Problems in a Fulton Neighborhood

Drugs, crime, violence, guns, legal barriers, and bureaucratic boondoggles were not exactly what Katie and Nick Barnes were looking for.

Fulton's First Ward Councilor Tom Kenyon stands before the driveway of 102 West Second Street, a house of squatters and trouble for a troubled neighborhood. Photo: Randy Pellis

by Randy Pellis

FULTON, May 28, 2019 — Drugs, crime, violence, guns, legal barriers, and bureaucratic boondoggles were not exactly what Katie and Nick Barnes were looking for. But they found it all since moving a year ago with their four young boys to West Second and Phillips.

Diagonally across the street sits 102 West Second. Garbage overflows barrels standing in the driveway near a child’s broken red wagon. More remnants of trash are scattered on the roof and strewn across the lawn. An odd assortment of junk is piled up along the wall of a shed at the end of the drive. The remains of two or three bikes are stacked in a tangle on a table on the small back porch. The front windows are painted over. Only a small rectangle the size of a brick is left clear as a lookout. Torn-down venetian blinds in a crazed, twisted jumble reminiscent of pickup sticks thrown down at the game’s beginning hang in a failed attempt to cover a side window. And a back alcove, gated by eight-foot high vertical planks (one missing) has a floor of trash, an oddly-convenient dump from a window.

Tom Kenyon is the city’s common councilor for this First Ward eyesore. “It’s been a drug house,” he said of 102 West Second. And it may very well still be. Any number of people may be living there. They’re squatters. The house has no water and no electricity, no legal electricity, that is. An extension cord runs to a separate, but connected rental property behind the house. They tap in to the power there.

A four-year-old girl lives in that apartment. “The father overdosed a couple nights ago,” Kenyon said. “You know who saved him? The four-year-old. She ran across the street, ‘I can’t wake daddy up.’”

Kenyon called Social Services to report the main house has no water. He was told, “they don’t have to have water. They can go down to Price Chopper and get water, it’s okay.”

“This reflects on me,” said Kenyon. “This is my ward. A year-and-a-half we’ve been dealing with this. There are so many violations here, it’s ridiculous. The owner goes to court, the judge gives him another month.”

Eric Demott has owned the house since June 2010. He may not have many months left. The house is scheduled to be auctioned off sometime in June.

With that, maybe Katie Barnes luck will change for the better. She says someone from 102 West Second stole her iPhone from her van one night six months ago.

“The whole street got hit that morning,” she said. “One neighbor got robbed twice, his garage. The police said there was nothing they could do.”

So, Katie confronted three people at 102 West Second about the stolen phone. One of the three, after asking what the phone’s lock screen looked like said, “Oh, I just saw that phone this morning. I’ll get it back for you.” She called someone who had it, told him it’s her aunt’s phone with all the pictures of her kids on it, and said he needs to give it back. He said he just bought it from someone else and wanted $50 for it. Katie paid the $50 and got her phone. Then she took it to the police who immediately took the phone for evidence. They still have it more than six months later.

Whoever stole the phone had wiped everything off it except for the photos and had signed into Facebook with that phone.

“The person that signed in was Daniel Rosario,” said Katie. “Apparently people steal stuff, bring it to him, and he sells it.”

Police found Katie’s cellphone case in Rosario’s house. Katie signed papers saying she wanted Rosario arrested. When the police questioned him, Katie said, Rosario “started singing like a little bird.” He told the police who stole the phone.

That person died in March of an overdose. The police said that as the thief was dead, returning her phone shouldn’t be a problem, but they’d need a release from the DA. Katie called their office but has not heard back from them.

That was all bad enough. Then Katie and her husband went away, and her next door neighbors robbed their house. They “stole my wedding ring, engagement ring, literally truckloads of stuff,” she said.

The police found the stolen property hidden in an eave of the house next door. “They still have all that stuff too,” said Katie. It’s all in the police station’s evidence room. No one’s been charged with a crime.

The night the police were searching the neighbor’s house, Katie and her husband were standing on their porch. The boy next door “came charging on our property with a pickaxe,” said Katie. The police took him to Mental Health. He was back in two hours.

A week after the pickaxe incident, Katie called the DA and told him her side of that story. After talking with the Fulton Police, he called her back saying the police had a different version of the story which, he said, “questions your integrity.”

By this point, Katie had been robbed twice and was potentially attacked with a pickaxe. No one had been arrested and all her stolen property had been locked away by the police as evidence. She still hasn’t gotten any of it back.

A few months ago, her next door neighbor fired a shotgun into the air. Within two months of that, another neighbor across the street also fired off a gun.

As we talked, her four boys played in the front yard and the driveway before us. The oldest is five. The twins are three, and the youngest is two.

Tom Kenyon is clearly frustrated with what’s happened to this neighborhood in his ward and especially with the condition of 102 West Second.

“We’ve had the cops here, Menter’s Ambulance, Code Enforcement, it’s ridiculous,” he said. “It’s been a year-and-a-half, two years.”

Making it even more ridiculous? The owner, Eric Demott, actually lives in the house.

According to Katie Barnes, Demott called the police recently because the squatters had locked him out of the house. She said the officers told him the people inside his house are squatters and squatters have rights. Removing them can be a complicated court proceeding.

And so it goes. Katie said the girls who live next door to 102 West Second have told her they’ve seen people pull in the driveway and shoot up in their car.

“Cars that you would think would not stop there, stop there,” she said.

But 102 West Second will be auctioned off soon, and the family in the house next door to her, where all her stolen property was hidden, are moving.

So, things are looking up for the Barnes family, and maybe for Tom Kenyon’s ward too.