Victim of Accused Iowa City Peeper Says 'I Felt so Violated'

By Vanessa Miller and Mark Carlson, Reporters

Tenant Tyson Sanchez of Sioux City, examines the holes tenants are accusing their landlord Elwyn Gene Miller of using to peep at women tenants in the bathroom of his Iowa City Apartment on Friday, November 2, 2012. (Kyle Grillot/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Liz Blood

IOWA CITY, Iowa - In the days since Saba Hafeez overheard her landlord admit to police that he’s seen her naked through a peep hole in her bathroom ceiling, she has gone from “devastated” to angry.

“I felt so violated,” Hafeez said Friday about the moment on Wednesday that she heard detectives questioning her landlord, Elwyn Gene Miller, in the hallway of her apartment building at 639 S. Lucas St.

“I started bawling,” Hafeez said.

She is among several of Miller’s tenants who say that after he was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of invasion of privacy, they found peep holes in their bathrooms – inch-wide openings next to vents in both their ceilings and floors.

Hafeez said that after finding the hole in her bathroom and the crawl space Miller is accused of using to spy on her, she started scouring her whole unit for other possible privacy invasions.

“Safety is a big deal for me,” she said. “I want to be safe. But my paranoia has increased.”

Miller, 62, was arrested after a woman caught him watching her shower about 11 a.m. Wednesday. Hafeez said the woman, who has not been seen back at the Lucas Street apartment building, noticed the hole in her ceiling and stuffed cotton balls inside, “just in case,” before showering.

When she got out, according to Hafeez, the cotton was on the floor, and the woman hurried into the hall to catch Miller leaving a crawl space in the building’s attic.

Miller, according to a police report, made it clear to investigators that he had been peeping into the woman’s bathroom while she was showering, according to a criminal complaint. During a subsequent interview with police, officers learned Miller has watched other women in other apartments on multiple occasions, according to the complaint.

Investigators are working to find more possible victims, Iowa City police Lt. Doug Hart said, and they now have identified at least four. Detectives have discovered holes in four to five additional apartment units in two of Miller’s buildings, according to Hart.

Public records show Miller owns three Lucas Street properties at 637, 639 and 641 and one at 1024 E. Burlington St.

UI senior Ruth Lapointe said she learned about the peeping allegations on her way to a Halloween party Wednesday night, and she’s had a difficult time sleeping since.

“I felt I needed to be inebriated to get to sleep that night,” Lapointe said. “It’s the most frightening experience of my life.”

Lapointe said she’s experiencing paranoia and distrust of strangers, and she wants the authorities to tack on additional and more serious charges against Miller.

“We want to see justice served,” she said. “I feel totally betrayed.”

Iowa City police said it’s possible they’ll recommend more charges against Miller, although the investigation is ongoing. Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness said Friday that she can’t comment about possible charges because her office is still reviewing the case.

Lapointe and other victims said they’re planning to file a lawsuit against Miller. And they want to see changes in the City Code making it impossible for Miller to continue being a landlord.

Doug Boothroy, director of Iowa City’s Housing and Inspection Services, said City Code doesn’t address privacy invasions, meaning there’s nothing currently stopping Miller from being a landlord.

“He doesn’t face any housing code sanctions,” Boothroy said. “There are not standards for this type of behavior.”

The city could change the code to include privacy invasion sanctions, but Boothroy said that would be a complicated process.

“I’m not sure how it would be written,” he said. “I think there would be a lot of loopholes.”
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