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Deteriorated house situation in court system

Deteriorated house situation in court system

January 11th, 2019 by Jenny Gray in Local News

The front yard of a duplex at 212 and 216 E. Sixth St. in Fulton is filled with debris, including two mini vans one with its engine removed and laying on the gravel next to a discarded tire. A white PVC toilet sits alongside the white van, also in disrepair, and a trailer load of debris blocks the west-side driveway. Damage to the dwelling's roof was caused by a late November attic fire. Trial dates for the owner of the dwelling are scheduled to be set Monday in criminal matters with which he is charged.

Photo by Jenny Gray /Fulton Sun.

People in the neighborhood of East Sixth Street between Market and Bluff streets come and go, but deteriorated conditions at a duplex there continues.

As of Thursday, the front yard of 212-216 E. Sixth St. includes two junked minivans, a PVC toilet and a parked trailer overflowing with debris. Scorched attic windows are the result of a Nov. 28 fire.

Both front doors of the duplex are posted with lime green signs, placed there by Fulton city officials, warning of unsafe conditions. "Danger," they read. "This structure is declared unsafe for human occupancy or use. It is unlawful for any person to use or occupy this building."

Neighbors have repeatedly told the Fulton Sun the dwelling is a blight on the neighborhood, and they worry for the safety of their children.

Dennis Houchins, the city's Planning and Protective Services director, inherited the problem when he took over the job last spring from Les Hudson. Other city officials have indicated frustration with the situation for the last several years.

"At this point, we're going through the court system," Houchins said Thursday. " It's an ongoing problem; we're working on it."

In late June 2017, Fulton fire, utilities and police came to investigate a gasoline odor and discovered Daniel Nash, owner of the duplex, and a woman were living in the basement and using buckets as toilets. Tenants occupying the western apartment were advised by firefighters to move. A dog was living in the feces-strewn eastern half of the duplex. Later, that apartment was emptied of truck loads of trash including mattresses and stuffed furniture that appeared to have been eaten by the dog.

Daniel Michael Nash vs. the City of Fulton was filed in the Missouri courts on May 14, 2018, with Judge Jeff Harris named as judge. At that time, Nash and his attorney appeared in court and asked the court to vacate a May 8 order for demolition of the duplex. City Administrator Bill Johnson and legal representation for the city, in attendance, argued for the opportunity to submit briefs, and a date of Aug. 21 was given for brief submission. The city agreed not to demolish the duplex until final resolution of the matter but requested an inspection of the structure, to which Nash agreed, court records state.

A hearing/trial scheduled for Sept. 5 was cancelled. The day before, Nash and his attorney asked the court to vacate and was denied; no other docket entries regarding a trial date have been made in this lawsuit.

Fulton Attorney Tom Riley, representing the city of Fulton in this matter, said the lawsuit was filed to enforce city ordinances.

"All I can say is I'm not authorized to talk about pending litigation," he said Thursday.

Fulton's "Unsafe Buildings" ordinance, passed last June, has a list of conditions that would render a building a "dangerous building." This includes buildings damaged by fire "so as to become dangerous to life, safety or the general health and welfare of the occupants or the people of the city."

"All dangerous buildings are hereby declared to be public nuisances, and shall be vacated, repaired or demolished as provided herein," the ordinance states.

Buildings considered public nuisances must be ordered vacated if in unlivable condition.

A city building inspector may issue a written "nuisance notice" if the inspector determines a structure to be dangerous. Following that, the building's owner must commence to repair or demolish the building within 30 days, completing the work within 90 days. If the building's owner fails to comply, the city building commissioner may hold a hearing to address the matter. The building commissioner may also order the city to repair or demolish the building.

Other cases involving homeowner

The owner of the duplex already has been charged with several infractions, some of which are felonies.

He was charged July 3, 2017, with two felonies: unlawful use of a weapon and resisting/interfering with an arrest for a felony. A trial set for Jan. 10 in Judge Harris' court was cancelled Jan. 7 after a joint motion requested a delay. A trial date may be set Monday.

On July 11, 2017, Nash was charged with felony second-degree assault. A trial date also may be set Monday for this incident.

Nash was charged Dec. 20 with two offenses: sell/purchase motor vehicle or trailer registered in Missouri without transferring certificate of ownership, and operating a motor vehicle owned by another knowing owner of vehicle has not maintained financial responsibility. The first is an infraction; the second is a misdemeanor, according to Case.net. An initial court appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 23 in Judge Carol England's courtroom.

On July 3, 2017, Nash was arrested for threatening someone with an axe during a verbal dispute; he fled and barricaded himself from police inside the residence. Fulton police forced entry into that house and took him into custody, for which he received the two felony charges.

He was arrested again just over a week later, this time for attempting to run over a neighbor with a car. For that, he was charged with second-degree assault and given a $20,000 cash-only bond.