A couple whose former neighbor appeared to be obsessed with their son for several years and was convicted of stalking and harassment, have now filed a lawsuit against him, seeking damages for emotional trauma.
James and Rebecca Service of Wilton filed papers Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Saratoga County asking for Todd Wettlaufer of Malta to pay damages, including medical and legal expenses, for them and their son, who is now 15. They say all members of the family have needed counseling because of the “emotional harm, psychological distress and mental anxiety” wrought by Wettlaufer’s actions.
They also want a permanent order of protection against him after previous orders “had been of little effect because of their short duration,” they say in the lawsuit. They currently have a restraining order through 2015.
The teen is not a party to the lawsuit and his name is being withheld by The Daily Gazette.
Court papers chronicle five years of criminal complaints against Wettlaufer, now 52, including convictions for criminal contempt, stalking, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and harassment.
Wettlaufer hadn’t seen the lawsuit as of Wednesday, but called the premise of it “absurd.”
According to court papers, Rebecca Service was previously Wettlaufer’s neighbor and friend and he used to baby-sit her son when she was a single mother and worked three jobs. In 2002 — when she began dating James Service, whom she married the next year — Wettlaufer “began to act irrationally, coming to Rebecca’s residence unexpectedly at all different hours demanding to see” the boy. He also allegedly would call and demand to talk to the boy and threatened to murder Rebecca and then kill himself if she wouldn’t let him see the boy.
She moved to Salem in 2003.
The couple got orders of protection against Wettlaufer, and he appeared to abide by them through 2007, though the boy received hundreds of unsolicited mailings for fishing and snowmobiling publications that the couple believed Wettlaufer sent.
In 2007, Rebecca Service spotted Wettlaufer tossing a foam football imprinted with the boy’s initials into the family’s driveway; she had already found several such sports items with his initials and now had evidence that Wettlaufer had put them there, the lawsuit alleges. He was charged and pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment.
He was charged in 2009 with endangering the welfare of a child after he allegedly showed up at the boy’s school, wanting to take pictures of him.
Then, in 2011, the couple got evidence that Wettlaufer was arranging for the magazines and mailings to be sent, and police charged him with fourth-degree stalking. He pleaded guilty to that misdemeanor charge.
In February 2012, Wettlaufer violated an order of protection by threatening the Services at the Glens Falls Civic Center and also resisted arrest. He was charged and pleaded guilty to criminal contempt, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
Saratoga Springs attorney John McMahon, who is representing the Services, declined comment.