Brandon Norris of the Malheur County Sheriff's Office works with a crew on Saturday, April 30, to clean up property on Alameda Drive that has been the source of complaints for years. (The Enterprise/LES ZAITZ)
ONTARIO – One of the most notorious eyesores in Malheur County underwent a transformation Saturday as crews tackled garbage, debris and abandoned cars at a home across from Alameda Elementary School.
The change caps a sad three-year saga involving a family dealing with mental illness, squatters and police calls.
Cody Easom of Boise, whose parents owned the home, told the Enterprise Sunday that he now intends to sell the property.
County officials say the three-bedroom home at 1337 Alameda Drive is uninhabitable, damaged by fire and occupied in recent times with no electricity or running water.
“The neighbors have been living through hell,” said Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe.
The property sits just outside Ontario city limits, putting the duty of policing the place on Wolfe and his agency.
For years, Charlotte and Irvin Easom cared for their second son, Cory, at the home.
Cody Easom said his brother has needed care since nearly drowning as a child, resulting in mental health issues.
He said his parents were the caretakers of his brother. His mother died in 2017 and his father died in February 2019, leaving Cory Easom alone at the home.
“That’s when the wheels started to fall off,” Wolfe said.
A log of police calls shows repeated visits to the property in subsequent years for reports of assaults, trespass, drug activity and theft.
In May 2019, the Ontario Fire Department responded to a fire in the home, evacuating two people and two cats.
“Given the amount of debris scattered throughout the residence, we decided that an attack through the roof would be safer for firefighters,” according to a fire department account.
Firefighters reported it appeared someone had been living in the attic at the home.
“There were candles throughout the area,” the fire report said.
That August, Malheur County officials ordered the property be cleaned up.
The abatement order said the property constitutes “a public nuisance” that is “unsightly and degrades the appearance of the area” and is a “detriment to the general welfare of the people of Malheur County.”
In October 2019, county officials hired contractors to remove garbage and other debris at a cost of $9,128. The county later put a lien on the property to one day recover the costs.
Wolfe said others camped on the property off and on in travel trailers.
“They would run extension cords to one neighbor’s property to take power. They connected a garden hose to a neighbor’s water,” Wolfe said.
Deputies were dispatched to the property on nearly a monthly basis, according to call logs.
Last October, Malheur County stepped in again to help, this time advancing $3,000 for legal help for Cody Easom to deal with his father’s estate. The county expects that to be repaid when the property is sold.
In March, Cody Easom petitioned the Malheur County Circuit Court to be appointed his brother’s guardian. He wrote in court papers that Cory Easom “lacks the capacity for addressing basic [needs] such as appropriate housing, selfcare, and maintaining a healthy living environment.”
Circuit Court Judge Lung Hung granted the petition but turned down a request to commit Cory Easom for treatment.
“Lack of hygiene and frequent contact with the homeless, in of itself, does not create probable cause [of] serious harm or danger. It is the court’s understanding that these conditions have been present for a long period of time and there is no evidence of serious harm that has occurred,” Hung said in his March 30 order.
Cody Easom said that mental health professionals subsequently evaluated his brother and that he recently moved his brother from the home to a treatment facility.
“He needs care he can’t give himself,” Easom said.
That cleared the way for county officials to move in on the property.
On Saturday, two front-end loaders bulldozed mounds of debris – garbage, car parts, garden equipment and move. A crew of those fulfilling community service requirements waded in to sort garbage, supervised by Sgt. Dave Kesey of the Malheur County Sheriff’s Department.
Malheur County Judge Dan Joyce showed up too, ready with work gloves to pitch in.
Sheriff Brian Wolfe said crews would have to return for a second time to finish the work after removing debris that filled two 30-yard drop boxes and three dump trucks.
“I greatly appreciate what all the people did,” Easom said on Sunday.
He said he is glad his brother is finally getting appropriate care and the neighbors get relief.
“All my brother’s done that is wrong is be mentally ill,” Easom said.
Contact Editor Les Zaitz: [email protected]
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