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Archive for Friday, February 22, 2002

Deli owner faces charges for videotaping women

February 22, 2002

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— A Lawrence man faces charges in Franklin County for allegedly videotaping women in the bathroom of a bar and restaurant he owns in Ottawa.

Darrin A. Votaw, 31, 904 Deer Run Drive, is free on $5,000 bond after being charged Thursday in Franklin County District Court with nine counts of eavesdropping.

Votaw was arrested about 5 p.m. Tuesday after Ottawa Police took a search warrant to G. Willikers Deli and Bar, 306 S. Main St. Officers later searched Votaw's Lawrence home, Ottawa Police Chief Jeff Herrman said.

Police aren't saying what they found, but they do say they have a videotape they are keeping as evidence. An investigation was begun recently after information was passed on to them by a concerned resident, police Capt. Ron Puterbaugh said. He declined to elaborate.

Nine women are listed as victims in the charges filed against Votaw.

"We are currently in the process of identifying more people who might be victims," Herrman said. "We are not talking about a much larger number of victims."

Votaw was part-owner of G. Willikers, police said. The restaurant was shut down after police arrived Tuesday and remained closed Wednesday. It reopened Thursday.

"Darrin will not be back in here again," said Steve McMurray, 54, who identified himself as one of four partners  not including Votaw  in the business.

McMurray, without elaborating, said Votaw was no longer considered a partner.

McMurray said all the restaurant's waitresses quit after learning of the videotape. McMurray and police wouldn't say whether the alleged victims were waitresses.

"I understand why they quit, but I've got to hire a whole new staff," McMurray said.

Only McMurray and another employee were operating G. Willikers on Thursday.

McMurray said he was working in the restaurant's kitchen when police came in Tuesday.

"Everybody was quite shocked," he said. "I'm still shocked. I've known Darrin for a long time and I never saw any indication of something like this."

McMurray said he wants to assure customers there is no videotaping still going on at the restaurant. He said he has even switched the men's and women's bathrooms to help ease any fears.

The investigation at G. Willikers stirred anger and concern in the Ottawa community, police said.

"We've had a lot of calls yesterday and today about this," Herrman said Thursday. "People are wanting to know if they are on the tape. We aren't going to have an extremely large number of victims."

At the same time, McMurray said the lunchtime crowd at G. Willikers on Thursday "was a good one." He said he hoped customers would continue to return.

One of the customers Thursday, Mark Rieger, 45, Ottawa, commended McMurray for the job he was doing in light of recent events.

"This is a good place and the food has always been good," said Rieger, who described himself as a regular at G. Willikers. "I hope the waitresses will come back."

O'dell's, 733 Mass., in Lawrence, used to be a G. Willikers. Owner Monty Shanks said Thursday he divested himself from the group that owns the Ottawa restaurant last August for various reasons. He changed the name of the restaurant on Sept. 1, he said.

"I don't want people associating my place with what happened there (in Ottawa)," Shanks said. "There certainly is nothing like that going on in my place."

Votaw couldn't be reached for comment.

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