Auburndale, Florida -- A former police officer and his wife have been charged with stalking their neighbors for more than a year.
Polk County Sheriff's detectives say Joy and Richard Ringer took photos and videos of Scot and Marion Ellis, and the friends and family who visited the Ellis' home. They even reportedly put the Ellises on notice that they were recording their every move, and Marion told police she felt like she could not move about freely in her own yard, or have any privacy without the Ringers recording every her movement.
The Ringers also engaged in verbally abusive remarks toward the Ellis family, used security lights aimed directly into the windows of the Ellis' home, made threats on the Ellis' lives and that of their family pet, and repeatedly made unfounded complaints to various agencies regarding the Ellis family -- all of which were closed.
Detectives say the focal point of the Ringers' anger and contempt was against Marion's French nationality and taunted her with slurs and anti-French sentiments. At one point, they erected signs on their dock naming controversial French figures presumably in an effort to shame her heritage.
When detectives asked Marion about the Ringers' actions, she reportedly became visibly distraught and tearful explaining that she was sensitive to this because she was not proud of every action that her country was involved in nor was she particularly proud of the two French figures showcased by the Ringers on their dock. She said she has made America her home and does not understand the Ringers' deep seated hatred of her.
Some of the statements the Ringers' made to Marion included:
- "I don't speak frog."
- "Having a French frog (in reference to Marion's pregnancy)."
- "All Americans think French are a**holes."
Detectives say the Ringers' motives are clear based on the numerous complaints to DEP and Code Enforcement. Richard Ringer is also on record making threats to call the fire marshal and health department on the Ellises during his injunction hearing. He also lied under oath about how many times he contacted various agencies about the Ellises.
On March 3, Richard Ringer was warned by the State Attorney's Office that if they didn't stop harassing the Ellises, they would be charged with stalking. Detectives say this lasted a couple of weeks before they became even more aggressive towards the Ellises.
In September 2015, Richard Ringer destroyed a wooden fence -- valued at over $1,000 -- built between the two homes, but on the Ellis property, over a two-week period and threw the pieces onto the Ellis' property.
That was the final straw.
Joy Ringer, 52, has been charged with aggravated stalking and Richard Ringer, 55, has been charged with criminal mischief over $1,000, and aggravated stalking.
Held on no bond, the Ringers' had their first appearance Thursday at 1:00 p.m. His bond was set at $6,000 and hers at $5,000. If they do bond out, they will be under pre-trial supervision and have been ordered to have no contact with the Ellises.
Due to the fact that Richard Ringer is a former law enforcement officer, his home address will not be released. In addition, the Ellis' address is exempt per Florida State Statute 119.071(2)(j)1.