Modesto police arrest couple living with child in deplorable conditions

03/14/2013 3:40 PM

06/26/2013 2:30 PM

Police arrested a couple with a 3-year-old found living amid human waste and uncapped hypodermic needles in an abandoned home in north Modesto on Thursday.

Several weeks ago, police and officials from the city Neighborhood Preservation Unit began receiving complaints that squatters had moved into the abandoned home in the 700 block of West Union Avenue after the former owner died, said Sgt. Rick Applegate.

An investigation was launched to determine who owned the home; several notices were posted, but all were quickly removed once officials left.

Thursday, officers from the Crime Reduction Team went to board up the home with a contractor and city officials.

When officials went inside, they found the couple and the child living in the home in what officer John Wohler described as “horrid and very unsafe” conditions.

“There were uncapped needles all around the home,” he said. “There was also no water, garbage or sewage service and no electricity to the property. There was human waste all over the residence and it appears they lit a fire in a fireplace that was unsafe and could have caused a structure fire.”

John Oliver, 39, and Angelica Madrigal, 40, were arrested on suspicion of child endangerment and illegal lodging. They had been living at the home for at least six months, Applegate said. But the house has been vacant much longer and vagrants had been breaking in and staying there for about 18 months, according to neighbors. It had become bank-owned when the former owner died and his son let it go into foreclosure, neighbors said.

“I feel bad for the bank, but I blame the bank also because they didn’t take care of it,” said neighbor Tim Dugan.

This is the third time police have kicked out groups of squatters; one time, there were as many as 20 people staying there, said neighbor Tara Walsh. While the house next door to the abandoned house sat vacant for a short time recently, it was burglarized and stripped of copper wire, Walsh said. Apart from the unsavory characters and property crime the house seems to attract, it was becoming an eyesore, said Dugan.

“They put a lock on the door and it didn’t seem to stop them,” he said. “They put signs on it; didn’t stop them.”

This time, the home’s windows and entryway were boarded up. A sampling of the mess inside was strewn in the front yard: a baseball mitt, razor blade and fly swatter among other trash in the driveway, a child’s toy in the front yard.

Neighbors said they were unaware that a child was in the home.

Child protective services took custody of the toddler who had been living in the home. Police would not comment on the gender of the child or his or her relationship to the couple.

By Thursday evening Modesto police were being called back to the house for reports of people trying to ply the wood from the windows.

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at etracy@modbee.com or (209)578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.

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