To hear neighbors tell it, Roberta Madison isn’t the most pleasant of sorts. Unless you’re partial to racial slurs, false 911 calls, and being flashed by a 63-year-old woman.
Our saga begins on Howell Street in St. Paul’s Hamline-Midway area, where Madison has lived for 30 years. In 2016, new neighbors moved in next door. Madison treated them to a critique of their trees, which she called to be removed.
But instead of waiting for the newcomers to act, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She called a tree company "likely pretending to be the homeowner," according to charges that would later be filed. Workers arrived and began cutting before a neighbor intervened, and the unwitting property owner got the bill.
It would only escalate from there.
If you believe police, the next few years amounted to a serial drama known as The Neighbor From Hell, with Madison playing the starring role. She's accused of calling 911 to report a “sex operation” next door, claiming “suspicious” people of a “different race” were up to unsavory acts. She also called in false claims to the fire department.
Then came the threats, which police say included racial slurs and warnings that she’d have the neighbors deported. These were accompanied by glass chucked in their yard, snow piled at the end of their driveway, and a sex toy affixed to their fence. She also set off her car alarm when she wanted to drive the neighbors indoors, police say.
The unnamed victims responded by putting up security cameras. Madison was caught on video exposing herself and making obscene gestures toward them.
In the fall of 2017, the neighbors finally got a restraining order, which Madison promptly and repeatedly violated. So in March of last year, St. Paul charged her with stalking, violating a harassment order, indecent exposure, and disorderly conduct.
It wasn’t the first time she faced charges. She pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in 2010 for violating another neighbor’s restraining order, when she was accused of throwing feces at a home. That neighbor moved two blocks away to be free of her, only for the harassment to continue.
In the latest case, Madison tried to counter with a restraining order of her own. It was denied due to lack of supporting evidence.
Yet the wheels of justice move slowly, and the court docket is filled with matters more pressing. So the St. Paul City Attorney's Office has agreed to a plea of just one count of violating the restraining order. She will serve but a year of probation and be forced to undergo a psych evaluation.
The bad part is that she’s still free to roam Hamline-Midway. The good part is that if she continues to take her star turn as the Neighbor from Hell, her probation can be revoked, finally bringing to a close this enduring drama.