LA man found guilty of stalking

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By Tris DeRoma

Jack Worel, a 71-year-old Los Alamos man, was found guilty by the Los Alamos Magistrate court of stalking a former female employee of his who used to work at his cleaning company.
 An eight-person jury, which included two alternates, found him guilty of misdemeanor stalking. The charge carries a maximum 364-day jail sentence and/or $1,000 fine. He is due to appear in court for sentencing at a later date.
In court, the prosecution was able to successfully convince the jury that Worel engaged in a pattern of stalking that began in 2010 and only ended on Aug. 13, 2012, when he was caught by the victim trying to install a GPS monitoring device on her car at the former DeColores restaurant on East Road. The victim, now in her late 20s, was working at the restaurant at the time.
After a two day investigation after the incident, which included visits to his house, police arrested Worel. During the investigation police also noticed a package on his doorstep containing equipment to track and monitor cell phone calls.
According to police records, their case against Worel began back in 2010 over an incident that occurred while Worel and the victim were cleaning in the URS building at 1911 Central Avenue.
According to court and police documents on the incident, Worel, who was her boss at the time, was cleaning offices at the URS building when he apparently pinned her to the ground.
In that incident, Worel was convicted of battery and sentenced to 182 days of probation in September of 2010.
The report then documented a later incident in November of 2010 leading up to the August arrest where the victim reported seeing Worel’s car near where she was working. In 2011 the victim reported to police that Worel sent the victim a letter asking for money to repair a light switch.
Worel was not arrested in either of these incidents. However, it was later revealed in the testimony of Det. Daniel Roberts, the lead investigator in the case, that there were actually at least 20 other reports made by the victim. It was established the reason why they weren’t found earlier is because officers taking the reports misspelled the victim’s name, according to Roberts’ testimony. It was also established that Worel wasn’t arrested during any of those incidents either, which were characterized as seeing Worel’s car nearby to where she was working.
During cross examination and in closing arguments, Worel’s defense attorney, Chip Venie, tried to paint the victim as an extortionist with questionable morals. During the trial, it came out the victim told Worel that she would make the case against him “go away” for $25,000. During the trial, Venie focused on the November 2010 incident. Venie tried to establish that the victim called police because he caught her in a compromising position with the husband of her ex-boss in the parking lot where Worel had a cleaning job. He also tried to generally attack her credibility.
“She’s the only witness to 99 percent of this case,” he told the jurors. “If you doubt (the victim) with a reason, that equals not guilty.”
In the trial, Worel said he only used the GPS to track the victim so he could avoid running into her, and so avoid getting reported to police by her. It came out in trial that because they were neighbors at the Royal Crest mobile homes at the time, Worel was easily able to put on and remove the GPS device on her car at will. It was also noted that it was a passive GPS system, in that it didn’t track her live, but instead recorded the movements to be downloaded onto a computer later.
The prosecution, led by District Attorney Kent Wahlquist, urged the jury to look at all the incidents as a whole. During his closing argument, Wahlquist used a large pad of paper to document each incident involving Worel and the victim, setting it up on an easel facing the jury. When he was done writing, he eventually filled up one side of three to four pages of the pad.
“As I go through the evidence here today and yesterday, you will see that the defendant was pursuing a pattern of conduct that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety, or feel frightened,” he said to the jury.