Calif. Cul-de-Sac Neighbors Just Can't Get Along

Neighbors not getting along in San DiegoCourtesy Fisher Family/Trussell Family
Neighbors not getting along in San Diego

From the outside, the picturesque homes on Weatherstone Way just outside San Diego appear to be what many families would consider a prime location for child-rearing, a sense of community and a generally idyllic life.

But the reality for four families in the middle class suburb of San Marcos community is quite the opposite.

Since moving into the development less than a year ago, the four families have been embroiled in legal battle after legal battle over the supervision of the young children who play in the neighborhood cul-de-sac, and the behavior of their adult parents.

The community spat has spilled onto the doorsteps of their neighbors, as allegations of death threats from a 4-year-old and drive-by taunting from an 8-year-old in an electric mini-jeep have turned San Marcos from a kid-friendly haven to a frequent stop for the local sheriff's office.

"We all moved here for a reason -- it's a great place for children," said Sarah Fisher, who moved in with her husband and two children nine months ago.

But Fisher says one neighbor, Gary Trussell, has spoiled that for her children, and in February she filed an application for a temporary restraining against Trussell, alleging that he made her fear for her family's safety.

Fisher says Trussell's 4-year-old autistic son has threatened her children's lives, and the Fishers and three other families believe Trussell himself also poses a threat.

"On two separate occasions Mr. Trussell entered my residence and backyard with no invitation of admittance from anyone in our home," Fisher wrote in the restraining order documentation.

Fisher also described a weekend in August 2008 when she says Gary Trussell asked her husband Steve to watch his son.

"My husband said, No problem," wrote Fisher. "I finished the floors and went to take my shower. As I walked back across the hallway, unclothed, I saw Mr. Trussell walking across my wet, clean floors. The doorbell never rang; there was never a knock, nothing!" wrote Fisher.

"I felt so violated that a man, let alone a new neighbor, decided that he had rights into my home, not to mention the mud tracked throughout the entire bottom floor."

Fisher also alleges that Trussell "got in the face" of her child after the Trussell boy ran into her son's electric jeep.

"My son actually got out of the Jeep and asked, 'Are you OK?'" wrote Fisher. "Mr. Trussell came over, got in my 3-year-old's face and yelled, 'Watch where you are going!'"

Steve Fisher told in a phone interview that Trussell also once "got in the face" of another neighbor so much so that yet another neighbor had to step in and "stand in the way" to prevent a fist-fight.

And according to Kelly Plaster, who sought a separate February restraining order against Trussell, the Trussell boy has repeatedly made threats against her own children, ages 8 and 5.

"[Trussell's] young son has made threats to 'kill' my children, and I am concerned that Gary or his son will gain access to Gary's firearms," Plaster wrote in the complaint obtained by

Trussell, a Continental Airlines pilot, is authorized to use a gun as a participant in the Transportation Security Administration's Flight Deck Officer program implemented after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He keeps the gun in a lockbox in the family's home, according to court documents.

Plaster's husband, Dave Plaster, alleged in his own written statement to police that the Trussell boy "exhibits violent and destructive behavior toward all of the other children in the neighborhood."

The temporary restraining orders sought by Fisher and Plaster and a third made by another San Marcos resident, Danielle Harway, have all been rejected by the San Diego Superior Court.

When reached by phone, Dave Plaster declined to comment and referred all questions to the legal documents the couple filed. Calls made to the Harway residence were not immediately returned.

'I Got a Nightmare'

San Marcos, Calif., had a median household income of $70,781 in 2007, according to the San Diego Association of Governments, and the neighborhood that encompasses Weatherstone Way is described as middle-to-upper-class suburbia by residents. Residents say it's common for the neighborhood children to gather and play outside -- riding bikes and electric cars -- around the usually quiet streets.

Marla Trussell, Gary Trussell's wife, told that she had similar expectations of a happy neighborhood when she moved to San Marcos in August 2008. But she soon found that life on Weatherstone Way would be much different than she had anticipated.

"I expected that people would mind their own business, be a nice neighbor and put their trash out and keep up their lawns and say hello," said Marla Trussell, who is speaking on behalf of her and her husband. "Instead I got a nightmare."

The Trussells have placed a request for the other families to compensate them for the legal fees they paid to contest the restraining orders.

In a response to the Plasters' allegations, Gary Trussell wrote in court papers that his neighbors do not understand how to care for a child with autism and claimed the Plasters' son, who is 8, is the real "instigator" of the neighborhood drama.

According to Trussell, in January 2009 the Plaster's son drove up the Trussell driveway in an electric jeep and "taunted" their son.

"My son is afraid to walk around the neighborhood for fear of [the Plaster's son's] drive-by' insults," Trussell wrote. "He truly terrorizes the neighborhood on his electrical jeep, with no regard for other people's property."

But Fisher maintains that the 4-year-old Trussell boy has threatened her children.

"He's said, 'I'm going to shoot you,' or 'I'm going to kill you' and has grabbed some of the girls," Fisher told "Is [the Trussell boy] a threat? No. But yes, he has harmed people."

In court documents Fisher alleges that the Trussell boy once punched her daughter "on both sides of her head by her temples."

"We understand that he has a disability, but we're asking that the Trussells be proactive," said Fisher, who accuses the Trussells of only watching their kids play in the cul-de-sac on occasion.

Marla Trussell disputes that and says she is supervising her children -- the Trussells also have an 8-year-old daughter -- when they play outside.

"The kids would come home from school and might be outside or playing in the garage, and I might go inside and check on the stove, but yes, I would come outside," said Marla Trussell. "I was outside."

Neighbors Fed Up

Gary Trussell, in court papers, claims to not even know the third family who asked for a restraining order against him.

"I do not know Ms. Harway," Trussell wrote of Danielle Harway and her husband, Richard. "I do not even know which home is the Harveys' home."

Other residents on the street said they were growing exhausted with the families' bickering and hoped San Marcos would return to the calm, pleasant environment that attracted everyone to it in the first place.

Gino Russo, a Weatherstone Way resident for nearly two years, said that he's had enough of the patrol cars on his street.

"I'm curious and kind of concerned about the sheriff's cars," said Russo. "It just seems a little silly that the law enforcement needs to be involved in something like [a neighborhood dispute]."

Russo and his wife moved from downtown San Diego for a life in a more pristine community, and they hope that the drama will soon subside. He and his wife hope to soon have kids who will be able to make friends with peers in the neighborhood.

"We moved here for the fact that kids play in the street and for the suburbia," Russo said. "We wanted to be a part of that, not the disturbances."

Deanna Murphy, who also lives on the street with her husband and children, said the dispute between the four families is just a "blemish" on an otherwise perfect street.

"It's one problem in an otherwise blissful community that we feel so lucky to have found," said Murphy.

'We're Not Moving'

While all three temporary restraining orders against Trussell have been dropped , a hearing scheduled for May 20 will determine whether the Plasters, the Fishers and the Harways are responsible for paying for the Trussells' legal fees.

As for how these families plan to handle the situation going forward, Marla Trussell says she and her family have no choice but to try to co-exist peacefully. In tough economic times and a slumping housing market, the Trussells say they're not planning to walk away from the neighborhood they chose less than a year ago.

"We're going to stay, we're not moving," said Marla Trussell. "The reality of what's going on in the housing market is, you have to stay where you are. "

Fisher, who said that she thinks she was given a "bad rap" during the legal process, still talks of the beauty that once drove her family to Weatherstone Way.

"We have driveway parties, we volunteer and it's a beautiful neighborhood," said Fisher. "But it's more than meets the eye. We all have young children and we're trying to protect them."