Friday, February 23, 2018
News Roundup

Vacant St. Pete home attracts creepy trespassers until neighbors act

ST. PETERSBURG — In a neighborhood lined with canals, manicured lawns and homes that cost up to $400,000 sits an abandoned house that has served as a teenage hangout.

The overgrown lawn and broken windows at 1457 40th Ave. NE were bad enough, but when cops were called to chase away three teenagers hidden inside, neighbor Julie Johnson's frustration hit a new level.

"It makes me feel unsafe," she said recently. "We live in a nice neighborhood with tailored yards. The neighbors are friendly with each other. To know that something like this is going on is scary."

A code enforcement officer called the police after seeing teens inside the long-abandoned house. Before the police arrived, three kids ran out the back.

The foreclosure crisis literally left the door open to the homeless and teens to trespass on empty homes, said the city's director of codes compliance, Gary Bush. It takes a while for the city to stop trespassers from sneaking into a vacant house.

The codes department notifies the owner, whether a bank or individual, that the house needs to be better secured and then waits for a response. If after about two weeks there is no word, the city can send someone out to make the house harder to enter.

Johnson and a neighbor didn't wait that long. After all the commotion, she and the neighbor decided to investigate the house near Shore Acres that has sat empty for about three years.

"Somebody was living in the living room. There was a large pipe that was hanging from one corner to the other, and it had rolls and rolls of toilet paper hanging on it like they were making a screen," said the 42-year-old mother of two. "The air conditioning was on. It was 68 degrees, which is cooler than my house."

There were also more than 20 open gallons of paint and several hair dryers lying around, she said.

A few clicks on the Internet and talks with a neighbor who works in drug enforcement led Johnson to think that someone was heating the paint with a hair dryer to get high.

"Nice," Johnson said.

She saw lighters everywhere, burned spots on the carpet and paint splashes on the walls, which had several big holes, as if they'd been kicked or hit with something.

After seeing the eerie scene inside the 2,000-square-foot home, Johnson and her neighbor boarded up a broken window. Johnson mowed the front yard, and then several neighbors chipped in to pay a lawn service to mow the back and clean up the rest of the landscaping.

Heather Odell, who with her husband, Jerome, owns the house, said the situation is out of her control. They are in the midst of a divorce and he is in charge of the house.

"I'm really sorry to hear this has affected the neighbors there. They were really wonderful," said Odell, who has lived in Citrus County for several years. "I had no idea it was in this condition."

Odell said she gave the keys to the house to her husband in August 2012. She would like to sell the property, but the divorce is slowing the process.

Jerome Odell could not be reached for comment. Though the house has been neglected physically, it is up to date on property taxes. Property records show that the Odells bought the house in 1998 for $98,000. The Pinellas County property appraiser's website shows it has a market value of $133,000.

Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8785.

Comments
Winter Olympics: Alina Zagitova wins figure skating gold, Russia’s first of Games

Winter Olympics: Alina Zagitova wins figure skating gold, Russia’s first of Games

GANGNEUNG, South Korea  — The Russians finally have a gold medal at the  Olympics, thanks to a 15-year-old who beat the fellow teen who inspired her to become a figure skater.Alina Zagitova won one of the Games' spotlight events Friday, edging ...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Long awaited Clearwater Beach garage bleeds money in its first year

Long awaited Clearwater Beach garage bleeds money in its first year

CLEARWATER —City leaders discussed building a parking structure on north Clearwater Beach for more than 15 years before the seven-story Pelican Walk Parking Garage finally opened at the start of 2017.The city paid $11.3 million to own 450 of the deve...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
The Daystarter: Tallahassee showdown on gun bills; schools contend with threats; legal lion Barry Cohen closes shop after cancer return; Rays open Grapefruit League play

The Daystarter: Tallahassee showdown on gun bills; schools contend with threats; legal lion Barry Cohen closes shop after cancer return; Rays open Grapefruit League play

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• The 80s are here to stay, according to 10Weather WTSP. Weekend temperatures cool only slightly, to the low to mid 80s, with a low rain chance. Next week is just more of the s...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Legal lion Barry Cohen reveals leukemia and tells how it has changed his priorities

Legal lion Barry Cohen reveals leukemia and tells how it has changed his priorities

TAMPA — Time was, if you were in deep trouble, you turned to Barry Cohen.He kept Jennifer Porter out of jail even after her hit-and-run accident left two children dead. He got charges against Steven and Marlene Aisenberg dropped and won them $3 milli...
Published: 02/23/18
Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

TAMPA — Friends and family have a saying about Lee Thornton Davis Jr. Once you met him, even for just a moment, you knew him forever."He was the most outgoing person I’d ever met," Dick Greco said.That’s something coming from Tampa’s gregarious, 84-y...
Published: 02/23/18
Oldsmar has a flea market, waterfront and parks... but really wants a downtown

Oldsmar has a flea market, waterfront and parks... but really wants a downtown

OLDSMAR — Wanted: One vibrant downtown. Contact: City of Oldsmar.Perhaps best known for its enormous flea market, Oldsmar sits at the top of Old Tampa Bay near the Pinellas-Hillsborough county line. On the one hand, it’s a convenient location for peo...
Published: 02/23/18
Iraqi general who helped defeat ISIS returns to Tampa for commando award

Iraqi general who helped defeat ISIS returns to Tampa for commando award

PALM HARBOR — Four years ago, during a visit to Tampa, Iraqi Staff Gen. Talib Shgati Mshari Al Kenani issued a warning to military leaders here about a jihadi group calling itself the Islamic State.This week, Al Kenani, head of the Iraqi commando for...
Published: 02/23/18
It’s

It’s "Krunch" time for East Lake students

On a recent Saturday, students arrived at a Pasco County high school for an all-day scrimmage.The gym was covered in black, plastic tarps, with a course down the middle. Six teams came ready to race their robots, including one from East Lake High Sch...
Published: 02/23/18
A look at new ships and trends in cruising for 2018

A look at new ships and trends in cruising for 2018

What’s new in cruising for 2018? As usual, there’s lots of razzle-dazzle — laser tag, water slides, zip lines and massive LED screens — along with a continued emphasis on healthy lifestyle options, from dining to fitness. But there are also changes u...
Published: 02/23/18

Gulfport candidates draw stark contrasts

GULFPORT — One candidate is a plain-spoken, straightforward technology consultant who preaches "conservative fiscal responsibility" and votes Republican in national elections.The other is a self-proclaimed "progressive liberal" who practices law, pro...
Published: 02/23/18