Bethlehem Press

Saturday, February 22, 2020

False imprisonment case

Tuesday, February 26, 2019 by Nate Jastrzemski in Police Log

It was decided Feb. 21 the case of a Jan. 23 incident in which John Vanhorn of Albrightsville allegedly chained his wife inside their vehicle and left her in a parking area on Jennings Street in Bethlehem, will go to trial.

Witnesses, including a man who works at the Jennings Street location and the first responding police officer, testified at a preliminary hearing at the Stefko Boulevard office of Judge Nicholas Englesson.

Dent Robert Follweiler said he was working at Jesse James & Co. around 8:30 a.m. when he was told a woman was locked in a car outside asking for help. He said he approached an SUV and discovered the victim within, asking for help and expressly stating her husband had handcuffed her to the car, and asked Follweiler to call 911.

Follweiler did so, and responding Officer Robert Constable arrived. In his own testimony, much of which corroborated that of Follweiler’s, Constable said the victim explicitly told him her husband chained her in the car because he did not want her to leave. While they spoke they observed Vanhorn driving away from the scene in another vehicle, belonging to a co-worker, which he was known to use occasionally.

Constable asked another nearby officer to pull the vehicle over, after which a key was found and brought to the scene so the victim could be released. He said she refused medical attention or to provide a written statement, though she did answer questions at the Bethlehem Police Department, and audio and video recordings of the initial contact and interview have been preserved as evidence.

Vanhorn also declined to provide a written statement.

However, in the statement given hours later at the department, the victim said she is the victim of a violent crime and her attacker has been following her from Mount Pocono. In her fear, she said, she locks herself up in the car, that Vanhorn is not responsible, and she was upset with police for arresting him.

She also offered a malleable description of the existence, number and whereabouts of keys to open the SUV and the shackles. She insisted she only wanted to contact police for help getting to Vanhorn, whom she said was working inside a woodworking shop and could easily see her.

The defense argued that because the victim at no point said she had been kept “against her will” that she wasn’t, and that her earliest statement should be considered hearsay.

Englesson said testimony made it clear the victim’s cry for help was “an excited utterance,” which does not count as hearsay, and so is admissible. Between her first and second statements, Englesson said, “She had the opportunity to think about what she said and changed her story.

“She lied before coming to court because she [previously] gave police two statements.”

Citing his experience with domestic abuse cases and the frequency with which aggrieved parties changed their initial testimony, Englesson ultimately decided the original charge of unlawful confinement was still applicable.