An Akron couple filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the owner and several employees of Akron Fright Fest, alleging they were assaulted in the R-rated haunted attraction in Springfield Township that closed last week.
Ryan Carr and Sarah Lelonek are listed as plaintiffs in the civil complaint filed in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
“... Mr. Carr was subjected to simulated rape, and both he and Ms. Lelonek were roughly grabbed, pushed and shoved with such force that they suffered physical injuries,” the complaint states. “They did not consent to this offensive acts.”
Melanie Lake Inc., doing business as Akron Fright Fest at Kim Tam Park, along with owner Jeremy Caudill and eight owners, employees and agents of Akron Fright Fest whose names are listed as John/Jane Does, are listed as defendants.
A spokesman for the park reached by phone Wednesday night said the park and its management had no official comment because of the recent death of Caudill’s wife Melanie but would comment on the case in the future.
Customer complaints about simulated rapes prompted a Springfield Township police investigation and resulted in Caudill firing actors involved in the incidents, saying he was “shocked and appalled” at their behavior.
In an Oct. 25 statement, Caudill said, “I need to be with my family and I decided, given everything going on, that not opening was the wisest choice for me personally and professionally,” and also asked that people respect “my privacy and my family during a challenging personal time for all of us.”
According to the complaint, Carr, 25, a student, and Lelonek, 31, a human resources specialist, decided to attend Akron Fright Fest, which includes five haunted houses at 2881 Canton Road.
They had not been to the haunted attraction before they arrived around 9:15 p.m. Oct. 13. Four of the haunted houses were operating, and they chose to pay $25 each to go through three of the houses.
According to the complaint, they did not pay an additional $30 to go through a fourth house, which required guests to sign a waiver. They did not sign any waivers, the complaint states.
According to the complaint, in the first house, the first unnamed employee told Lelonek to “get on all fours,” but she refused and tried to get around him. The complaint alleges he shoved her into a plywood wall “with enough force to cause the plywood to shake.”
The suit states he again told her to get on all fours, but she again refused, got around him and left the room. According to the complaint, the incident injured Lelonek’s shoulder.
Before entering the second haunted house, an employee reportedly told them they could be touched in the house, which the complaint states is the only time they were warned about physical contact.
In that house was a maze, where Carr got stuck at a dead end. An employee reportedly told him, “You can get through if you lick my nipples.” Carr retraced his steps and exited.
According to the lawsuit, also in the second haunted house was a “giant tank of what looked like live rats,” which guests had to crawl underneath to get through the house.
The complaint alleges an employee told Lelonek she could hold one of the rats if she “lick[ed] its butthole.”
In the third haunted house, the second unnamed employee listed in the complaint allegedly grabbed Carr and Lelonek by their shoulders, shook them, screamed at them and followed them into the next room, which included a plywood bed covered by a sheet that lifted up, either by mechanical means or a person operating it.
Lelonek got through the room, but the third unnamed employee listed in the complaint “roughly grabbed” Carr when he tried to leave the room, pulled him to the foot of the bed and pushed him down on it.
The complaint says the employee was “significantly larger” than Carr, at 6 feet or taller and 200 to 250 pounds. He also reportedly wore a mask and dark clothing.
The complaint alleges the employee said, “I’m gonna rape him,” before thrusting against Carr’s body. Carr’s shoulder was injured during the incident, the complaint says.
According to the complaint, employees’ actions appeared to be “deliberate, ‘scripted,’ and not spontaneous” as they called the couple “inbred, hillbilly hicks” and hurled other insults as the two left the third haunted house. “Multiple other guests” experienced similar incidents, the suit says.
According to the suit, three employees committed or caused assault, battery and emotional distress and Akron Fright Fest, Caudill and the other five employees are vicariously liable for the conduct of the first three employees and failed to property train and supervise the first three employees.
Carr and Lelonek are asking for compensatory damages exceeding $25,000, punitive damages exceeding $25,000 and reasonable attorney fees and associated costs.
Attorneys for Carr and Lelonek are listed as Rebecca Sremack and Billi Copeland King.
An attorney for Caudill and Akron Fright Fest is not listed in court records.
The operators announced the decision to close earlier Oct. 25 on the company’s Facebook page, which also included a link to a website that said Caudill’s wife, Melanie, was in hospice care.
She died Sunday, according to an obituary, also linked to on the Facebook page. A vigil was held Wednesday night at Melanie Lake at Kim Tam Park, and her funeral is scheduled for Thursday morning.
Beacon Journal writer Emily Mills can be reached at 330-996-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org and @EmilyMills818.