Jamaica Plain day care operator faces charges she tried to run over rector and parishioner; church and owner have been feuding over lease
The operator of a Jamaica Plain day care center today pleaded not guilty to three charges stemming from a May 6 confrontation where she allegedly drove her SUV towards parishioners and argued with the pastor of Our Lady of the Cedars of Lebanon church.
Linda Chery-Valentin appeared in West Roxbury Municipal Court, where she faced two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of assault and battery. She was released on personal recognizance and ordered to stay away from Reverend George El-Khalli, the rector of the Maronite church.
According to a Boston police report, Chery-Valentin became enraged with parishioners on Sunday May 6, when they parked cars blocking the entrance to the parking lot for the church and for her Arc-En-Ciel Daycare center.
Parishioners told police that Chery-Valentin tried to run them over as they were directing traffic at the church, which was holding its Mother’s Day celebration that Sunday, one week earlier than the standard Mother’s Day holiday.
The parishioners “both reported that they were helping direct traffic in the church parking lot when the suspect … drove towards them at a high rate of speed,” police said in a report. The parishioners told police the driver “only missed them because they jumped out of the way.’’
El-Khalli said in a telephone interview that the cause of the turbulence was Chery-Valentin herself. “She went on a rampage against the parish,’’ he said. “She almost ran over two parishioners in her car. That’s why police arrested her.’’
But Chery-Valentin’s civil attorney, G. Emil Ward of Brighton, said in a telephone interview today his client and the church have been fighting in Suffolk Superior Court over a new lease for the day care center since 2010.
Chery-Valentin contends she was promised by a former church leader that she would be given a lease extension if she paid for repairs out of her own pocket, but the church has instead moved to evict her, according to Ward.
“I’m asking that they give us the lease they promised,’’ said Ward. “And they counter-claimed with an eviction action.’’
According to Ward, the church is under a Suffolk Superior Court order not to lock Chery-Valentin out of the property, an injunction that was in effect on May 6.
Chery-Valentin told police that she spent $5,000 to advertise the open house, and then arrived on the grounds to discover that the entrance to the day care was blocked off.
Police said they observed three cars blocking off the entrance to the parking lot, and they were told that the parking lot was closed because of the Mother’s Day celebration. Police said they saw numerous children playing in the parking lot.
Chery-Valentin told police she had been a tenant at the church for 10 years and never touched any parishioners during the Sunday confrontation.
El-Khalli said Chery-Valentin angrily confronted him in his rectory on the same grounds as the church and the day care on May 6. “She came to the house, to my house, and she threatened me,’’ El-Khalli said. “I had to ask her to leave.’’
El-Khalli said some parishioners and their children have told him they fear coming to the church because of what happened. “She is ruining my flock,’’ he said. “We want peace of mind for her and for us. We hope she finds a different location.’’
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