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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Woman charged for unfit dwelling

Friday, June 20, 2003

Linda Messmer photo

Back yard of Lisa Goodpasture shows trash and an unsecured refrigerator. Goodpasture said she tried to clean up yard but has no means to dispose of trash.

Lisa Goodpasture said she has tried to clean up her yard but can't do it without some help.

A misdemeanor charge was recently filed in Clay Circuit Court by Clay County Prosecutor David Thomas against Lisa Goodpasture, of 8210 S. Waterworks Road, for occupying a dwelling unfit for human habitation.

Bill Hale, registered environmental health specialist of the Clay County Health Department, said criminal action is taken only in extreme cases.

Hale cited Indiana Health Code 16-41-20-1 Dwelling unfit for human habitation Sec. 1: A dwelling is unfit for human habitation when the dwelling is dangerous or detrimental to life or health because of any of the following: 1. Want of repair. 2. Defects in the drainage, plumbing, lighting, ventilation or construction. 3. Infection with contagious disease. 4. The existence on the premises of an unsanitary condition that is likely to cause sickness among occupants of the dwelling.

"The residence in question has a hugh accumulation of trash, garbage, automobiles, tires," Hale explained to The Times Thursday. There have been numerous complaints from area residents.

"The property owners have received two certified letters, each giving them 30 days to clean up the property. We've been working on this for about a year," Hale continued. "It looked like no effort was made to correct the situation. As a matter of fact it appeared that the property had gotten worse. So we turned it over to the prosecutor's office."

Prosecutor David Thomas verified that misdemeanor charges had been filed against Goodpasture. Thomas reiterated that the situation has to be extreme to be taken to court.

Thomas cautioned that unmowed grass, high weeds or even a lot of trash in the yard may not mean it is legally unfit for human habitation.

"The legislature is very restrictive and will not allow people to be put in jail just for a trashy house or yard.

It has to be to the point of maybe causing a health danger," Thomas said.

Neighbors, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, were asked about the situation.

"It's a health hazard over there," one nearby resident said. "It's not a good situation. I think there's three or four little children that live there."

Another neighbor said, "I can't say I've seen rats but I've seen rat sized animals crawling under slats laid down in the front for a walkway.

They'd stick bags of trash on the front porch and stray dogs would rip into it. It was rotten garbage. The smell was so bad we couldn't open our windows."

Thomas said a misdemeanor carries a penalty of 0-180 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. Goodpasture should have an initial hearing within a couple weeks.

The Times talked with Goodpasture at her residence on Friday. Goodpasture appeared surprised when asked about the situation.

"I didn't even know a charge has been filed against me," she said. "I'm a single mother, I haven't been able to afford trash pick-up and I can't burn it. I'm on city water and the trash pick up goes to White Rock Road but won't come here and I'm just a few blocks away. If they don't help me with the trash pick-up what am I supposed to do?"

Planning and Zoning Administrator Michele Driscoll was asked about the Brazil City trash pick-up.

"Brazil City only picks up trash within the city limits," she said, "so it would not have jurisdiction to pick up trash on south Waterworks Road because it is out of the city limits."

Goodpasture claims she did try to clean up her property. "After I got the certified letter, he (Bill Hale) said he'd be back in a week. We did clean it up and he never came back. The only thing we didn't get rid of was the refrigerator and some other appliances."

When asked about the large amount of trash currently in her back yard Goodpasture said, "I don't have any way to get rid of it. I don't know what to do with it."

"I'd like to talk to him (Hale) and see what I need to do to change things. I have never been in trouble with the law. I never even heard of a charge like that."

According to Hale, however, he returned to the property one week after Goodpasture received a certified letter from the county, and not only was the property not cleaned, it was worse.

When asked on Friday, he said there was no refrigerator on the property during his last inspection in April.

He said that it is something evidently newly placed there.

"The property has never been cleaned. The neighbors have a right to not live by this, that's my job," Hale said. "If she makes no attempt to clean it up, I have to file the charge."

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