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Neighbors recoil at house filled with filth

Drenched in sweat, Jim Hircock unzipped his white hazardous materials jumpsuit and said what everybody else was thinking.

"I just can't picture anybody living like that," said Hircock, a Pasco County emergency response volunteer. "You live 52 years, and you think you've seen everything. I've never seen anything like that in my life."

Hircock was among a team of emergency workers who had to trudge through a house filled with trash, feces, insects and abandoned pets at the Arbors neighborhood in the Meadow Pointe community.

He described trash and waste piled throughout the house to window sill level. Nearby, a 5-foot-deep stack of trash bags, bicycles and old tires filled the three-car garage.

Authorities discovered the mess Thursday evening when a neighbor called sheriff's deputies about 7 p.m. after a house alarm went off at 1444 Bent Tree Drive.

"The deputy looked inside and saw fecal matter and garbage," said sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll. "That's why he made entry."

Animal control officers removed two dogs from the house Thursday night and spent much of Friday trying to capture several cats thought to still be inside.

Meanwhile, as hazardous materials teams roamed the yard and television crews swarmed the street, neighbors gawked at the circus their quiet neighborhood had become.

"This is a total shock," said Claudia Tewell, who travels frequently from Virginia to visit her grandchildren, who live next door. "Just walk around this neighborhood. It's so beautiful. This just doesn't happen here."

Her grandson, 10-year-old Zach Manion, said he once got a glimpse inside the house when retrieving a ball he had kicked over the fence.

"There were tons of sodas, candy wrappers and stuff," he said. "There wasn't one inch of floor without trash on it."

Tewell described the neighbors as "odd" people who mostly kept to themselves.

"You saw them, but you didn't really know them," she said. "They weren't sociable. They were unusual."

Tewell said the couple at the home had two college-age daughters and a teenage son who often slept in a van outside, but no one seemed to know for sure. Others said the resident was a single mother with three teenage children.

County records show that the home, assessed at $144,000, was purchased by Richard and Linda Jackson in 1995.

County code enforcement officials said they have received several complaints, most of them this year, about the home's unsightly, overgrown yard.

"We went out; it got mowed. Those kinds of things come and go," said Steve Pence, code enforcement manager. "We can't go inside. There are still some freedoms left."

Pence said officials likely would refer the home to the county Department of Community Development next week for possible condemnation.

"It's too bad people get into that kind of situation."

Doll said the home's inhabitants could face charges of animal cruelty. He wouldn't confirm whether the Jacksons were actually living in the home. He declined to comment Friday on whether deputies had found them, saying the investigation remained open.

Doll did say no arrests had been made Friday.