'House of David' head could face trial in harassment case

The Times-Tribune, Pennsylvania/May 6, 2010

Honesdale - A self-proclaimed prophet and founder of a religious organization will face trial on charges he and other members sent thousands of faxes slandering his daughter and her husband to area businesses.

Magisterial District Judge Ted Mikulak bound over 14 charges - including harassment, stalking and extortion - filed against Sal J. LoRusso to County Court on Monday.

Mr. LoRusso, 67, founded the House of David, which had members in Wayne County and Arizona. How many members the group has was not revealed at the hearing.

The charges accuse Mr. LoRusso and five other members of his organization with sending "in excess of 10,000" faxes in 2005 and 2006 to Wayne County businesses and schools in an effort to impugn the reputation of his daughter, Danielle Hedgelon, and her husband, Joel Hedgelon.

The faxes allegedly were sent after Mrs. Hedgelon, of Cherry Ridge, fell out of favor with her father, who also allegedly was seeking $80,000 his daughter owed him. After Mrs. Hedgelon left the organization and began exchanging letters with a member who was thinking about leaving, Mr. LoRusso began the harassment, she testified.

In addition, arrest papers say Mr. LoRusso, who has addresses listed in New York, Pennsylvania and Arizona, made harassing telephone calls to Mr. Hedgelon while he was at work. On one occasion in late 2006, Mr. LoRusso allegedly called Mr. Hedgelon, telling him "he'd be coming to see him soon and his one-eyed mother."

At Mr. LoRusso's preliminary hearing Monday, Wayne County Assistant District Attorney Patrick L. Robinson questioned several employees of local business and of Wayne Highlands School District, who testified they received bizarre faxes that contained "inappropriate" remarks about Mr. and Mrs. Hedgelon.

Mr. Robinson rolled a two-tiered table into the courtroom that contained piles of the faxes allegedly sent by "House of David" members.

The faxes - which allegedly targeted the Hedgelons' daughter's school and places the couple did business and worked - would be sent in the middle of the night or during business hours and would number 50 or more a day, the witnesses testified.

"I was just furious. It was chewing up all that paper," testified Peter Helms, owner of Davis R. Chant Realtors, which has offices in Wayne and Pike counties.

Some details about Mr. LoRusso's organization also seeped out during the preliminary hearing.

Mrs. Hedgelon, 34, testified that members, including herself, were compelled to give 10 percent of their paychecks to Mr. LoRusso's organization.

"As long as you gave Sal 10 percent of your paycheck, you were allowed in," Mrs. Hedgelon testified.

Mr. LoRusso would reciprocate by praying for his flock and telling members "what God told him," Mrs. Hedgelon testified.

"I grew up with these people" in Arizona, she said.

Mr. LoRusso has been incarcerated at the Wayne County Correctional Facility since April 15, following his arrest on charges in the case.

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