Some no longer want park named after Vietnam veteran

SHEFFIELD LAKE, Ohio - Some residents want the name of a Vietnam War veteran removed from a park because the man was convicted of a sexual offense.

The 5-acre park was named for Warren Guenther in 1974, five years after he lost his fingers and an ear and suffered burns on 27 percent of his body in a tank explosion in Vietnam.

Guenther was accused in 2002 of fondling a 33-year-old woman at a senior center where he had volunteered for 18 years. A jury convicted him in 2004 of sexual imposition, and he was sentenced to three years' probation.

Guenther, who now lives in nearby Avon, said he is proud to have his name on the park in his northeast Ohio hometown, where he once served on the City Council. He has appealed his conviction and maintains his innocence.

"I don't have any fingers," said Guenther, who needed 68 surgeries to rebuild his hands during a three-year hospital stay. "I can't even do these things to my wife."

The city's Park Board discussed the issue this week.

Board chairman Len Smith said a handful of residents have complained, but the board won't entertain a name change until the court case concludes.

Robert Ebenschweller, another former councilman, wrote a letter to the park board to express his concerns. The conviction makes it inappropriate to have a park in Guenther's honor, he said.

"A person is judged by all events in his life," he said.

Ray Hunady, commander of the Sheffield Lake Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8686, said it would be a disservice to all veterans to remove Guenther's name from the park.

"This has nothing to do with his life afterwards," Hunady said.

Sheffield Lake is 22 miles west of Cleveland.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.