Crews brought in heavy equipment, large drop boxes and lots of gloves on Saturday April 30 to clean up a residential property across from Alameda Elementary School in Ontario. The resolution of a long-standing family problem opened the door to work.
Brandon Norris of the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office is working with a crew Saturday, April 30, to clean up property on Alameda Drive that has been the source of complaints for years. (The Company/THE ZAITZ)
ONTARIO — One of Malheur County’s most notorious eyesores underwent a transformation Saturday as crews tackled trash, debris and abandoned cars at a home across from Alameda Elementary School.
The change caps a sad three-year saga involving a family struggling with mental illness, squatters and calls for the police.
Cody Easom of Boise, whose parents owned the home, told The Enterprise on Sunday that he now intends to sell the property.
County officials say the three-bedroom home at 1337 Alameda Drive is uninhabitable, damaged by fire and lately occupied without power or running water.
“The neighbors have been through hell,” Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe said.
The property sits just outside the Ontario city limits, placing a duty on Wolfe and his agency to police the location.
For years, Charlotte and Iver Easom cared for their second son, Cory, at home.
Cody Easom has said his brother has needed care since he nearly drowned as a child, leading to mental health issues.
He said his parents were his brother’s guardians. His mother passed away in 2017 and his father passed away in February 2019, leaving Cory Easom alone at home.
“That’s when the wheels started falling off,” Wolfe said.
A police call log shows repeated visits to the property over the following years for reports of assaults, trespassing, drug-related activity and theft.
In May 2019, the Ontario Fire Department responded to a fire in the home, evacuating two people and two cats.
“Given the amount of debris strewn throughout the residence, we decided that a roof attack would be safer for the firefighters,” according to a fire department debrief.
Firefighters reported that it appeared someone was living in the attic of the house.
“There were candles all over the area,” the fire report said.
In August, Malheur County officials ordered the property cleaned up.
The clearance order said the property was “a public nuisance” that is “unsightly and detracts from the appearance of the area” and “injurious to the general welfare of the residents of Malheur County”.
In October 2019, county officials hired contractors to remove trash and other debris at a cost of $9,128. The county then put a lien on the property to someday recoup the costs.
Wolfe said others camped on the property intermittently in trailers.
“They were installing extension cords on a neighbor’s property to take the power. They hooked up a garden hose to a neighbor’s water,” Wolfe said.
Deputies were dispatched to the property almost monthly, according to call logs.
Last October, Malheur County again stepped in to help, this time advancing $3,000 for legal aid for Cody Easom to manage his father’s estate. The county expects this to be repaid when the property is sold.
In March, Cody Easom petitioned the Malheur County Circuit Court to be appointed as his brother’s guardian. He wrote in court documents that Cory Easom ‘lacks the capacity to deal with basic matters [needs] such as appropriate housing, personal care and maintaining a healthy living environment.
Circuit Court Judge Lung Hung granted the motion but denied a request to incarcerate Cory Easom for processing.
“Poor hygiene and frequent contact with homeless people, in and of themselves, do not create probable cause. [of] serious injury or danger. The court understands that these conditions have been present for a long time and that there is no evidence of serious harm that has occurred,” Hung said in his March 30 order.
Cody Easom said mental health professionals then assessed his brother and he recently moved his brother from home to a treatment center.
“He needs care that he can’t give himself,” Easom said.
This paved the way for county officials to move into the property.
On Saturday, two front-end loaders bulldozed mounds of debris – garbage, auto parts, gardening equipment and moving equipment. A team of community service people waded out to sort the trash, overseen by Sgt. Dave Kesey of the Malheur County Sheriff’s Department.
Malheur County Judge Dan Joyce also showed up, ready with work gloves to intervene.
Sheriff Brian Wolfe said crews would have to return a second time to complete the job after clearing debris that filled two 30-yard drop boxes and three dump trucks.
“I greatly appreciate what everyone has done,” Easom said Sunday.
He said he was happy that his brother was finally receiving the proper care and that the neighbors were relieved.
“All my brother did wrong was be mentally ill,” Easom said.
Contact the publisher Les Zaitz: [email protected]
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