Photo in paper leads to 8-year fight to get girl's identity back

Part 1: Kailey's fight for her name
Prison name change (Source WOIO)
Prison name change (Source WOIO)
Source WOIO
Source WOIO

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OH (WOIO) - A feature article in a local newspaper led to a nightmare for a Lorain County family.

A convicted criminal took the name of a 10-year-old girl. Police said he had an infatuation with her.

The nightmare has dragged on for years.

TIMELINE: See how story developed over 10 years

Kailey DeMarco, of North Ridgeville, is 21-years-old now. She's putting herself through college with the help of a waitressing job.

But the story started a decade ago, when gymnastics was Kailey's passion.

"Once I became part of the team, it's like I was a part of another family," DeMarco said.

At 10 years old, DeMarco excelled at gymnastics.

She was a Level 5 and placed first in the Northeast Ohio Gymnastic League, with an overall score of 35.00 in her age group.

The local newspaper even did a feature story about her.

"They came to the gym and took pictures, and they made a full story about it. I was so excited, I felt like a superstar," she said laughing.

The story ran March 2005. Kailey's parents were so proud, they framed the newspaper clipping.

Three years later, that story would come to haunt them.

A knock on the DeMarco's door one day changed everything.

Police told Kailey's mom Ronda that her daughter may have interacted with a pedophile.

"Things are racing through your mind, like 'who could it be?' Was it a teacher, was it a coach?" Ronda DeMarco said.

Ronda took her daughter, now 13 years old, to the police station.

"When I went in, they slid a picture toward me and said, 'do you know this man?'" Kailey DeMarco said.

Kailey said she didn't recognize him.

North Ridgeville Police told her they had arrested him. His name was Kailey DeMarco.

"They told me that he had an unhealthy obsession with me, to where he wanted to become me, so he went to a court a month after that newspaper article had come out and said he legally changed his name to Kailey DeMarco," Kailey DeMarco said.

'We just saw a little 10-year-old that had a passion for a sport. And he saw something completely different," Ronda DeMarco said.

North Ridgeville Police arrested the suspect, Kailey David DeMarco, for voyeurism in October 2008 after Subway workers found him snapping photos of young children in the restaurant.

They found out his birth name was Harold David Hassenruck.

Detectives searched his apartment and found a collection of photographs of young children and that newspaper article on Kailey.

"He had it cut out, and he had words taped around it, and he had it in a folder laminated in his apartment," Kailey DeMarco said. 

When North Ridgeville Police looked up Hassenruck in their system, they realized they had another open case on him. He was being investigated for child rape.

During a police interview with Hassenruck, they said he eventually confessed to raping the 3-year-old boy.

Police didn't find any evidence that Harold David Hassenruck, who was 32 years old at the time and now known as Kailey David DeMarco, ever physically stalked Kailey.

But that didn't ease her fears.

"They did a profile on him from where it started, and how bad his obsession got," Kailey DeMarco said. "And it got to the point to where they said if it hadn't gotten to the point that it did, he could've come after me."

With Hassenruck behind bars waiting trial, the biggest problem for the DeMarco family now was getting his name changed.

Kailey's mom Ronda couldn't believe he could just take her identity.

So she got a court order to change it back. She says she was shocked Hassenruck could take her daughter's name in the first place.

"They told me you can just legally change your name and be anyone you want to be," Ronda DeMarco said.

Hassenruck pleaded guilty to raping a young boy. He was sent to prison still listed under Kailey's name.

"So I would Google my name, and all these court documents would come up and stuff that he did that wasn't me," Kailey DeMarco said.

It turns out this was just the beginning of the nightmare for Kailey and her family.

Kailey's mom Ronda's court order wasn't enforced while Hassenruck was in jail.

After countless phone calls and dead ends, she decided to hire a lawyer.

"I had to pay someone to get her name back. You don't get to keep her name. I gave her that name. It's not yours, it's hers," Ronda DeMarco said.

The fight to win Kailey's name back stretched on. Six years after the DeMarco family first found out Hassenruck had changed his name, Ronda found out charges of rape and burglary were still under Kailey DeMarco.

"We just thought it was done. It was like, OK, good. It wasn't until a few years later, we discovered everything's still in her name," Ronda DeMarco said.

Ronda took out another court order, waded through more red tape, and Hassenruck's name was changed on most records.

But even now, Ronda's not sure if Hassenruck's Social Security information has been changed back.

Cleveland 19 Reporter Sara Goldenberg contacted the regional Social Security office out of Chicago to find out more in early January.

Officials said the process is underway to notify him he must change his name. They said they contacted the prison after our phone calls as well as the nearest social security office, and they expected to have it taken care of.

But then Cleveland 19 was told Hassenruck refused to sign a privacy release, so officials with Social Security would not be able to tell us whether or not Hassenruck actually changed his name back.

Hassenruck is set to be released from prison next year -- October 2017.

"It's terrifying. It's like once I get out of college and I'm free to start my life, I have that weighing on my shoulders," Kailey DeMarco said.

All of this has taken its toll on Kailey. She started suffering from anxiety.

"I feel like I'm always more cautious on where I go, what I do and who I'm with," she said.

And her mom is left with a warning for other parents.

"There's predators out there, you don't even know. Look how he get her name, out of a newspaper article," Ronda DeMarco said. "You think why not? I would think twice about that now. Maybe you run the article without the picture."

To Kailey, it seems like no matter what her family does, she'll always be linked to a man she sees as a monster.

"It's crazy that it was one person who did all this and he did it without even owning a computer," she said.

Cleveland 19 requested an interview with Harold Hassenruck through the Madison Correctional Facilty. Our request was denied by the prison for "victim reasons and other concerns" including HIPAA privacy laws.

When Hassenruck gets out of prison next year, he'll be on probation for five years and must register as a Tier III sex offender, making him subject to community notification.

Friday on Cleveland 19 News, we talked with the mother of the boy Hassenruck admitted to sexually assaulting. Her son is speaking up about how he fears for his safety.

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