North Portland

Criminal crash pad: After homeowner died, the squatters moved in

Criminal crash pad: After homeowner died, the squatters moved in »Play Video
From left to right: James Ramon Lewis, Solomon Omar Osiris and Ronnie Scott Medinger.

PORTLAND, Ore. – The owner of a North Portland home died nearly two years ago, and it didn't take long for the house to turn into a haven for squatters and a neighborhood blight.

Neighbors have struggled in their efforts to get something done about those squatters.

Some of the squatters who moved into the home were actually hard-core criminals.

Elizabeth "Betty" Fettig was a great neighbor and lived in the home on North Vancouver Avenue until she passed away in November 2011.

One neighbor who knew her and spoke to KATU News on the condition of anonymity said the house sat empty for about a year.

"We had some folks that moved into the house that clearly didn't belong in the neighborhood," he said.

He's talking about Ronnie Scott Medinger, a convicted thief; James Ramon Lewis, on parole, wanted for escape; and lastly, Solomon Omar Osiris, whose last arrest was for trespass, possession of cocaine, dealing cocaine near a school and breaking parole.

"What I saw was folks coming in that were moving into a house that had no water or garbage service, and moving in and starting to live there and then a lot of traffic coming in and out on a regular basis," said the neighbor who didn't want to be identified.

He would have talked to the property owner, but to this day tax records show that person is Elizabeth Fettig.

The neighbor KATU spoke to said one squatter knew how to play the system.

"The person in there, squatting, claimed they were a tenant, and under Oregon rental law, once you claim you're a tenant then the police kind of have to throw their hands up and say 'there's nothing we can do, the person's a tenant.'  So they were stuck and we're stuck at that point," the neighbor said.

When police learned who the squatters were, their criminal backgrounds, and with a school just a half-block away, they moved in. But neighbors know the word's out about the house among squatters and unless the city does something to curb squatting, the squatters will be back.

"So it's in limbo, so someone could just break in again and claim tenancy and start the whole cycle over again," the neighbor said.

Since the water in that house was turned off, the squatters weren't shy about asking neighbors for some. When they got turned down, they tried to hook up hoses and steal water from those neighbors' outdoor faucets.

We starting looking into this story after our news gathering partners at Willamette Week tipped us off on what they uncovered.

We were first tipped off to this story by our news partners at Willamette Week. You can read their version of the story here.