Saturday, August 25, 2007

Notoriety some guests bring irks motel owner

Staff Writer

PORT ORANGE -- Most people want their 15 minutes of fame if they can get it.

Not Cindy McClellan, the owner of a motel where serial killer Aileen Wuornos stayed years ago. And where this month two men suspected of killing a woman, then chopping up and discarding her body parts, kept themselves under the radar for several weeks.

McClellan, proprietor of the 10-room Fairview Motel at 5964 S. Ridgewood Ave., an out-of-the-way inn at the foot of Rose Bay, is not exactly proud of her inn's notorious former guests.

The 44-year-old McClellan -- who came here from New Hampshire three years ago and bought the motel as a business opportunity -- says she runs a tight ship and tries hard to screen potential guests.

"If they cause the least bit of trouble here, they're out," she says, motioning toward Ridgewood.

The problem is, if a criminal is polite and well-behaved, McClellan reasoned, how can you tell?

Police have been called to the motel several times this year -- by McClellan -- for problems. But two other motels just north on U.S. 1 have been visited by police a lot more, records show.

Years ago, Wuornos, who killed seven men between 1989 and 1990, stayed in room No. 9 at the Fairview for several months. For the murderer, who was executed by lethal injection in 2002, the Fairview was home, the place where she rested her head after nights of shooting men to death.

"I had nothing to do with that (Wuornos)," McClellan says. "I did not own the motel then."

Occasionally, McClellan said, she will get the star-struck guest who wants to stay in the same room where the female killer lived.

Earlier this week, the Fairview was once again in the news. McClellan was dismayed to learn that two New York men who stayed in room No. 4 for several weeks were wanted in the grisly murder of a New York woman whose head was found in a west Broward County canal.

Standing in the sunlit parking lot of her motel just a few hundred yards from Rose Bay on Thursday, McClellan said she was at least grateful that none of the atrocities ever occurred at the Fairview.

"They were just hiding out here," McClellan said, referring to the nefarious Wuornos and the recent guests.. "No one ever did anything here."

Noticeably uncomfortable with the Fairview's notoriety, McClellan said she could only surmise that criminal types have been drawn to her place because of its location.

"It's a quiet place and kind of out of the way," she said. "It's not like in the center of things. It's the last place here (Port Orange) before you get on the bridge and go into New Smyrna Beach."

Indeed, Wuornos lived at the Fairview quietly enough until she was arrested at a bar down the street in January 1991.

The same held true for accused killers Robert Mackie and Paul Trucchio, charged with first-degree murder in the death of 41-year-old Lorraine Hatzakorzian.

Port Orange police and investigators with the Broward County Sheriff's Office said the two men dismembered Hatzakorzian during a drive from New York to Florida. While detectives believe the suspects scattered Hatzakorzian's body parts as they drove into the state, her head was found April 28.

Several weeks after the murder occurred, investigators here were tipped off that Mackie and Trucchio had thrown the license tags from Hatzakorzian's pickup into Rose Bay. Her truck, meanwhile, ended up at a scrap yard in Bunnell, police said.

And all the while, the suspects lived quietly and politely at the Fairview.

"They were on their best behavior," McClellan said, shaking her head. "They just looked like regular guys."

A walk around the inn reveals a clean, neat locale that looks cozy, in a 1950s-style, mom-and-pop kind of way. There are planters outside almost every room, white plastic chairs and a sign that prohibits spitting that McClellan said she inherited from previous owners.

The rooms are $40 and up, depending on what events are going on in the area, and McClellan does everything herself except during Speed and Bike weeks, when she hires a maid service.

"I work hard to run a clean, quiet place," McClellan says as she shows off one of the rooms. "I'm not here to play."

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