They’re the neighbors from hell.
A former Florida cop and his wife stand accused of stalking their professional water-skiing neighbors, hurling anti-French slurs, and making threats to the family dog in a next-door vendetta that went off the deep end.
Richard Ringer, 55, a retired police officer, and Joy Ringer, 52, of Auburndale, tormented Scot “The Rockman” Ellis and his pregnant wife, Marion, for more than a year over supposed noise from the couple’s water-skiing, authorities say.
Last week, Polk County sheriff’s deputies cuffed the nasty neighbors on charges of criminal mischief and aggravated stalking. The Ringers, who were released on bail, haven’t commented publicly on the saga.
But Scot Ellis, 44, said he hopes the Hatfield-McCoy-style feud is finally over.
“It’s unexplainable, Twilight Zone weird,” Ellis told The Daily Beast of the fuss with his neighbor. “He should be enjoying his retirement. It’s a nice lake. All the neighbors are awesome.”
“We’re just happy there’s peace and quiet now,” Ellis added.
The allegations outlined in a sheriff’s affidavit reveal a neighborhood squabble spinning out of control.
According to authorities, the Ringers stalked and intimidated the Ellis family and anyone visiting their lakefront residence. The Ringers allegedly destroyed a $1,000 fence on the Ellis property, shined spotlights on their son’s bedroom window so he couldn’t sleep, and got into vile shouting matches with Ellis’s 65-year-old mother.
They trained video cameras and security lights on the Ellis home and warned them “they were recording their every move,” authorities charge. In response, the couple began recording the un-neighborly interactions.
“It’s just stressful,” Ellis told The Daily Beast. “I can’t go to the mailbox without my wife or someone keeping our cameras close in case [Richard Ringer] freaking snaps. Nobody likes to get yelled at and be called vulgar names. It’s miserable.”
The alleged persecution brought State Attorney’s Office investigators to the Ringers’ home earlier this year, but authorities claim the couple still wouldn’t stop their campaign of harassment.
Since they moved to the area in 2012, the Ringers reportedly made multiple complaints to several government agencies, including the sheriff’s department, about the Ellises over water-skiing, dog waste, and other perceived violations.
They “bombarded” authorities with e-mails, photos, and videos of activities at the Ellis residence, cops charge.
But when those gripes went nowhere, the Ringers allegedly ramped up their offensive—supposedly making derogatory statements about 30-year-old Marion’s French nationality and about her unborn child.
“Richard Ringer along with his wife Joy Ringer have made Marion Ellis’ French nationality a focal point of their anger and contempt by taunting Marion with slurs and anti-French sentiments,” the sheriff’s office affidavit (PDF) said.
The Ringers allegedly told Marion, “I don’t speak frog,” referring to the American slur for a French person, and jeered, “All Americans think French are assholes.”
Cops say the middle-aged bullies also installed signs on their dock naming controversial French figures in an attempt to shame Marion’s heritage. The police report, however, does not identify those French personalities.
Marion Ellis “became visibly distraught and tearful” over her neighbors’ actions, according to the sheriff’s report. She explained that “she was not proud of every action that her country was involved in, nor was she particularly proud of the two French figures showcased by the Ringers on their dock,” authorities said.
The mother-to-be told deputies that she was part-German and “has made America her home and does not understand the Ringers’ deep-seated hatred of her,” the sheriff’s report revealed.
The alleged tyranny didn’t end with Marion. Authorities claim the Ringers also targeted Scot Ellis’s mother and father, as well as the Ellises’ physically-impaired daughter. The Ringers also made a “credible threat” on the Ellises’ lives and on Rider, their chocolate Labrador retriever, police say.
“During our very first introduction, Richard Ringer said he was going to kill my dog—that was the first time we ever met,” Ellis told The Daily Beast. “I don’t know if he’s a retired policeman and he’s used to having his way. They’re just not a happy couple.”
The Ellises began recording their run-ins with the Ringers.
“You used to be a nice woman, you used to be good-looking, and now everybody hates you,” Joy Ringer allegedly told Scot’s mother, according to the police report. Ringer also reportedly said, “[Your husband] is trying to forget he married you.”
Other statements to the Ellis matriarch included: “You can’t touch my fucking property, bitch. You stay the fuck off of it”; “You are a fucking bitch you fucking cunt”; and “Let your son fight his battles, get him off the tit.”
Meanwhile, when a State Attorney’s Office investigator visited the Ellis home, she noticed someone had placed animal bones on the Ringers’ lawn “in such a fashion as to attract the Ellis dog onto Ringers’ property.”
The investigator warned Richard Ringer in March 2015 that if his conduct didn’t stop, he would likely face stalking charges. Ringer and his wife eased up for a couple weeks, then became “even more aggressive towards their neighbors,” according to the police report.
The final straw came in September, when Ringer allegedly dismantled a $1,138 wood barrier Scot Ellis installed on his property to help manage water during periods of heavy rain, police said.
Authorities claim Richard “systematically destroyed” the barrier, which was erected between the two property lines, over a span of two weeks. Richard eventually tore it apart and threw it in pieces over Ellises’ chain-link fence, cops said.
Richard was heard on audio recordings “throwing pieces of the wood barrier in anger,” authorities charge.
Messages left for the Ringers and the Ellises were not returned.
Richard Ringer, who goes by “Rick,” has posted happy social media photos of himself and his wife that seem to belie the aggressive conduct detailed in police reports.
Other online posts include an image of an American eagle with the words “United We Stand” and a truck bumper featuring the words “Everything I ever needed to know about Islam I learned on 9/11” next to an image the Twin Towers.
For his part, Scot Ellis told Fox 13 he’s gone for most of the year and doesn’t often practice his water-skiing in the lake behind his home.
Still, the world-champion water-skier seemed to contradict this claim in other reports. “My wife and I, we train here,” Ellis told told Bay News 9. “We ski—this is our job. We travel the world. We compete as water skiers. Been in the industry our entire lives, so maybe the neighbor didn’t like that. I don’t know.”
Ellis summed up the root of his neighbors’ ire for The Daily Beast: “It’s a public lake, and [they] said we used the lake too much.”
Updated 10:49 a.m., Oct. 26 to add comments from the alleged victim.