Police Catch Peeping Tom with Footage of Students

Louis Krauss and Andrea Wang

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.