STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A festering neighbor dispute in Charleston escalated into assault and animal torture over the weekend, after a 32-year-old woman ran over a guinea hen and shoved a cigarette in its mouth, police allege. Michelle Conti, 32, is also accused of punching her 80-year-old neighbor, Charles (Clark) Gabel, in the chest on Saturday, knocking him to the ground.
Gabel and his wife, Agnes, 57, have been feuding with Mrs. Conti and her husband, who live next door, for at least a year — police make regular appearances responding to Gabel’s calls, law enforcement sources said, and on Wednesday, Gabel showed off a list of noise and other complaints he has filed with 311.
Meanwhile, a member of Mrs. Conti’s family has posted a photo on his public Instagram account of a swastika flag hanging on the wall in Gabel’s barn. On Oct. 22, police charged Mrs. Conti’s husband, Vincent, 41, with public lewdness, accusing him of pulling down his pants and exposing his genitals to Mrs. Gabel three days prior. That led to an order of protection, and following the events of last weekend, police arrested Ms. Conti on felony charges.
On Saturday afternoon, police allege, she punched Gabel in the chest hard enough to knock him to the ground outside his house. And on Sunday, at 8:32 a.m., she drove into a flock of Gabel’s guinea hens, which were roaming Sharrotts Road outside his house, and killed one of them, police allege. She then returned to the scene at about 10 a.m., kicked the dead bird and placed a cigarette inside its mouth, police allege.
Mrs. Conti admitted the bird-killing to police, according to court papers, telling them:
“There’s been an ongoing dispute with my neighbors for over a year. They are driving me crazy and they own over 15 hens. They make noises and sounds from sun up to sun down which cause me not to sleep. They (expletive) all over my yard and street. I drove the car toward the flock of birds, hitting one of the birds. I stopped one house over and got out of the car, walked to the bird and took a picture of it. I later came back, kicked the bird and put a cigarette in its mouth. I was being a jerk, that’s not a crime. I usually go up and down the block and the birds scatter, and I’ve never hit one before.”
Gabel said he keeps the birds in part for companionship, in part because they eat ticks and stinkbugs. When he gets enough of them, he said, he may sell or give them away to parks officials in Long Island. “I’m here all day by myself. Nobody comes. I play with them, I watch the birds.”
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