theirs....finish the job !!

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5hellokitty(161 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

To add to steelwagon's advice: chest, head, chest.

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6BobK(62 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

CHL is a great idea and worth having for sure. The only problem with a CHL and this story is that this poor lady would not have been able to actually carry her firearm with her during most of her day. Why? because she is a TEACHER and work in a SCHOOL ZONE and parks on SCHOOL property. She was on her way to work that morning and in this great state some folks decided that simply having a firearm in the parking lot of a school is a felony. Thus as the law abiding citizen she was, she would not have had her weapon that sad day. Based upon the fact she was able to try and drive off I suggest she may have been able to at least try to defend herself had she had a CHL and was not forbiden to at least have it with her on way to and from work. IE: lock in car while in school. Other states do not have this limitation. In Utah it is even legal to have a weapon IN the school itself, open or concealed and you have not read of mass shootouts etc there! Ohio needs to modify some of the arbitrary feel good restrictions they have in place. This is one!

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7Attis(1134 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Until we, as a society, come to our senses and root out misogyny the only way to protect these defenseless women is to mandate a GPS device on their stalkers and bring home all our troops and assign them to each staking/domestic violence victim in order to fight and defeat this home-grown terrorism of misogyny; an armed soldier escort will do what a so-called Protection Order cannot. A young mother and her young child were just killed in Cleveland yesterday by another ex-partner who killed himself afterwards. How high does the body count have to be before misogynic domestic terrorism is treated as the grave threat it is?

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8Ytownnative(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

i have a better idea. With all the technology we have why can't we put a tracking bracelet on the stalker and an alarm would go with the stalkee that would go off when the stalker gets within a certain distance of the stalkee.
1. it would alert the he stalkee they may be in danger.
2. police would be able to track the stalker and arrest him if the protection order was violated.
3. it can track the individual for arrest if needed

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9redeye1(5683 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Let's just make things easier, if you are arrested and convicted of stalking, you can become a target of the stalkee. In another words if you should show up anywhere the stalkee is , you can be killed by the stalkee end of story!!!!!!!!!

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10Donalds(2 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

A community effort is needed with trained volunteers and staff to work with the victim and police to help document and record the stalking activity and hold stalkers accountable.

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11NoBS(2845 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

How about holding the courts and court officials who let these stalkers and other criminals run free, despite multiple arrests for the same thing?

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12Ytownnative(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

Isnt there something that a judge can't be held liable for his judgements?

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13big97redtj(16 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

100% correct BobK. We need to work on our laws a bit. We're certainly better off than a few years ago, but still have a long way to go.

Support Ohioans for Concealed Carry at www.ohioccw.org

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14nipsy(161 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

I agree with Ytownnative. With all of our technology there is no reason that stalkers and sex offenders should be allowed to rome free...Put a chip in them and track them with GPS...Unlike other criminals, I do not believe that these people can be rehabilitated.

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15WilliamSwinger(341 comments)posted 4 years, 5 months ago

The only answer is for the people to take the power back from the authorities and solve their own problems.

Folks, you do not need a CCW to draw a weapon and fire on your attacker. The right to self defense is nearly absolute and is certainly the case in our State. If you fear you are in immediate danger of serious bodily injury or death, you may use LETHAL force to eradicate whatever is placing you in that fear without the legal right to do so. That is the law and it has been forever. Go see for yourself.

The best defense against a stalker, or any other threat, is a good offense. Arm yourself and train to defend your life. That is the only answer here.

Anybody that is advising you to do something other than this is ill-informed, a coward, too weak, or getting a paycheck from your continued fear and need for them to protect you. And these chattering voices cannot protect you as well as you can by yourself.

Stop listening to all the people that want to keep the power for themselves and keep you dependent on them and their services. Stand up and take the power back. Take personal responsibility for your self defense.

You have a right to bear arms in your own defense. You have the right to openly possess and carry a weapon in Ohio as you do in most of this country. You do not need a CCW or permission. You already have it.

Now act like it.

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