By Ron Jackson and Sheila Stogsdill
BRAY - Michael Thelemann struggled Wednesday to understand why a homemade sign staked in his front yard caused such an uproar in his neighborhood. Neighbors are equally baffled by Thelemann's attitude.
Thelemann's sign offered a $1,000 reward for a virgin bride between the ages of 12 and 24 who can bear him children.
"I'm just somebody who is getting up there in years, and I'm looking for a born-again, God-fearing virgin between the ages of 12 and 24 who can bear me children," said Thelemann, 45. "What's the problem? I just think I have some wicked neighbors."
Thelemann posted the sign on Sunday.
So far he has had no offers, only protests.
"I feel like I'm living down the street from a pedophile," said Christy Sternadel, a neighbor. "We want him out of this neighborhood. Who asks for a 12-year-old virgin bride? I would think he could get arrested for soliciting a minor."
Neighbors flooded the Stephens County sheriff's department with complaints.
"We are in the Bible belt, and we needed to address the situation, so I sent out two deputies," said Bob Hill, Stephens County undersheriff. "But the sign was gone by the time we got there."
Thelemann claims his sign was stolen. He posted a new sign Wednesday, but omitted minor ages while adding that he doesn't want a "pig-worshipping, heathen, white-supremacist wife."
Hill said the matter is under investigation. But Stephens County District Attorney Gene Christian doesn't think Thelemann has broken any laws.
In Oklahoma, individuals under 18 need parental consent to marry.
"His timing is awfully bad," said Christian, alluding to the recent abductions and murders of girls in Tulsa and Purcell. "But he hasn't crossed any legal lines yet just by putting up a sign. Now, if he actually acts upon his reward by soliciting money to a minor and drawing them away from their parents, then that's another story."
Neighbors, meanwhile, remain braced for something bad.
"I'm scared," said LaDonna Solomon. "I have a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old, and an 8-year-old -- all girls. I'm truly scared."
Thelemann, who was divorced in 1989, doesn't equate a 12- or 14-year-old bride with sexual child abuse."My grandmother got married at 14 to a much older man," Thelemann said.
If all else fails, I have a sneaking suspicion that this guy could make a killing selling something on eBay. Come to think of it... he should try listing this on eBay.