Harris Avenue residents Kathy Melker and Craig Fontaine are ready to sell their waterfront home and move out of state because of their neighbors and a bird.
According to Melker, neighbors Lynne Taylor and Chris Levasseur, residents at 51 Harris Avenue, are harassing them extensively. She claims Taylor verbally insults them by yelling obscenities as well as threatening them. Now, says Melker, Taylor has also gotten her umbrella cockatoo, Willy, involved.
Since June 2011, Melker claims the bird has been calling her a “f*cking wh*re.” This ruffles Melker’s feathers.
“It’s directed exactly at me,” said Melker. “I’m 53 years old and I’ve never been called a f*cking wh*re in my life. This woman is a lunatic.” All Melker says she wants is for the bird to go.
Now it seems to have gone beyond that.
“We’ve got to get out of here. The situation is unbelievable,” says Fontaine.
The feud between neighbors and what apparently the bird has been trained to say is known to police and the mayor’s office. They’ve heard the squawking. It’s complex. Fontaine and Taylor used to be married and lived in Fontaine’s home, which he began remodeling shortly after purchasing it.
“She was running around while he was busy working on the house,” Melker says. “One day, right after he just finished the house, she up and announced that she’s having an affair with Chris Levasseur. She literally picked up her belongings and moved next door. Craig had just finished building a half a million dollar house, so what’s he going to do? Just walk away? He’s been living there for six years and she has been harassing him unmercifully.”
During a visit to Fontaine and Melker’s home, Melker played Warwick Beacon video footage of the bird saying various vulgarities, including the one cited above.
While Taylor and Levasseur refused to comment, they provided the Beacon with the name and number of their attorney, Steve Peltier.
During a brief phone interview, Peltier said Melker has accused Taylor of doing “all kinds of things.” He said his clients “haven’t done anything wrong,” nor has the bird.
“It’s a shame,” said Peltier. “If you look at the facts there were no issues for six years. She moved into the house in 2011, and that’s when all the problems started. You have an ex-husband and an ex-wife next door to each other who’ve lived in harmony for six years. Then, when the new person shows up, there’s a problem.”
In addition to accusing Taylor of training the bird to swear at her, Melker said Taylor has thrown rocks at them over the fence, shot their property and vehicles with a pellet gun, assaulted Fontaine with a garden hose, and tried to harm Melker’s cat, Pharaoh. Melker said Levasseur brought home a big box truck that’s in violation of the city ordinance, and Taylor put a trap inside to capture Pharaoh.
“My cat smelled food, went in the truck and she slammed the door,” Melker said. “I could hear my cat and I realized he was in the truck. I called the police and ran outside and stood in the street so they couldn’t drive away. She said they were going to take it to an animal shelter, but she yells at me over the fence, ‘I’m going to get your cat and I’m killing it.’ I took that seriously. The police wouldn’t arrest them.”
The Warwick Police Department has been involved, and Captain Joseph Coffey of the WPD said both women have reciprocal no-contact orders.
Melker is not allowed to post anything about Taylor on social media networks, as Melker used to reference Taylor on Facebook.
“You ought to read the stuff [Melker’s] done in the past online,” said Peltier. “She likes the Internet.”
At this point, the case has been brought to Superior Court and will now be taken up in Municipal Court, with a hearing set for Sept. 6 at 7:15 p.m. Fontaine said he’s spent at least $4,500 in legal fees so far and would like to put the situation behind him.
Melker, a retired paramedic as well as a retired district parts manager for Ford motors, agrees. She doesn’t feel her boyfriend deserves this type of treatment.
“He works at a prison so he deals with 1,400 men every day who have nothing to lose,” she said. “Then, he comes come and he hears [vulgarities] out the window. This woman is relentless. She fixated on me the moment I got there because she doesn’t want Craig to be happy. It’s the old adage – she didn’t want him but she doesn’t want anyone else to have him either. She just wants him to suffer for the rest of his life.”
Ironically, Fontaine bought the bird with Taylor more than 12 years ago. He said when he lived with it, it would say phrases such as “Hello,” “Whatcha’ doing?” and “I love you.”
“After she moved out, she trained it to say, ‘F*ck you,’” he said. “When Kathy moved in, she trained it to scream, ‘f*cking wh*re.’”
Melker said while she moved in last summer, she didn’t contact the police until October. In her opinion, the WPD hasn’t been much help and caters to Levasseur.
“He has lots and lots of friends because he owns C.L. Marina and services the police boats, fire department boats, environmental police boats and the harbormaster boats,” Melker said.
Fontaine said he believes the city of Warwick is covering for him, too. He claims Levasseur does not have proper permits for his property.
“He’s connected,” said Fontaine.
Mark Carruolo, the mayor’s chief of staff, said that under a zoning board condition a small house in the front of Levasseur’s property was to have been torn down or converted into a garage, but that the city failed to follow up. A picture of a cockatoo has been painted on the side of the house, facing Fontaine.
And what about Willy?
“I feel bad for the bird,” Melker said. “I called the Rhode Island SPCA and said, ‘Isn’t this cruelty to an animal?’ They said no. In my opinion it is. That animal can never be placed in a respectable home. I want it removed.”