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HBC president faces charges

July 20, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

The president of Hagerstown Business College has been charged by a former girlfriend with harassing, following and assaulting her at her home, place of business and at the homes of friends, according to Washington County District Court records.

James Ernest Gifford, 41, was served Thursday with the 18-count statement of charges listed in a warrant. He went before a bond commissioner and was released after posting a $10,000 bond, court records said.

The charges, filed by Patricia L. Churchey of Hagerstown, include harassment/course of conduct, harassment/following, and several counts each of second-degree assault, burglary, trespassing, destruction of property and felony theft, court records said.

Three telephone calls to Gifford at HBC Monday were not returned.

In the statement of charges, Churchey alleged a pattern of conduct that began last fall and intensified in June and early July.

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Churchey alleges incidents where Gifford called her repeatedly at her place of employment at Hagerstown Community College and at her home in the 12900 block of Cathedral Avenue, court records said.

Detailing a July 1 incident, Churchey said in her application for charges that Gifford violated a no-contact letter by calling her at her work that day, wanting to meet with her, court records said.

About five minutes after that call, Churchey began to walk from the HCC administration building to another building when she saw Gifford in his car, court records said.

Gifford beeped his horn at her, got out of his car and as he started toward her, she turned to flee, court records said. After getting back into the building, Churchey hid in a closet while Gifford walked down the hall, looking in every office, court records said.

HCC security was called but Gifford had returned to his vehicle and driven away, court records said.

Churchey alleged in the statement of charges that there were times when Gifford showed up at the homes of her friends while she was inside, ringing the doorbell repeatedly.

On other occasions, Churchey said Gifford called her home repeatedly, leaving long, musical songs on her voice mail, court records said.

Churchey said there were other incidents in which Gifford approached her at movie theaters, swimming pools and the HCC cafeteria, court records said.

On June 21, Churchey said she returned to her home and found it decorated in streamers, posters, flowers, balloons and a big sign in the yard that said, "I love you," and was signed Jim Gifford, court records said.

The allegations also include thefts of jewelry, breaking into her home and reading her diary, and assaulting Churchey and a member of her family, court records said.

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