Nasty condo neighbor sentenced to 18 months in jail
The Eagle-Tribune
Methuen Massachusetts
By Jill Harmacinski
08 August 2014

Manuel Henao said the days and nights were unbearable, with non-stop noise coming from Barbara Abernathy's condo above them. The never-ending stomping and more was so bad, he and his wife would drive their infant son to mall parking lots so the child could nap.

The couple spent thousands of dollars "soundproofing" their bedroom ceiling - but it didn't stop. They rented motel rooms so they could just sleep.

Eventually, Henao's wife, a dental student, moved out of the condo they owned in the Spicket Commons condo complex so she could study and get adequate rest.

“We hated going home ... We never got a break”

"We hated going home ... We never got a break," Henao told a judge Friday at Abernathy's sentencing in Lawrence District Court. As Henao spoke, his wife sat in the back of the courtroom weeping.

On Monday, Abernathy, 46, was convicted by a jury of criminally harassing and disturbing her neighbor's by  repeatedly stomping her feet, dropping large objects on the floor and more.

After a 3-day trial, she was found guilty of eight counts of disturbing the peace, six counts of violating a protective restraining order, two counts of criminal harassment and a single count of filing a false police report.

At sentencing Friday, Judge Michael Uhlarik sentenced to Abernathy to two years in jail, with 18 months to be served and the balance of the sentenced suspended for five years. She will also have another two-year suspended jail sentence hanging over the head and five years probation when she's released, as a result of her convictions.

Additionally, Uhlarik ordered Abernathy to have no contact with the victims, her condo neighbors. Per court order, she is not allowed to come within 100 yards of them without a police officer present. That means Abernathy cannot live in the condo she purchased in May 2012 for $151,000.

"You've got to be out of the apartment," the judge told Abernathy, as she stood expressionless before him in court yesterday. She was dressed in prison issued jeans, a green t-shirt and velcro-close sneakers. She has been held at MCI Framingham, where she will continue her sentence.

"This is a very egregious set of circumstances you totally controlled," Uhlarik told Abernathy. "Any day you could have stopped what you were doing ... You did not stop."

“She basically turned her premises into what's tantamount to a weapon”

"She basically turned her premises into what's tantamount to a weapon," he said during the sentencing hearing.

Uhlarik, who described Abernathy's crimes as "premeditated, intentional and criminal behavior," also ordered her to undergo a mental health evaluation and complete an anger management program. A future hearing will also be held to determine damages Henao and his family suffered during their 26-month ordeal with Abernathy.

"They are out a lot of money and your are on the hook for that," the judge told her.

Prosecutor Timothy Prather asked Uhlarik to impose a combined six-year jail sentence. Abernathy's defense attorney, Andrew Stockwell-Alpert, however asked the judge to sentence her to time she's already served in jail with a court order to vacate her apartment.

Abernathy, who is unmarried with no children, spoke briefly before the court, saying she originally moved to Massachusetts for employment. She said she had degrees in electrical engineering, computer science and technology.

When questioned by the judge, Stockwell-Alpert said he did not have any documentation that indicated whether Abernathy had psychological or mental health issues.

"I am very concerned about your behavior. I don't understand it," Uhlarik said.

Henao, in his victim impact statement, said noise "nightmare" had an enormous impact on him and his family emotionally, physically and financially.

"It was very difficult to go home. As soon as we got home the noise started," he said.

They were desperate to escape the noise

He and his wife worried their son would be deprived of nap time that was essential to his development. They were desperate to escape the noise, which caused friction in their marriage.

"As soon as we could, we left and went anywhere but home ... The only break we got was when she was in custody," Henao said.

Nine months ago, his wife was forced to move out of the apartment so she could concentrate on her studies.

Henao said he suffered physically due to a lack of sleep. He told the judge he had pains and aches and severe headaches. He struggled to work with just two hours of sleep and he had to see a psychologist and neurologist.

Henao asked Uhlarik to impose the maximum penalties. "So my family can be reunited in our home without the horrible disturbances," he said.

Spicket Commons is off Broadway near the Salem, N.H. line.

top  contents   appendix   previous   next