Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fourth District, Hocking
R. Kingsley, Circleville, Ohio, for appellant.
Courtenay Balvin, Southeastern Ohio Legal Services,
Chillicothe, Ohio, for appellee.
DECISION AND JUDGMENT ENTRY
Michael D. Hess, Judge.
A.V. obtained a civil stalking protection order
("CPO") against Steven R. McNichols from the
Hocking County Court of Common Pleas. McNichols challenges
the order on appeal.
McNichols argues that the trial court committed prejudicial
error when it issued a CPO because (1) the trial court's
finding that he caused mental distress was contrary to law
and against the manifest weight of the evidence, and (2) the
applicable statute requires him to be a family member and the
trial court's finding that he was "living as a
spouse" was contrary to law and against the manifest
weight of the evidence. We find that the record contains
ample evidence that McNichols knowingly caused A.V. emotional
distress, fear, anxiety and concern for her safety. There is
sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that A.V.
suffered mental distress as a result of McNichols's
persistent and unwelcomed behavior.
Contrary to McNichols's assertions, the statutes
governing civil protection orders for menacing by stalking do
not require the victim and offender to be "family or
household members" or "living as a spouse" and
the trial court did not find that A.V. was "living as a
spouse." To obtain a civil stalking protection order,
petitioner must show the offender engaged in a pattern of
conduct that knowingly caused another to believe the offender
will cause physical harm or mental distress. There is no
requirement that the victim and offender be family or
household members. And, contrary to McNichols's
representation, the trial court held that the domestic
violence protection order statute has no relevance to the
case and a finding that A.V. was living as a spouse would
have no impact on the case. A.V.'s case was governed by
the civil stalking protection order statutes. We overrule
McNichols's sole assignment of error and affirm the trial
FACTS & PROCEDURAL HISTORY
A.V. filed a petition for a civil stalking protection order
against McNichols in June 2018 under R.C. 2903.214 and R.C.
2903.211. The trial court issued a temporary ex parte CPO,
held an evidentiary hearing, and granted A.V. a CPO against
McNichols, effective until June 29, 2019. At the hearing the
trial court heard the following evidence.
A.V. and McNichols were involved in a romantic relationship
from August 2014 until the fall of 2017 and lived together
for six months from approximately September 2014 to February
2015. During that time they broke up and reunited several
As a child A.V. had been sexually abused by several male
relatives and McNichols was aware of the abuse. McNichols
used knowledge of the sexual abuse to inflict mental distress
on her. McNichols repeatedly called A.V. a "whore"
for wearing certain clothes or makeup. A.V. testified that
she attended a relative's funeral and McNichols told her
to be home by 2:00 PM. When she arrived a few minutes late,
McNichols tormented her with accusations that the reason she
was late was so that her "uncles can take turns with me
sexually." On another occasion McNichols told A.V. that
if he saw her being raped by six guys, he would not help her.
Another time McNichols told A.V. to "go find your dad
and grandpa so they can go rape you." McNichols told
A.V. that if she ever got involved with anybody else, he
would tell that person that A.V. liked anal sex because he
knew that her grandfather had raped her in that manner as a
child. A.V. testified that when McNichols made these remarks,
she had tearful breakdowns and his response would be "go
ahead and cry those crocodile tears."
During their relationship, A.V. had to quit a job because
McNichols accused her of having an affair at work. McNichols
would not allow A.V. to see her family members and threatened
to "throw all [A.V.'s] stuff out" if she
visited her brother. A.V. testified that McNichols would
follow A.V. in his car and on one of those occasions he
circled his car around her four times as she was getting
gasoline. A.V. testified that there were so many instances of
McNichols inflicting emotional distress that she could not
recall them all, "It was constant." A.V. told
McNichols many times to leave her alone and that she only
wanted "to be friends, nothing more." But McNichols
told her, "If we can't be together, I will get you
evicted" from her home. A.V. told McNichols that if he
would not leave her alone, she would get a restraining order.
McNichols replied, "It's just a piece of paper. I
can walk through it." A.V. testified that there were
times McNichols drove by her house and revved his engine.
A.V. did not want McNichols to come onto her property. She
complained to her landlord, who was McNichols's uncle,
about McNichols and her landlord advised her to get a
A.V. acknowledged that she had been to McNichols's house
several times in June 2018. She testified that her dog had
puppies and McNichols had the puppies at his house and
encouraged her to visit the puppies. She also went to
McNichols's house to return property that belonged to
him. A.V. stated that if she did not go to his house, then
McNichols would come to her house. If she did not answer the
door, he would shout through the window. A.V. testified that
by going to McNichols's house, she was "trying to
A.V. filed her petition for a civil stalking protective order
after several incidents in June 2018. On June 26, 2018
McNichols went to A.V.'s sister's house looking for
A.V.. Her sister texted her that McNichols was looking for
her. A.V. testified that she called the Hocking County
Sheriff's Office, but the dispatcher instructed A.V. to
seek a protective order. When A.V. returned home that evening
McNichols was in her driveway. She asked him to leave but he
refused and said he would sleep in the driveway. Another
neighbor arrived, and an altercation broke out. Several
Hocking County Sheriff's Department deputies arrived, and
A.V. made an incident report against McNichols with one of
In mid-June, McNichols went to A.V.'s residence while she
was at work and left a planter with a flower on her porch
with a plaque that read, "You are my sunshine."
A.V. took the planter inside but left the plaque outside.
McNichols came back a few days later, saw the plaque, broke
it in half and took it with him. He returned the plaque a few
days later and had written on the back of it, "You
really was (IS) is my sunshine. That made me feel so warm
inside and out. My heart used to be 1. Now cracked just like
this. Is no more sunshine. My sunshine left me. Love and care
always for AFV [A.V.'s initials]. You are the love of my
heart, body, soul."
A.V. testified that because of McNichols's behavior she
carries pepper spray and wasp spray for defense, she suffers
from anxiety when she sees a silver vehicle similar to the
one McNichols drives, and she suffers from nightmares about
three times a week due to McNichols's stalking behavior.
A.V. testified that although she does not take medication,
"Once all of this is over with, I will be going to seek
McNichols testified and admitted that he did not want his
relationship with A.V. to be over. He admitted that he put
the planter and plaque on A.V.'s front porch when she was
not there and that he wrote the message on the plaque because
she had broken his heart. McNichols testified that he circled
around A.V. three times - not four -when she was getting
gasoline. McNichols admitted that A.V. asked him to leave her
alone at least five times before she filed her CPO petition.
The trial court granted A.V. a civil stalking protection
order for a period ...