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Craigslist ad brings strangers to pick through what's left of a St. Petersburg woman's life

ST. PETERSBURG — Trucks and trailers lined the street in front of an orange ranch house Tuesday morning as strangers picked through someone's life — through clothes, through appliances, through toys and trash.

They were brought here by a curb alert on Craigs- list:

Entire house.

Tenant went to jail and left everything in 4 bedroom home

Stuff placed out at 10am for the taking.

But by 10 a.m., most of the good stuff was gone.

Maria Morales, 41, and Clinton Lee, 47, both of Brandon, had a bed frame, a computer monitor, a printer and kitchen supplies piled high in their red Ford F-150. They planned to keep some of it and sell the rest at a flea market.

"This is one way to clean a house, I'll tell you that," Morales said.

Lynda Ivette Rodriguez, 50, was late to the frenzy. But she still left with a stack of storage containers, which is what she was looking for.

"I have mixed feelings to tell you the truth," she said. "I feel bad for them, getting their stuff taken like that …"

Faith Melley sat in the Pinellas County jail as strangers rummaged through her things.

Melley, 32, brown hair in a loose bun, slender with high cheek bones, tried to come to terms Wednesday with this latest batch of bad news. She had been locked up since June 30. She was arrested on charges of driving with a suspended license and violating her probation.

"Is the house already rented out?" she asked via the jail's video monitor. "I'm sure it is. That's so foul what (the landlord) did."

She might be able to replace her stuff one day. But what about her personal documents? What about family pictures?

For the single mother of four, landing in jail and being evicted was a long time coming. She said misfortunes have piled up this year.

"I don't know how much more I can take," Melley said. "Seriously."

In October, she obtained a domestic violence injunction to keep the father of three of her children away.

Then her mother died in January. Melley was running her own cleaning business, Faith's Fantastic Clean. But that got a lot harder when she didn't have her mom around to help take care of her kids.

"After the holidays, I was upset," Melley said. "I don't know if you could say depressed.

"Yeah, I guess you could say depressed. It was just a lot to handle by myself."

Her life continued to unravel. There were confrontations with neighbors. She was arrested three times since March, all stemming from traffic violations and failing to make the payments on her rental furniture.

Her house was broken into on June 21. Then came her latest arrest nine days later. Her kids were taken in by the state.

Then came the Craigslist ad. Now she was losing everything else.

A land trust owns the home, which is in the 1500 block of 56th Avenue N. The eviction was finalized on July 13.

By Tuesday, the owner hadn't received rent in two months, said landlord Josh Yeager, who works for the owner. He posted the ad to Craigslist.

"I'd rather have people come get the stuff than throwing it out," he said. "A lot of people are hurting and this can help them out."

On Tuesday, there were heaps of clothes everywhere. Knee-high grass out back. A fridge taped shut. Dolls with tangled hair. Bugs. Yeager stood in the living room, directing traffic.

"Looks like you're having a hell of a time," one man said to a sweaty, hurried Yeager.

"Ain't nothing but a thing," he said. "Just happens."

He said one woman spent an hour looking through baby clothes.

"It's better than throwing it away," Yeager said. "I feel bad every time we throw it away."

By 11 a.m., there were fewer than a dozen people left going through Melley's things. There were still piles of clothes, toys that none of the kids there wanted and mattresses without bed frames. A baby picture was left in the grass by the curb.

"For the people who came early, they got good stuff," Rodriguez said. "I saw people carrying two barbecue grills, furniture. It was in very good shape."

Josh Herring, 30, and Tammi Radcliff, his stepmother, came out mostly empty-handed, save for a throw pillow Radcliff found.

"You occasionally find good things when you go picking," Herring said with a grin. "Occasionally."

Melley no longer had anywhere to go home to.

"God dang," she said in jail. "I'm sure the whole neighborhood has all my stuff."

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird, news researcher Carolyn Edds and staff photographer Scott Keeler contributed to this report. Contact Jack Suntrup at jsuntrup@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8092. Follow @JackSuntrup.

Craigslist ad brings strangers to pick through what's left of a St. Petersburg woman's life 07/22/16 [Last modified: Monday, July 25, 2016 12:35pm]
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