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W.V. WOMAN ORDERED TO STEER CLEAR OF GROUP

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A West Valley woman pleaded guilty to reduced criminal charges Tuesday after a neighborhood watch group took her to court in a precedent-setting action.

Tillie Vigil, 55, pleaded guilty to inconsistent statement, failure to remove or abate a health nuisance and reckless driving, all Class B misdemeanors. The charges stem from several confrontations between Vigil and a neighborhood watch group.Judge Mark Johnson, standing in for West Valley 3rd Circuit Judge William Thorne, dismissed other charges including threats and an additional count of reckless driving.

After a suspended jail sentence and fines, Vigil will pay $300 and attorneys' fees and is subject to probation and a strict no-contact order.

The court requires Vigil to have no contact with the Greenbriar Neighborhood Watch. In the words of the judge, if she's at the grocery store and spots one of the watch members, she is to "run the other way."

Initially, Vigil agreed - but with a stipulation.

"I will (stay away) if they will," she told the judge.

"That isn't good enough - you will," Johnson said. "If I had jurisdiction over them I'd tell them to stay away (also) . . . You don't look at them even. You look straight ahead."

The judge appeared to consider the charges the product of a simple neighborhood argument and warned both parties to basically cool off and remain apart.

"I've seen lots of cases like this," he said.

But for the neighborhood watch group, its action against Vigil is the strongest step of a long-running campaign to rid their neighborhood of fear and intimidation.

"We walked out of that room and everyone said, `We can walk outside again (without being afraid),' " said watch coordinator Cheryl Harris. "I feel wonderful. I didn't expect to get even as much as we got."

Tensions arose between the Vigil family and their neighbors nearly a year ago, when the house became the subject of numerous gang-related drive-by shootings and the teenage occupants came under scrutiny by police, Harris said. At the time, there was no watch program, and the residents were afraid the violence could spill over to their homes.

"We were afraid for the other homeowners in the area," she said. The watch was organized to patrol an area near 5000 West and 3100 South 24 hours a day. Then in November, Harris herself was the target of violence when she was shot at while doing laundry in a rear pantry of her home. No arrests were made or charges filed.

Since the residents have started their patrol, Harris said the group has been the subject of retaliatory action. Harris said Vigil has tried to mow down watch members with her car, yelled insults and threats. In addition, watch members say someone has thrown bricks at their homes.

But the Vigil family believes the group is singling them out and treating them unfairly.

With admittedly aggressive actions, the group has monitored the Vigil home and chronicled the goings-on there for months. Their work has been submitted to West Valley police and the parole officer of Vigil's son.

"You can do it through the system . . . We're trying to show that neighborhood watch has a right to be there," Harris said. "She (Tillie Vigil) does not have a right to threaten us."

Vigil declined to comment Tuesday about the situation or her guilty plea.

"We're here to start over again," West Valley City prosecutor Keith Stoney said. "We'll nip it in the bud before anyone gets hurt."

The charges in 3rd Circuit Court name only Vigil, but much of the group's complaint is with her son and grandson, both of whom live at the home.

Both teens were questioned in the slaying of 17-year-old Jeremy Gaitin but were released from juvenile detention due to a lack of evidence. Gaitin was stabbed multiple times in the neck and chest after a fight broke out Jan. 15 between rival gang members at 2160 W. Birmingham Circle (3860 South).

Vigil's grandson was recently certified to face adult charges of attempted criminal homicide for the March 30 shooting of a 23-year-old Kearns man. Tony Lovato was wounded in the abdomen, both arms, his lower torso and legs after he was shot with a shotgun during a confrontation with rival gangs.

Witnesses told police that Vigil's 17-year-old grandson was the gunman. Both teens are also under scrutiny for possible witness tampering.