Villager trapped in toxic relationship hires female legal eagle in felony case

Dairlyn Kelly

A 75-year-old Villager trapped in a years-long toxic relationship with her neighbor has entered a plea in an aggravated battery case.

Janet Zahorian this past week through her attorney entered a plea of not guilty to the felony charge in Sumter County Court. She has retained Dairlyn Kelly of KJ Law P.A., in Tavares, to represent her. Kelly is a former assistant state attorney.

Zahorian’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, 73-year-old Carl Rittenhouse, also is facing legal woes. He was arrested May 7 after he was spotted at Bonefish Grill on Wedgewood Lane in The Villages. He had been banned from the popular restaurant after he was caught in March keying a woman’s car in the parking lot.

Janet Zahorian

The day after Rittenhouse’s May 7 arrest, Zahorian landed behind bars on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Zahorian, who in 2014 and 2015 sought orders of protection against Rittenhouse, allegedly threw a piece of glass furniture at her neighbor, leaving him with two cuts on the side of his head, according to an arrest report. The two had been arguing over money he reportedly owed her.

The smiling couple posed together in a photo as recently as 2018. Those smiles did not offer any hint of their toxic relationship.

Carl Rittenhouse and Janet Zahorian in happier times in 2018.
Carl Rittenhouse

In 2016, Rittenhouse was convicted of terrorizing Zahorian, who was then battling cancer. He punched her and stole her hairpiece in one incident and in another attempt to intimidate Zahorian, stole her wig from her car while it was parked at the Waterfront Inn. Zahorian told deputies she had changed the locks on her home five times in 12 months and repeatedly changed the code on her garage.

Rittenhouse had been arrested in April 2014 on a charge of battery after an altercation with Zahorian in the Cherry Vale Villas. He was placed on one year’s probation, but Rittenhouse’s attorney was able to persuade the judge to terminate the probation early. It was terminated on Jan. 27, 2015.

Rittenhouse has been previously convicted of drunk driving, twice in 2007 and once in 2011.

In December 2014, he was cited for parking in a handicapped spot.