Stalking Unmasked: Increase In Cases Across Columbus Prompts Police Action

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Julia Cherry thought she'd fallen in love.  But something just didn't click, so she broke up with Duane Lyles. “It’s so weird, because he was so nice. He gave me anything I asked for,” she recalls.

While she thought she kicked him to the curb, Lyles didn't go far.  Weeks after the break-up, Julia couldn't shake an eerie feeling Lyles was in her house.

She shared her fears with her neighbor.  And then, on April 2nd when that neighbor saw Julia’s basement lights turn on, she called her at work. “I told her to hang up, call the cops, and then call me back,” says Julia.

That phone call turned into an all-out SWAT stand-off with Duane Lyles, who was hiding in the attic of Julia’s home.

Armed SWAT officers eventually pulled Lyles out, but had to Taser him several times to flush him out of the attic.

The shaken woman thought that was the lowest her stalking nightmare could take her, but it got worse.

Julia tells 10TV after officers left, she began changing in her bedroom.  It was then that she noticed someone had carved out the drywall.

She called a detective.

“There's something in my wall. I don't know what it is,” Julie says on the call to police.  The detective responded, ‘oh my god. I'm not trying to scare you or nothing like that, but there's a camera in your wall.’”

Julia says she learned Duane Lyles was in her house that day to add two more hidden cameras.  She says the thought of that made her sick to her stomach.

What she thought was an ex who just couldn't move on, turned into more than 18 hours of video capturing intimate moments inside her own home.  “You're being watched without you even knowing you're being watched.”

Even before the SWAT standoff, Julia noticed peculiar activity around her house. One time when she went to open her blinds, she saw Lyles on her lawn. He explained it away, saying he was going to spread salt around her house for an upcoming snow storm.

But situations like Cherry’s are not uncommon; menacing by stalking is a growing problem in central Ohio.  And officers are fighting back. Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott launched a Stalking Unit in 2012.

Since the first of this year, the unit has already handled 89 stalking cases, executed 21 arrest warrants, and pulled cell phone records on 32 alleged stalkers.

At the Columbus Police Department, officers have seen the number of stalking reports more than double since 2012.  So this July, the sheriff plans to team up with Columbus Police. The two agencies will work together in a new, fused Stalking Task Force. They anticipate it will speed up several processes.

“Cell phone forensics, subpoenas, and search warrants; being able to track victims or do surveillance on victims. Giving them the opportunity to have additional detective here makes the unit more efficient,” Scott explains.

Scott says the upcoming task force will also allow detectives to become experts in the new cell and online technology many stalkers are using.

“If someone's making threats against you, don't take this lightly. You need to make sure you save texts, save phone messages, recordings.  People have been murdered; we've had homicides over this kind of stuff, felonious assaults. So I would say take this type of threat seriously.”

Julia Cherry takes that advice to heart and says the new task force may help her get a small piece of her sense of security back.  She says she doesn’t trust anyone now.  “I just can’t get over that camera.”

Julia adds that she's not going to let this incident define her. She says she is already on her way to getting a concealed carry license for her safety.