10/25/06 — Doll House's owners pay part of fines

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Doll House's owners pay part of fines

By Lee Williams
Published in News on October 25, 2006 1:50 PM

A judgment issued against a couple who owned a business that included prostitution has been settled in court.

Attorney Ron Lawrence delivered a $6,820 check to the Wayne County Sheriff's Office Monday. The check was issued by property owners, William Edward Zehnder and his wife, Lynda, to cover the costs from an inquiry that led to the closure of Doll House on U.S. 70 East in LaGrange on Dec. 7, 2004.

The Zehnders owned the property. However, Andy Howard, leased the property that was described as a public nuisance.

The check Lawrence delivered to the sheriff's office represented a portion of a $15,000 judgment levied against the Zehnders Jan. 18. Howard was ordered to pay the Zehnders' attorney $7,500 plus 8 percent interest within 12 months after the judgment was entered, according to court documents.

"This was the only private adult business of its kind in Wayne County," Sheriff Carey Winders said in a prepared statement. "To conduct undercover work in one of these places is very difficult. The owners of these type of businesses are aware of the laws and regulations as we are. The Wayne County Sheriff's Office along with the State Alcohol Law Enforcement was able to obtain the evidence needed to close this business."

Wayne County law officials shut down the Doll House in December 2004, in response to citizens complaints and findings of an undercover sting operation. District Attorney Branny Vickory filed a lawsuit against the property owners and tenant to ensure the business remained closed.

Vickory prevailed.

The results of the undercover investigation were revealing. Officers surveyed the business during a covert investigation and discovered women performed various sex acts on clients for money. On several occasions, the women offered their services to the officers during the undercover operation.

The Doll House was classified as a lucrative establishment, according to another law enforcement officer, who assisted with the covert operation.

"One female employee told me that on some rainy days, she earned up to $2,000 working at the Doll House," the officer said in court documents.

Law enforcement officials, the district attorney's office and county officials took steps to ensure places like the Doll House will no longer be an issue in the county.

Winders said the Wayne County Commission passed an ordinance forbidding this type of business from operating in the county.

"This will give us the power needed to act quickly in the future should another business of this type attempt to open in Wayne County," the sheriff said.