August 30, 2004

Landlord Spy Also Watched I.C. Students

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A local landlord spied upon six Ithaca College females in their bathroom in addition to four Cornell students, bringing the total to 10 of known victims of David A. Church, according to David Maley, a spokesperson for Ithaca College. A police investigation into the case has already led the police to search the apartments of over 100 students and to the discovery of two cameras.

On Wednesday, Aug. 25, the first day of Ithaca College classes, police executed search warrants at 108 East Yates St. and 404 University Ave.

“I share in the community’s outrage upon learning that a local landlord may have used his position of trust to set up surveillance equipment in his rental properties. I am both saddened and angered that Ithaca College students are among those who have been subjected to this alleged violation of their privacy,” stated Peggy R. Williams, president of Ithaca College.

Church was arrested and charged with four Class E felony counts of unlawful surveillance for setting up two pinhole cameras in apartments he owned and taping the female students who lived there without their knowledge. He has confessed his guilt, according to The Ithaca Journal.

“I was very disappointed when I heard what he had done because that is not the David I had known,” said Mary Gutenberger, owner of 301 College Ave., who alerted the police on Friday that Church had worked since 1990 as a maintenance contractor for her building.

Two officers from the Ithaca Police Department “inspected the apartments and poked around the bathroom” on Friday afternoon, according to Kim Karmen ’05, who lives at 301 College Ave.

“It came out just as clean as it could be,” Gutenberger said, who has known Church for 20 years. Approximately 100 students live at 301 College Ave.

“He had always treated my tenants with respect and we were always satisfied with the work that he had done. I had never seen this side of David. We could never have him working for us again,” she added.

While Ithaca College is giving emergency housing to one of the residents at East Yates Street, the others have not sought assistance from Ithaca College, according to Maley.

The fallout from the taping scandal affects dozens of current and former students from both Ithaca College and Cornell who lived or visited Church’s buildings, possibly going as far back in 2001, when the mother of a former resident of 404 University Ave. reported that Church would frequently visit the building’s attic to “fix the cables.”

“This guy has been taping these girls since 2001,” the mother said. “It’s disgusting.” Law enforcement authorities are currently investigating whether the tapes Church was making were for personal use or were distributed, Maley said.

The spy camera technology that was used to perpetrate the crime is available on the internet for less than $100 dollars. A long-range transmitter and receiver, as may have been used in this case, would be under $600. For many college students, that is less than a month’s rent. “It doesn’t cost a penny [to live in Ithaca],” said the mother of the student who lived at 404 University Ave. “It costs thousands of dollars.”

On Wednesday, a resident of 404 University Ave. discovered a surveillance camera in her bathroom and alerted the police, triggering the investigation. Victims from both houses declined to comment.

Archived article by Peter Norlander
Sun Senior Editor