A developmentally disabled 20-year-old Canby man was arrested last month in connection with allegations of breaking into a local woman’s apartment on multiple occasions and stalking her 14-year-old son.
The man’s name is Harold Lee Vermeire. He’s been charged with first-degree burglary, a class A felony, and criminal trespass. But a related civil lawsuit gives more insight into the case and some of the details are shocking.
The victims in the case have lived at an apartment in Forest Manor on South Locust Street since 2012. Harold Vermeire’s mother was their immediate neighbor and landlord, and held a master key to their apartment.
Last year, the victim’s mother became suspicious that someone was entering their apartment without permission. She started to notice things seemed to move around and were not always where she’d left them. Also, her prescription pain killers were going missing. So, she installed a video camera. On three separate occasions, Harold Vermeire was seen entering the home.
According to her testimony in the complaint, the mother came to believe that Vermeire was “fascinated” with her son. Vermeire would follow him and has even been caught hiding behind trees and watching the teen.
On Dec. 21, the mother caught Vermeire in their home and called the police. During this interview, Vermeire allegedly admitted to entering the teen’s room to masturbate and ejaculating onto his clothing.
The lawsuit asks for $250,000 for the emotional distress and trauma caused by Vermeire’s actions, which were made possible by his mother’s access to the home. His mother is also a defendant in the case, along with several members of the family that owns Forest Manor.
In addition to the allegations against Vermeire, the lawsuit claims there were numerous livability issues with the apartment itself, including a broken stove, leaky sink, sewage backup into the bathtub, and an unsafe ceiling fan that actually fell on the plaintiff mother’s head on one occasion.
The victims’ attorney, Ryan Adams, of Tyler Smith & Associates in Canby, provided the following statement: “All of us, no matter our age, have a right to be secure in our homes. At this time, my firm’s primary focus is the safety and security of our clients. We will continue our relentless pursuit of the facts and seek appropriate judicial relief.”
According to a family member who approached the Canby Now Podcast after this story was first published, Vermeire has autism and is a victim of childhood abuse himself.
“He does not understand what he did was wrong,” the family member said. “He does not understand sex or sexuality. He was assaulted by a man, so that is all he knows of it. Harold has a heart of gold. He does need help, but he is now receiving it.”
Vermeire was arrested on Jan. 25 but was released Feb. 5 on a $70,000 bond. The judge has granted a temporary restraining order that prohibits Vermeire from coming within 500 feet of the victims or their home. His next court appearance in the criminal case is scheduled for March 12.