Massachusetts woman gets 18 months in jail for being a lousy, noisy neighbor

A 46-year-old woman in Methuen, Massachusetts was sentenced to 18 months in jail on Friday for criminally harassing her downstairs neighbors and filing a false police report.


According to the North Andover Eagle-Tribune, a jury found Barbara Abernathy guilty of eight counts of disturbing the peace, six counts of violating a protective restraining order, two counts of criminal harassment and one count of filing a false police report.

Over the course of three days, the jury and court officials heard from the Henao family, who detailed how Abernathy would deliberately stomp and drop heavy objects on the floor at all hours of the day and night for years in order to harass and disturb them.

Manuel Henao detailed how he and his wife -- a dental student -- would have to drive to mall parking lots to get their infant son to sleep. Eventually, he said, his wife had to move out of the home altogether in order to successfully pursue her studies.

The Henaos explained that they spent thousands of dollars trying to "soundproof" their bedroom ceiling, only to wind up renting hotel rooms overnight so that they could sleep.

"We hated going home," Henao told Judge Michael Uhlarik in court on Friday. "We never got a break."

Eagle-Tribune writer Jill Harmacinski reported that Judge Uhlarik sentenced Abernathy to "two years in jail, with 18 months to be served and the balance of the sentenced suspended for five years." She could face an additional two years behind bars if she violates the terms of her five-year probation.

Additionally, Uhlarik ordered Abernathy to have no contact with the Hanao family, nor to come within 100 yards of them, meaning that she will have to sell the condominium where she has lived since May of 2012.

"You've got to be out of the apartment," the Eagle-Tribune quoted Uhlarik as saying.

Henao said that as soon as anyone in his family arrived home, Abernathy would commence to make noise.

"It was very difficult to go home. As soon as we got home the noise started," he reported. "The only break we got was when she was in custody."

Abernathy, he said, was tireless. Trying to get by on only two hours of sleep per night, he said, caused him to manifest physical symptoms that required the intervention of a neurologist.

He and his wife worried that their child would be developmentally harmed from lack of sleep.

Judge Uhlarik said that he found Abernathy's behavior baffling, ordering her to undergo a mental health evaluation as well as treatment for anger issues.

"Any day you could have stopped what you were doing," he said, and yet, the woman pursued what he called "premeditated, intentional and criminal behavior," by which she "turned her premises into what's tantamount to a weapon."

Uhlarik reminded Abernathy that in addition to jail time, she will also be liable for financial damages.

"They are out a lot of money," he said of the Henaos, who spent 26 months living downstairs from the disturbances Abernathy created. "You are on the hook for that."

[Man annoyed by noise from upstairs via Shutterstock.com]