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Oklahoma City Landlord Groups Agree To Pay $1.25 Million In Sexual Harassment Case

Walter Ray Pelfrey
Walter Ray Pelfrey

A group of Oklahoma City landlords have agreed to pay $1.25 million in damages, plus a civil penalty, to female tenants after one landlord allegedly sexually harassed them while managing the properties for years.

Walter Ray Pelfrey is accused of demanding tenants engage in sexual acts in exchange for housing, reduced rent or to ignore overdue rent payments. He is also accused of threatening eviction and removing female tenants who refused his unwelcome comments and physical advances, as well as entering the homes of female tenants to continue his advances without consent.

Although Pelfrey died in 2018, the Fair Housing Act lawsuit was settled by Rosemarie Pelfrey and two investment companies — Omega Enterprises LLC and Pelfrey Investment Company Inc. — with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma.

In a statement, the acting U.S. Attorney of the Western District of Oklahoma Robert J. Troester, said for nearly 20 years, more than 40 tenants experienced sexual harassment when wanting a safe place to live.

"This settlement, which came after protracted litigation, sends a clear message that the Justice Department will not tolerate sexual harassment," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division. "No one should ever have to endure what the women in this case were subjected to."

In a separate incident in 2016, Pelfrey was charged with accessory after the fact and unlawful removal of a dead body or, in the alternative, desecration of a human corpse. He rented a storage unit to Reshawnda Durham, who hid a trunk containing her teenage daughter's corpse there.

Pelfrey was accused of later instructing his employees to clear out Durham's unit and delete her rental records. He also allegedly misled detectives that Durham was not renting storage space at his facility.

Anna Pope is a reporter covering agriculture and rural issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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