Phil Trexler

This isn’t your ordinary water fight between two old neighbors.

In this not-so-friendly battle on Akron’s North Hill, one resident about to turn 70 years old suffered disfiguring neck and arm injuries.

His neighbor, already 70, is facing felony assault charges and a potential prison sentence.

The weapon of choice: a power washer.

After the dispute last month, Kenneth Grether has a foot-long scar extending from his chin to his right ear. Another scar, and potential nerve damage, riddle his left wrist.

The dispute on Oakland Avenue started June 14, when Grether’s next-door neighbor, Edwin Heatherly, sprayed dirty water onto Grether’s house and garden while using the high-pressure hose to clean an outdoor grill, according to a police report.

A five-foot wooden fence that runs along the property line is all that separates the neighbors, who have lived next to each other for about 33 years.

At first, Grether, who is deaf and cannot speak, tried yelling and then used his own hose to get Heatherly’s attention, spraying water through the fence. Grether told police Heatherly retaliated by poking the pressure hose through the fence and unloading more water.

In an interview Friday, Grether communicated that he then tried to grab the pressure hose to defend himself. He said Heatherly used the hose as a weapon, jabbing it repeatedly into Grether’s face and hand.

Susie Heatherly, 61, called police after hearing her husband and neighbor fighting.

Grether, who is retired on Social Security, wrote during an interview that he suffered heavy blood loss from the neck and wrist lacerations. He added that water cut through his skin and the nozzle penetrated his wrist and he still has trouble gripping and lifting objects.

He wound up spending about three days in the hospital and has incurred more than $40,000 in medical bills. He is unsure whether Medicare will cover the expense.

“I was really scared I would die,” Grether wrote. “[But] I can’t kill him. [Heatherly’s] not worth it.”

At first Heatherly was cited by police with misdemeanor assault.

But after city prosecutors reviewed the case and the photos of his injuries, the charges were elevated to felonious assault with a weapon, which carries a potential eight-year prison term.

“Mr. Grether was hit in the face with this pressure washer and permanently disfigured,” said Akron police Capt. Daniel Zampelli. “That’s why the charges were increased.”

According to police, Heatherly was recently hospitalized and did not appear in Akron Municipal Court as scheduled Wednesday. A warrant for his arrest is pending while he is being treated.

No one answered the door Friday at the Heatherly home.

Cheryl Crabtree, Grether’s niece, said she visited her uncle in the emergency room while he was being treated after the fight. She said she thought Grether had been stabbed.

“And here it was, a power washer,” she said Friday. “I couldn’t believe it. There was so much blood. The gurney was soaked in blood. If no one had called the police, he would have bled to death.”

Heatherly and Grether, who is divorced, had gotten along fairly well for the first three decades they lived next door to each other, Crabtree said while answering for her uncle. However, after Heatherly bought the power washer about five years ago, the two men have feuded.

Grether wrote that Heatherly has intentionally sprayed chemicals with the power washer into his garden and onto his house. He told his niece he intends to move from the neighborhood.

“I never trouble his side,” Grether wrote.

Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or ptrexler@thebeaconjournal.com.