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TOMBSTONE MAKER DENIES HARASSMENT

In an interview, the Riverview woman says the decorations were like Disney's.
Published Mar. 12, 2010

Kristy Elizabeth Deaton said she never harassed her Riverview neighbor, and in an interview she denied each point in a civil complaint filed against her that alleges she slandered Ellen Salama.

The complaint, filed in January, states that Deaton called Salama "the crazy lady" in front of other neighbors, dressed like her at Halloween and blasted an air horn and yelled expletives as Salama drove by her house.

Salama sold her Riverview home in December, and a month later she filed a lawsuit, contending that her neighbor's actions made her fear for her life.

Deaton said the lawsuit has no merit. She disputed every allegation and said she believes Salama filed the suit in retaliation because Deaton wouldn't drive her to the doctor, make her food or take her to meet men, as she had requested.

The lawsuit states that the harassment culminated in October, when Deaton put out homemade Halloween decorations.

One homemade tombstone read: "At 48 she had/ no mate no date/ it's no debate/ she looked 88/ She met her fate/ in a crate/ now we celebrate/ 1961-2009."

Salama believes the signs defamed her, according to the lawsuit. But in a phone interview, Deaton said the signs had nothing to do with Salama.

"The tombstones were nothing more than like you'd see at Disney," she said. "They're just quirky, silly tombstone sayings."

Public records state that Salama was born in 1961, the same date on the tombstones, but Deaton said she doesn't know Salama's birth year.

According to the complaint, Deaton dressed like Salama on Halloween while taking her children trick-or-treating, yelling, "Look at me. I'm the crazy lady."

Deaton also denied that. She said she wore a blue polo shirt, jean shorts and Crocs. She said Salama never dressed like that, and Deaton said she never yelled "I'm the crazy lady."

Deaton also said she never yelled false statements about Salama's mental and physical condition from her front yard, as the complaint states.

"I never confronted her," she said.

Debbie Konack, who lives in the same neighborhood, said she also thinks the lawsuit has no merit. She said she even called Salama's attorney to tell him that.

She thinks Salama's statement that she feared for her life doesn't make much sense because Salama confronted Deaton at the pool last summer, demanding her chair, Konack said.

"So she couldn't have been too scared," she said.

If a judge doesn't dismiss the case, it could go to a jury trial. Salama and Deaton also have the option of settling the case outside court.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

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