WEST YORK, PA. (WPMT) On Monday, November 17, the West York Borough Police responded to a call to assist the West York Fire Department which was investigating a complaint filed by a tenant in a residential apartment building along the 1100 block of West King Street.
During an inspection building codes officers confirmed numerous violations of ordinance. The three story, six unit was declared unsafe for human habitation and condemned.
West York Police proceeded to make contact with residents in the building. They discovered two families from separate apartments that were living in squalor and had been so for several months.
They discovered the following in apartment #1E occupied by three adults and four children:
– Roach infested after the observation of hundreds if not thousands of both dead and live cockroaches – covering floors, walls, doors, ceilings, furniture, mattresses, bedding, cabinetry, sinks including inside of the refrigerator.
– The floor was blackened by crushed bug carcasses, food debris, human waste, filth and other unknown debris. Bathroom walls were covered in black mold. Toilet, bath/shower including the whole apartment appeared to have never been cleaned.
– A pet bird cage was found with a deceased pet parakeet that was observed decomposing in this cage covered with roaches and other insects.
– No beds were observed, only mattresses on the floor. A 5 month old baby that was found sleeping next to a 4 year old child on a filthy mattress was observed with no crib, sanitary, hygiene or health supplies. Patrolmen observed the bottoms of the 4 year old child’s feet to be black and crusted with roach carcasses and other unknown filth.
Borough Police then took both children into protective custody, and requested an ambulance respond. Children, Youth and Families were also contacted and responded to the scene.
Both children were taken to York Hospital for medical evaluation and treatment. The 5 month old baby was then flown to Hershey for more specialized medical care.
Police took into custody the three adults living in the apartment, Francisco Martinez, 50, father of Thelma Martinez-Colon,15, and grandfather of the 5 month old baby and 4 year old female juvenile.
Thelma Colon-Cortez, 41 mother of Thelma and grandmother of the 5 month old baby and the 4 year old and Thelma Martinez-Colon, 21, mother of the 5 month old baby and 4 year old.
Charges against all three adults include: Endangering the Welfare of Children and Reckless Endangerment Francisco Martinez was released prior to arraignment for medical reasons, his criminal charges will be filed at the magistrate.
A third juvenile, daughter to Martinez and Colon-Cortez, also residing in the apartment showed up after school and was also taken into protective custody. All three children were turned over to caseworkers from Children, Youth & Families.
In apartment 2E police occupied by two adults and four children, police discovered the following:
– Apartment infested with live cockroaches as they were observed on the floors, walls, ceilings, mattresses, and bedding, bathroom and kitchen areas. All mattresses were sheet less and appeared to have carcasses of bed bugs all over them.
– Traffic areas of the white tile floors were covered with ground in black scum, crushed roach carcasses, dirt, debris, food and human waste.
– Sour milk was observed open in containers next to children, dirty diapers and dirty underwear scattered about bedroom.
– A large, approximately 40 oz bottle of flea and bed bug killer was found laying on its side inches from the children.
– A large pot sitting on a stove burner contained stagnant water with numerous breast pump suction cups floating in it. Roaches were observed floating in the pot and crawling all over the stove top.
– An unsecured and fully loaded .380 caliber handgun was recovered in a nylon holster stored under a mattress that was in close proximity to where children were observed sleeping.
– Several gallon containers of liquid insecticide (typically used outdoors) were located in the kitchen. Significant amounts of powdered insecticide appeared to have been poured around the perimeter of the mattresses that where children slept on the floor.
– No edible food or drink for the children was observed within the refrigerator. Only expired beverage items, burnt pancakes, food debris and other filth was observed.
– Canned orange cheese product was observed sprayed and smeared on walls and was decaying. The can was found discarded on the floor of a bedroom closet with roaches around the nozzle.
– While patrolmen were assisting other residents, the mother, Laprela Renner, attempted to clean up several containers of sour milk, only after learning that a Children & Youth Services caseworker was on scene and would be inspecting her apartment.
– 4 young children in the unit were forced to live in these unhealthy conditions. Two of the children were at area elementary schools while the two younger children, one a 7 month old baby, were found in the apartment with the mother.
Shawn Renner, 23, the father of the infant and Laprela Shanequa Bowie, also known as Laprela Shanequa Renner, 21, mother to all four children, was taken into custody.
Criminal charges against the couple include: Endangering the Welfare of Children and Reckless Endangerment.
All four children were into protective custody and Children, Youth & Families caseworkers are now handling this situation.
Living conditions in apartments 1W, 2W, 3E, and 3W were clean and normal except for cockroaches that were obviously invading these apartments from other areas of this building and the basement.
Residents reported their frustrations with Target Investments and the property owner; alleging that their repeated calls over the past few months and complaints that they made concerning the infestation and other problems were ignored.
One resident logged efforts of reporting concerns to Target via certified mail. This tenant alleged that no response was made and no effort was observed to address the complaints of infestation.
This letter specifically reports a broken or leaking waste pump from another unit that leaked human waste into a ceiling tile. When reported, the stain in the tile was painted over with spray paint, however whenever a shower is made the room would then smell like human waste. No corrective action was made as alleged by this tenant.
Tenants reported that each of the six units pay rent of $575 per month, or $3450 a month, and totaling to $41,400 per year on this building. With this amount of rent being collected by the owner, they could not comprehend why the majority of their serious complaints were not responded to and when complaints were addressed they allege it was never immediate.
Several tenants allege that after the building was condemned, leaving them homeless, that the property owner refused to assist them and denied any refund to them rent monies.
West York Fire Department discovered 8 violations of borough codes throughout this building and common areas and found the building unfit for human occupancy.
The owner, Drew Smith, was served by WYFD with the Violation Notice, which outlined the issues and demanded that corrective actions be taken.
Due to the health issues and other safety hazards of this building, WYBPD also notified the property owner, Drew Smith to respond. Smith the owner of Infinite Properties and a local realtor; of 301 Haines Rd, Springettsbury Township is listed as the owner of 1108 W. King St.
Due the allegations filed by the tenants of this building with WYBPD, and after receiving conflicting information from both Smith and Robert Shaffer (owner of Target Investments) WYBPD did execute a search warrant at Target Investments, 263 W. Market St. York City. Numerous documents and records pertaining to the management and handling of complaints at 1108 W. King St. were seized as evidence.
Currently, this information is being examined for verification and further interviews are being conducted to ascertain whether criminal charges should be filed against either the property owner Smith, Shaffer the owner of Target Investments or both.
Fortunately, the serious health hazards of this building, including the dire need of an infant to receive immediate life saving medical attention, was brought to our attention by the persistent actions of just one tenant.
However, this notification was delayed due to this tenant not being aware of the WYFD Codes Enforcement Program and not making contact until she recently learned of it.
The WYFD Codes Enforcement requests that all tenants within the borough, first report and address complaints to their landlord/management company. Please allow a reasonable amount of time for a response and the problem to be corrected.
Creating a time log is also highly suggested, as well as corresponding through certified mail. Documenting efforts may prove beneficial when dealing with non-compliant irresponsible owners.
In the event a situation creates an immediate health or fire hazard, and the property owner fails to respond to the complaint and correct the issue, tenants can contact the WYFD or simply call 911 to make a report.