Woman Kills Neighbor's Hen and Sticks Cigarette in Its Mouth, DA Says
CHARLESTON — It's the Henfields and the McCoys.
A Staten Island woman was arrested for running over one of her neighbor's hens with her car, kicking the dead bird and stuffing a cigarette in its mouth for a series of pictures, according to court documents.
It was the latest in a long-simmering fight between two families at the end of a Charleston street, prosecutors said.
The feather-raising fracas between the families goes back at least a year and includes dozens of 311 calls and police visits to their homes on Sharrotts Road, mainly for noise complaints.
In the latest incident, Michelle Conti, 37, was arrested Sunday for running over Charles Gabel's guinea hen in front of his home, as the Staten Island Advance first reported.
Conti was also charged with punching her 80-year-old neighbor in his chest the day before, knocking him to the ground.
"I was being a jerk. That's not a crime," she told police of the incident with the hen, according to court documents.
Her husband, Vincent Conti, 47, was arrested in October 2013 for showing his genitals to Gabel's 57-year-old wife, Angie, a bond broker, according to court documents. He is due back in court on May 20.
"I'm still hurting, that's the worst part," Gabel said about his injuries. "I can't leave my wife home alone because these people are not wrapped too tight."
The dustups began almost a year-and-a-half ago when Gabel asked his neighbors, who had just moved in, to stop letting their pit bull relieve itself in the lot across the street, he said.
Gabel, who has a barn in his backyard with nearly 20 hens and a horse, said he has been harassed by the Contis for months, who he said have subjected him to loud music, shined flood lights into his window and destroyed his property.
The Contis did not answer their door when a reporter knocked, but they told police that Gabel's hens were loud, kept them up all night and pooped all over their yard, according to court documents.
"There's been an ongoing dispute with my neighbors for over a year," Michelle Conti told police, according to court documents.
"They are driving me crazy and they own over 15 hens. They make noises from sunup to sundown, which cause me not to sleep. They s--t all over my yard and street."
She admitted to police that she hit the hen by accident and that she came back, took pictures, kicked it and shoved the cigarette in its mouth, according to court documents.
Conti also told the Advance that she was irked about a Nazi flag with a swastika on it that Gabel hangs in his garage.
"I have nothing to say. But one thing I do have to say is, he's got a swastika hanging in his barn that I've repeatedly asked cops to have him remove because my husband's Jewish," she told the Advance. "It's on the inside, and he purposely opens those barn doors."
Gabel, a Korean War Veteran and antique collector, said that he bought a box of several historic flags and only noticed the Nazi one when he brought it home. He put in the garage with the rest of the flags because he's interested in military history and is of German descent.
"My parents came from Germany," he said. "I fly an American flag without a swastika with a German flag underneath it, nobody's ever said nothing.
"These people are trying to get me but they can't get nothing on me."
Gabel wouldn't open his garage to show the flag, because he said he doesn't want to offend anybody.
He disputed the claims that the hens could possibly keep his neighbors up all night, because they sleep in the barn and don't make a noise until 7:30 a.m. when they wake up.
"They don't make no noise," he said. "They're in a coop, you can't hear them if you wanted to."
Conti was charged with felony assault, because of Gabel's age. She was also charged with torturing and injuring animals and criminal mischief for running over the hen.
Michelle Conti was released without bail and an order of a protection was issued, according to the district attorney.
Gabel worries that the Contis might do something else to him or his wife after the recent spats, and hopes they eventually move away and leave them alone.
"They belong on an island somewhere else, where they can't do what they're doing," he said.