Man admits he took photos of couple in hotel room

Saturday, January 24, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- A Columbia man accused of snapping photographs of a couple having sex in a St. Louis County hotel room said Friday he is no Peeping Tom -- he's a private investigator.

Timothy L. Chancellor, 36, of Columbia, sent the photographs to the couple and four other people with the same last name. He was charged Wednesday with three counts of invasion of privacy, a felony.

"This isn't Peeping Tom -- this is professional business," Chancellor told The Associated Press.

Chancellor was a investigator with the Missouri Department of Mental Health when the incident occurred in December 2002, but he was also moonlighting as a private investigator. He no longer works for the state but said he continues to operate his private eye business, Professional Investigation Service, in Columbia.

Officers said his actions might not have been considered illegal until the Missouri Legislature amended the law in 2002 to allow for such a charge. Prosecutors in the St. Louis area have used it only a few times.

"I don't want to think that my whole life has changed because of this, but it has," the woman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I've never felt more violated."

The incident began when the woman and her boyfriend, who asked not to be identified, checked into a hotel for a romantic evening. Then in October, an envelope arrived at the boyfriend's home. Inside, he found photocopies of six explicit pictures.

Included was the handwritten message, "What do you want me to do with these?"

Investigators say Chancellor admitted taking the photos. He said that the couple had left the drapes wide open and that he took the pictures to teach them a lesson about privacy, police said, noting that the photos were clearly taken through a gap in the curtain.

The experience shook the victims so much that they try to spend time at home in rooms without windows.

"I don't think I've ever felt completely alone since then," she said. "Even now it's hard for me to have an intimate moment with my boyfriend because I'm afraid someone is watching."

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