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The house at 2011 Lawrence County 358 has debris on the porch and vehicles, including a pickup with junk in its bed and no tag, in the yard.
Daily photo by Ronnie Thomas
The house at 2011 Lawrence County 358 has debris on the porch and vehicles, including a pickup with junk in its bed and no tag, in the yard.

Lawrence house's condition spurs concern

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com 340-2438

TRINITY — The house on Lawrence County 358 looks bad from the road, but that doesn't prepare a visitor for the smell.

A sack of garbage sits at the front door; other debris fills the porch.

Trash of all sorts and four junk vehicles litter the overgrown property. A pickup in the front yard, its bed stacked high with junk, has no tag.

An attempt Tuesday morning to get a comment from an owner whose home was turned in by Daily readers as an eyesore and health hazard was to no avail. The front door stood partially open with flies darting in and out. No one responded to knocks, and it was quiet inside.

Trinity Police Chief Chris McLemore knows the home, which is just across the Morgan County line and in Trinity's police jurisdiction. Citations officers have written against one of the occupants, John Dwight Thomas, 32, show the address to be 2011 Lawrence County 358.

"When I was inside several months ago, there were holes in the floor," McLemore said. "That pickup has been there for years. Our ordinances don't apply to the PJ. They'd be ordered to clean up in town."

The chief said Thomas and his wife live in the house with their toddler son and Thomas' father, Charles Lifford Thomas, 78. McLemore estimates the child's age to be between 6 months and 1 year. He said the elder Thomas has congestive heart failure.

McLemore said he contacted the Lawrence County Department of Human Resources, not because of anything he knew about the child, but because of Charles Thomas' health, welfare and living conditions.

"I've spoken to him, and he gasps for air," McLemore said. "DHR came out a couple of times. They tried to get him to go to a nursing home, but he refused. He said his son is taking care of him. It's got to be hot in that house now and cold in the winter. I'm not sure if it has power."

A reporter, after visiting the house and getting no response, feared Charles Thomas might be in trouble and asked McLemore to check the house. Someone had since closed the door. McLemore's knocks drew only a baby's faint cries and a woman's voice. Her words were unintelligible.

A spokeswoman for DHR said the agency couldn't confirm or deny involvement on a case because of the confidentiality issue.

"Neighbors have carried food to the elderly man," McLemore said. "Some churches also got involved and members have cut the grass so he could get in and out of the house for trips to the doctor."

A caller to the Daily expressed concern about snakes in the yard and "a baby living in the house in those conditions."

McLemore said police arrested and charged John Dwight Thomas with third-degree theft Aug. 3, 2006, for allegedly stealing scrap metal out of a recycling bin at West Morgan High School. The school collects the metal, sells it to a recycler and uses the money to buy computers.

On that date, police also ticketed Thomas for driving while his license was suspended. On March 16, 2006, police charged him for the same offense, plus for having no tag and no insurance. On May 31 of that year, police charged him with the same three offenses, and on July 1, 2006, for driving while his license was suspended and for having no tag.

"He has come to municipal court," McLemore said. "He is supposed to do 60 hours of community service by working at the ballpark. He has until Oct. 26 to fulfill that obligation. If he doesn't, he could serve time in jail."

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