Penn Hills couple paints house Pride colors to combat alleged harassment by neighbors |
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Michael Divittorio
Sherry Lau and Lisa Licata's Penn Hills home they painted on Sept. 5, 2018.

A Penn Hills couple found a colorful way to respond to alleged neighbor harassment.

Sherry Lau, 56, and Lisa Licata, 43, have painted their Fourth Street house the colors of the LGBTQ Pride flag in response to homophobic behavior they claim to have endured for the past three years.

“I didn’t think it would go this far,” Lau said. “This is a statement. We’re not going anywhere. We’re tired of the harassment and the bull crap that we have to put up with. We’re taking a stand. We just want to be left alone.”

The couple claim Ron Makay and his wife, Iolanda Wieczorkowki, called them anti-gay slurs. Makay and Wieczorkowki declined to comment.

Lau, a carpenter, and Licata, a stay-at-home mom to her 13-year-old autistic son, said their neighbors made a bigoted comment when they first moved in. To avoid confrontation, the couple told their neighbors they were mother and daughter.

Licata said Makay learned a little more than a year later that Lau and Licata were married, and that’s when the harassment started.

“It’s never a conversation,” Licata said. “They start yelling. We yell back … I don’t want to be friends. I just want to be left alone.”

The ladies erected a fence and painted it Pride colors about two years ago, thinking the structure would help curb the harassment.

Damian Buccilli, municipal planner, said Makay came to a zoning hearing board meeting July 25 when Lau sought a variance for her backyard fence. An ordinance limits the height of a fence facing an alley or street to be 4 feet. Lau wanted her fence to be 6 feet.

Makay wanted “the color of the fence to be limited,” Buccilli said. There is no ordinance limiting fence color. The variance was approved, and the couple was able to paint their fence in a rainbow pattern.

Makay recently applied for the same variance for his backyard fence to go from 4 to 6 feet. His hearing is set for Sept. 26.

After the fence went up, the confrontations continued, and things came to a head July 22 when Makay allegedly shot Lau’s 3-year-old pit bull mix, Niko, with a BB gun.

Penn Hills police charged Makay with cruelty to animals and discharging air rifles in connection with the incident.

The couple decided shortly after to paint the side of their house rainbow as well.

Those charges were held for court by Penn Hills Magistrate Anthony DeLuca Sept. 10.

Lau testified her dog was urinating on a fence in her yard when shortly after, Niko yelped and limped away.

She said she took the dog to the vet the next day and found two pellets allegedly from Makay’s gun in her yard. The shot caused a bruise and did not break the fur.

Police Officer George Daniels testified he spoke with Makay, who admitted to owning an air rifle and firing it the day in question. Makay did not testify at the hearing.

“This is a neighbor dispute,” said Cory Ricci, Makay’s attorney. “This is not a criminal matter. Once we get discovery (for trial), including the video, he will be exonerated.”

Ricci also denied his client made any slurs or derogatory comments to Licata and Lau.

Licata said things have quieted down since Makay was charged, and was pleased with the court’s outcome.

“We have sufficient evidence for it to be held for trial,” she said. “Ever since he got his paperwork for the hearing, they’ve been quiet. I wish it didn’t take an attorney for them to leave us alone and just stop.”

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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