Midnight Secrets:

When Love Becomes an Obsession

by Jenny L. Johnson

This is a story I wrote about abuse by the police chief of a small community in Hayden, Colorado. It's a true story, about a young girl who was abused by her father, the prominent chief of police and how he maintained his job because of the good old boy network.

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When she was just 13 years old, her step-father started coming into her bedroom late at night while she was in bed. There he would touch her in ways a father shouldn't. During the visits he would kiss her, touch her breasts and would then move his hands toward her pubic area. At times„ he would rub her inner thighs and back. In response, the step- daughter would either roll over or get up and go to the bathroom. These incidents occurred about once a month or once every other month. The young girl told her step-father that she did not want to be touched as such. She again warned her mother. But it continued. New to Hayden, a small Northwest Colorado town, the girl began making friends. She confided in a few friends about the ongoing problems, but was fearful because her step-father was a prominent man in town. Nothing changed.

Her father continued to come into her room, watching, touching and kissing. At times he would just stand quietly in the corner, silently watching the young girl. When she would get up, her step-father would duck and hide, then leave the room so that she would not see him. Since no one seemed to listen, the young girl internalized the situation for many years. She could not sleep at night with the fear of what her step-father might do to her. She began suffering from migraine headaches and muscle tension in her shoulders and back. During her senior year of high school, her doctor prescribed antidepressants and recommended counseling. The young girl's mother told the doctor she could not think of any reason her daughter might be depressed. In April of 1998, the girl, then 18-year-olds old, told her doctor that her step-father had made advances toward her. Investigators with the Routt County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office then interviewed the young girl. The above story was taken from the District Attorney's Office for the 14th Judicial District of Colorado's official report summary. The girl's step-father was also interviewed. Although most cases take much longer to be heard, because of her father's prominent standing in the Hayden community, the case was brought before Assistant District Attorney, Kerry St. James promptly. Despite the fact that St. James worked closely with her father regularly in court, St. James saw no conflict in interest in being the prosecutor for the case. Because the man was an upstanding member of the community, a quick and very quiet court hearing was all that he deemed necessary. On April 14, 1998, the step-father pleaded guilty with no contest to the report from which the above story was taken from. In Routt County Court, the following was registered: "That on or between January 1, 1997 and March 31, 1998 in the County of Routt and State of Colorado, Cyril J. Lenahan, III with the intent to harass, annoy, and alarm (his step daughter), did unlawfully touch (his step daughter) and subject her to physical contact: in violation of C.R.S. as amended, 18-9-111 (1) (a) HARRASMENT (M-3) and against the peace and dignity of the People of the State of Colorado. The step-father, Cyril J. Lenahan, is Jody Lenahan, Hayden's Chief of Police for over 20 years.

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While the case managed to escape publicity in either the Hayden Valley Press or the Steamboat Pilot, both corportate papers owned by World West International, rumor ran wild in the community. Enraged citizens phoned town board members in dismay. Other's defended the man who had policed their town so many years. Members of the Hayden Town Board met to discuss the matter, and, under the advisement of Hayden Town Manager, Rob Strabel, and Town Mayor, Ray Mazzola, the board decided that despite being charged with a criminal offense, Jody Lenahan would remain their town's chief of police. In their eyes, the crime posed no threat to community members.

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After reviewing the case, I proceeded to do research about obsessive harassment. Studies show that obsessive harassment is a disorder in the brain that cannot be cured, although counseling might help. The perpretator basically becomes obsessed with the object of their affection. Psychologists believe behavior such as Lenahan's, because of its impulsiveness, can lead to dangerous acts such as stalking, rage, rape and even murder. Sadly, in most cases of obsessive harassment, someone is typically harmed before something is done about the behavior. While the police chief‚s behavior was typical of the obsessive harassment outlined in books and on internet sites, the burden of protecting against obsessive harassment lies in the police department. But what happens if the perpetrator is the police department? What happens when the perpretator's prosecutor is the District Attorney's Office, a fellow official with a conflict of interest to prosecute? What happens when the perpretator's bosses, the town board, do not research obsessive harassment or take the disease seriously? Nothing. Until someone, the step-daughter or perhaps a son or daughter of a town resident is somehow harmed. Would the DA's office and town board still then allow the chief to retain his position? Only time will tell.

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The goal of police departments throughout the nation is to protect victims before they are harmed by an obsessive person. Anyone who is a victim of harassment or stalking should inform their police department. Residents of Hayden can contact the Routt County Sheriff's Department if they are not comfortable with the Hayden Police Department. If you have been a victim of obsessive harassment, keep a log of events that have occurred along with any evidence, including answering machine tapes and letters. If you are a child and your father has has harassed, molested or raped you, be brave. Turn him in and hope that somewhere in the system, truth and justice will prevail better than it did in case #98M.

(The Jody Lenahan case file #98M is available for your own viewing at the Routt County Combined Courts. Almost the entire first half of this story was reprinted from the report. This story is in no way meant to be an exploratory article and contains some of my opinions and members of the Hayden community. It was written at the request of several town residents and law enforcement officers throughout the area who are concerned.)