MARYSVILLE – For years, Jessica Ruhle and some of her neighbors have been trying to get an alleged drug house out of their neighborhood.
Now, it’s finally happening.
Chris Boser of the Stillaguamish Housing Authority said Tuesday that the tribe has made an agreement with the homeowner to buy the house. The tribe already owns the land.
“We’ve helped her get the situation under control,” he said. “We came up with an exit strategy.”
The Tulalip Tribes have found her a suitable place to live as she is a tribal member. Boser said he talked to a resident and was told the rest of the inhabitants have places to go.
“People are moving on,” he said. “It will be unlawful for anyone to stay there.”
Boser said while he feels sorry for the neighbors, he also feels sorry for the homeowner.
“It was elder abuse,” he said.
Boser said the woman’s grandchildren moved in a few years ago. “They’ve taken over her house,” he said. “She’d given up.”
“I’m glad it came to an amicable end,” he added.
In an interview last week before the deal was announced, Ruhle said the neighbor has been a huge problem for years.
“I do not feel safe in my own home,” she said.
The city’s code enforcement office has been shutting down similar homes for a few years. But this one near Shoultes Elementary School was tougher because of the tribal ownership.
Cmdr. Mark Thomas of the Marysville Police Department said the vast majority of code compliance problems are settled with voluntary efforts.
“We’ll bend over backwards” to work with them because it’s easier to find a long-term solution that way, he added.
If talking doesn’t work, code officers hand out tickets. “That usually works,” Thomas said.
If that doesn’t, then in extreme situations criminal citations are issued. That has happened here, he said.
In the case involving Ruhle’s neighbor, 98 tickets have been given out over four years. In the past 1 1/2 years, at least 11 and as many as 17 people have lived there. Felony warrants for various drugs have been issued.
MPD has worked with Boser, and the Stilly police recently confirmed at least one tenant was given an eviction notice, code compliance officer Doug Lee said.
“We’re sympathetic to the neighbors,” Thomas said. “We’re doing all we can within the law to resolve this.”
“I am being told by everyone that should do something about it – they can’t,” Ruhle said. “It’s a hot potato. Their hands are tied.”
When the Angel of the Winds casino was built, the woman had to be relocated. This was the spot selected.
“We look at her as family,” Boser said. “The last thing we wanted was to evict her from her home.”
For the first few years, Ruhle said there were no problems. Since then she said there have been unregistered sex offenders, daily drug deals, home burglaries, car prowls and more.
“I am desperate to reach a resolution to this and eliminate this blight on our community,” she said. She has worked with police, code enforcement, the mayor’s office, the Indian division of Housing and Urban Development and the Stillaguamish Housing Authority. She was finally told the SHA was going to revoke the residents’ housing. The eviction is based on criminal activity.
“I’m cautiously optimistic” the eviction will take place, she said. ‘I’ll believe it when the house is knocked down.”
Ruhle said she hasn’t moved because she can’t.
“You cannot sell your house with that house across the street,” she said. Ruhle said it’s embarrassing to have people over, and her daughter doesn’t like to be home alone.
“It’s brought down the value of our life,” she said, adding it adds a dangerous element to the neighborhood. “Every criminal element you can think of has been in that house.”
Thursday, a U-Haul trailer was in the driveway. People were moving things out and cleaning things up. Even though the homeowner is moving, Ruhle doesn’t think the squatters will.
“A house like that attracts a certain kind of people,” she said. “I’ll bet my next paycheck they won’t get out; they’ll still be there.” The reason, she said, is MPD has not received a no trespassing document from the Stillaguamish Tribe that would allow them to vacate the premises.
She said it will be a while before she can, “breathe easy.”