Return Errant Neighborhood Toys or Face Jail Time

October 23, 2008

Sunflower Harvest in Tiny Town, KentuckyGeese are honking overhead as they fly south for the winter, and the stifling heat of summer has given way to brilliant Indian summer days with cloudless blue skies and brightly colored leaves. Cooler temperatures have prompted more people to come outdoors and, recently, a neighborhood child’s Frisbee sailed over our six-foot privacy fence and landed in our yard. Wrinkled Randy, busy harvesting flower seeds, heard the children whisper: “Now what do we do?” Without a second thought, Wrinkled Randy tossed the Frisbee back. Since the children couldn’t see him, they were amazed, and delighted. “It came back! It came back!” (as if by magic), they shouted.

Edna Jester's Mug ShotBased on recent events in Blue Ash, Ohio, it’s a good thing that the Frisbee was returned. Witness the case of Edna Jester, 89, of suburban Cincinnati, Ohio. Mrs. Jester, who has lived in the same home for almost 60 years, was gardening in her yard last week but ultimately wound up in jail. She was arrested, jailed and charged with petty theft after refusing to return one of many children’s toys which landed in her yard. Wait a minute. Charged with the theft of a football located in her own yard? Yep, that’s what we said.


Hummingbird Vine in BloomThe football feud had simmered on Myrtle Ave. for quite some time. This wasn’t the first time that Mrs. Jester had confiscated toys. In fact, the $15 football was part of a larger collection — including a Frisbee and three other balls — which Jester had collected from the five children of Paul and Kelley Tanis. (Mrs. Jester later explained her rationale to The Cincinnati Enquirer: “That’s my only way of getting through to these children. . . I’ll give it back to them later, but not right now.”) The children’s mother disagreed with her elderly next-door neighbor’s approach to discipline. She said: “This time it was a ball that my son had just bought with his own money. He works and he makes his own money, and he bought that ball, and six days later she took it.” Mr. Tanis called the police. The great-grandmother was unimpressed. Mr. Tanis agreed to settle the matter the next day, when a police officer whom Jester was more accustomed to returned to work.

But when Officer Brandon Taylor arrived, Mrs. Jester didn’t believe that he was old enough to be a police officer. Eventually, Sgt. Dennis Whitman responded. Whitman’s radio transmission was: “Tell her if she doesn’t give the ball back, she’s going to be charged criminally.” In an incident videotaped by a neighbor sympathetic to Mrs. Jester’s plight, the twice-warned Mrs. Jester refused to comply. Officers tried to give her a citation, which she refused to sign. Finally, they arrested her, after Mrs. Jester said: “Go ahead and arrest me. Handcuff me if you’d like, because I said I’m not guilty of anything.”

Dr. PhilJester, who has no criminal record, was due to appear in the Blue Ash Mayor’s Court on November 12, facing a possible sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. It’s been a busy week for the gardening great-grandmother, who described her arrest as “a terrible ordeal.” The video of her arrest received national attention. Inside Edition came calling, and Oprah’s spawn, Dr. Phil, wants to fly her to California for a TV appearance. A defense fund was set up for her at Key Bank. Mostly, Mrs. Jester just wanted everyone to go away, although she was relieved to hear about the defense fund.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) got into the act, donating two leather-free footballs to the Tanis family. In an e’mail to the [Cincinnati] Enquirer, PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman wrote: “These kids will get hundreds of hours of enjoyment from this durable synthetic ball—as long as they keep it out of Ms. Jester’s yard, that is. . .With today’s high-quality non-leather athletic gear, there’s no reason that touchdowns should cost a cow an arm and a leg.”

The Blue Ash police department was swamped with calls from all over the country. Yesterday, Police Sgt. Jim Schaffer said: “We’ve been catching a lot of it from all over the country. They are saying we are idiots. How could we do that?” You said it, Sgt. Schaffer, not me. At last, excitement in Blue Ash (population 12,513). Residents mobilized. An area gas station sported a large sign asking for donations for footballs. A plan was hatched to pack Mayor’s Court with at least 200 people carrying footballs for Mrs. Jester’s court appearance.

Penelope Puppy's Solution for Stray ToysBut all good things must come to an end. Blue Ash Prosecutor Mark Arnzen announced late yesterday that there was “insufficient culpability” to prosecute the long-suffering gardener. Upon learning from the Enquirer that the charges were being dropped, Mrs. Jester exclaimed: “They are dropping them? I knew the good Lord was in my arrangements and that I had plenty of friends in back of me. . .I have too many friends in this world. There is nobody that is going to let anything happen to me. . .I have plenty of friends.” Indeed you do, Mrs. Jester. And the Tanis children should be grateful that their next-door neighbor isn’t Penelope Puppy. As you can see, she is more ruthless with toys — especially Lambie, whom she stole from her canine companion, Miss Maybelline.

Read more animal news, about a lucky dog who found a forever home.

Photo credit: Fox 19

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