From the picture window in the front room, Joseph Montelon could see them approaching across the lawn.
He had been on the couch, soaking up a quiet moment on the tag end of an August afternoon. His wife was out on errands, his four-year-old daughter napping in back. Outside, the retreating sun tossed long shadows across the uniform spread of his Wickliffe neighborhood, a street of shoulder-to-shoulder one-story homes and middle-class families. Here, Montelon easily blended in with his surroundings: another average Joe with bills to pay and a patch of lawn to mow.
But life in Lake County was a second act for Montelon, a place where his name didn't carry the weight it did 50 miles down the coast in his hometown of Lorain. On that hushed summer evening in 2008, Montelon's past and present were due for a collision.
The men came in single file: six police officers fanning across Montelon's field of vision, heading for the side door. They wore bulletproof vests, and one shouldered a battering ram.
Montelon hauled over to the door and got it open before they had a chance to knock. Face to face with a stony wall of cops, he was told they were there to serve a search warrant. It's about the letters, they said.
"No, you guys are here for the boxes of information," he replied.
Montelon's hands were cuffed behind his back as the group started pulling the house apart. The posse was a mixed bag of law enforcement: members of the Wickliffe Police and his old employer, the Lorain PD. There was also a captain from the Lorain Sheriff's Office named Richard Resendez, whom Montelon knew when both were cops.
"Why did you attack me in those letters?" Resendez demanded. When Montelon didn't answer, he went on: "You're going to have a nice life once we're through with you."