Police: Dead animals dumped in Main Line dispute

The frontof 117 Booth Road, with neighbor 119 hidden by trees on the left. ( Ed Hille / Staff Photographer )
The frontof 117 Booth Road, with neighbor 119 hidden by trees on the left. ( Ed Hille / Staff Photographer )
Posted: June 29, 2013

This is one wildlife video that probably won't turn up on Animal Planet anytime soon.

Police in Lower Merion say a security camera captured footage of two upscale Main Line real estate agents tossing dead mice and snakes onto the yard of their next-door neighbor's $1 million home on Booth Lane – all part of an alleged plot to sabotage its sale, because their house is also on the market.

Jonathan and Andrea Straub, who sell multi-million dollar homes for Prudential Fox & Roach, were also caught on video cutting branches off trees, knocking over "For Sale" signs and otherwise vandalizing the property, according to police, who cited them for disorderly conduct and harassment.

The Straubs' own home, a three-bedroom stucco with marble baths and a pool, was also listed for $1 million.

A Booth Lane neighbor, Regina Hunt, another high-end real estate agent, said the driveways of the two properties were right next to each other. The Straubs' "For Sale" sign was next to the one belonging to Mary Martell, whose home sits behind the Straubs. She was selling the home herself.

"I know Andrea Straub. It's hard to believe really. I don't know what's going on there," Hunt said.

Police received a complaint about the couple on June 20. They said Martell had been hospitalized but a house sitter told her someone had been knocking over the "For Sale" sign and stealing flyers advertising the property.

Martell then installed security cameras which showed the Straubs kicking over the signs, placing dead mice and snakes in the driveway and cutting branches from trees.

Police took the video to the Straubs and they confessed, said Lower Merion spokesman Tom Walsh.

Neither the Straubs nor Martell returned calls to their home phones or emails.

But Anthony List Jr., who said he was the Straubs' attorney, called the charges against them "absurd" and said they never threw dead animals on the property. There are dead mice and garden snakes all over the place, he said.

"This is spun out of control and is just absurd. This is a minor dispute with the caretaker guy," he said.

The tiff was over the "For Sale" signs, which he said may have violated township code. When the Straubs attempted to remove them, the caretaker threatened them, he said.

"This guy has gotten very confrontational," he said.

List said he couldn't understand what the hullabaloo was about.

"Isn't there better things going on in the news than neighbors removing real estate signs?" he asked, adding that Jonathan Straub only sells houses part-time and has a bottle packaging business.

Another lawyer for the couple, John List, Anthony's uncle, said the people on the video aren't recognizable and that the Straubs never admitted any wrongdoing to police.

"We're going to court" to fight the charges, he said.

"They are well thought of in the business community," he added.

On Booth Lane, where stately older homes stand with smaller but still elegant new ones, real estate roots run deep. Martell's late husband, Nicholas V. Martell, was also a real estate agent who co-founded Realen Homes in the 1970s, starting with apartments and growing into one of the Philadelphia area's biggest builders and best-known housing names.

Meanwhile, the Straubs' particular brand of salesmanship can't be good for business at Prudential's Haverford Station office where they worked. Office Manager Judy Getson seemed on edge after all the publicity.

"Is their license with Prudential Fox & Roach? Yes. I'm not going to say anything else. This conversation is over," she said before hanging up.

Hunt, the other Booth Lane real estate agent, said she had no explanation for the Straubs' actions but before she got off the phone she put in a plug for their normally quiet street.

"Booth Lane is a very prestigious street. There are older stone homes," she said, "and you can walk to Merion Cricket Club."


Contact Kathy Boccella at kboccella@phillynews.com, 610-313-8232 or follow @kathyboccella on Twitter.

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