Police Catch Peeping Tom with Footage of Students
Police arrested a man in Erie County after finding videos on his phone containing footage of women, mostly Oberlin students, undressing in their off-campus houses. David Schindley, 45, from Huron, Ohio, filmed the videos while standing outside students’ houses between Jan. 12 and Feb. 5. According to Detective Robert Rieger from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, around 90 percent of the 54 recovered videos were shot in Oberlin. So far, four of the five people identified in the videos have been Oberlin students, but two more people have yet to be identified.
One of the students whose house was filmed is College senior Gracie Freeman-Lifschutz, who received a visit from Rieger last week explaining that their house had been identified in the videos.
“I was sort of in disbelief I think,” Freeman-Lifschutz said. “I’m from New York, so I’ve considered being followed on the street, followed home or being catcalled. But this sort of thing just never really occurred to me to worry about.”
After Rieger went around town explaining the situation to each house filmed, multiple people called in to see if they could identify themselves in the video. Freeman-Lifschutz said having to check the videos was somewhat unsettling.
“It was definitely an odd experience, I will say that,” Freeman-Lifschutz said. “It’s one thing to see something like this happening on Law and Order: SVU — it’s another to have to think about it in real life.”
Schindley was not suspected of the filming until he was caught during an alleged attempted robbery in Erie County, leading to the confiscation of his phone. Rieger said it is standard procedure in burglary cases to obtain a search warrant for someone’s phone and then check the contents, which is how the Erie County Office discovered the recordings.
“We weren’t looking for [videos] necessarily, so it came to our surprise when we did locate the videos,” Rieger explained. “We do search warrants on phones for various different crimes because we’re aware that most criminals use a cellular phone to commit a crime. In this situation, we arrested him based on the fact that he was trying to burglarize somebody’s house. … That led us to getting a search warrant for his phone, dumping the contacts on his phone and finding out that he’s got videos on his phone of people inside their houses in various states of undress, and that’s kind of how the investigation unfolded.”
Once in possession of Schindley’s cellphone, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office was able to use software to pinpoint the GPS locations of each recorded video. Detectives then contacted the residents at each address. The large volume of recordings tended to fixate on certain individuals.
“A lot of the videos were from the same house, and of the same person; there were just multiple ones — from different dates and different times,” Rieger said. “So not every video had a different person in it. A lot of them were the same — it’s almost like he knew their schedule. He had been doing it for a little while.”
In Oberlin, Schindley taped footage on West College Street, Union Street and Cedar Street. Currently, detectives Erie County are attempting to identify the remaining victims, while Oberlin Interim Police Chief Michael McCloskey said their department has been less involved in resolving the case. Additionally, Erie County and Oberlin police are working to determine what department has jurisdiction for the case. McCloskey explained that the two departments need to determine “whether Erie County is going to handle everything on their end and just do it as a continuous crime, or if they are going to turn over their investigation to us for prosecution of the incidents that happened here [in Oberlin].”
Schindley’s computer, which has been sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for examination, will likely provide detectives with more evidence. Rieger said the computer had a number of encrypted files that the FBI will be trying to open to check for further videos. Meanwhile Schindley, who has a wife and two children, remains on house arrest in Erie County and has been charged with aggravated burglary and voyeurism. Schindley was also given an ankle monitor that alerts police if he ever leaves his house.