Police say squatters tried to take advantage of elderly couple

Police say squatters tried to take advantage of elderly couple »Play Video
Top row: Molly Maxine Garmire, Alexander Nicholas Ayer and Benjamin Lee Miley. Bottom row: Kerry Cunneen and Michael Desmond Welch.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Acting on a tip from a neighbor, police rounded up a group of squatters who, they said, were trying to take advantage of an elderly couple in Northeast Portland.

Two different vacant homes were involved, police said. One is in the 5600 block of Northeast 14th Avenue while the other is in the 4900 block of North Minnesota Avenue.

In the Northeast 14th Avenue home, police found documentation indicating the squatting was an organized effort to victimize the elderly property owner. A handwritten letter said, in part: “The idea was that we might have a better chance at survival if the landowner was, as our research could tell, a batty old lady and her bed ridden husband.”

Police said they found material in the homes from the local anarchist and Occupy movements.

Police arrested the squatters in the 14th Avenue home at about 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 9.

Three different neighbors said the squatters had been living in the house since at least last summer. Police have not yet confirmed that detail.

James Lambert said he had no idea the people next door were allegedly trespassing.

"They fixed the house up and said they were fixing it up while they were renting," he said. "They had an agreement with a third party that they were supposed to fix it up as they lived there."

On North Minnesota Avenue, a burglary call at about 11:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 13 brought police to the house that the owner said was supposed to be vacant. Police found two people inside the home and arrested them for trespassing.

The owner of the North Minnesota Avenue home is different than the owner of the home on 14th Avenue, police said.

Neighbors said when two people moved into the North Minnesota Avenue home it seemed legitimate.

Police said inside the home they found anarchist materials, boxing and MMA sparring equipment, literature on how to pick a lock, and addresses for other vacant homes.

The investigation is continuing, according to police. And they said it may include other Portland-area homes.

Police said the three people who were arrested at the 14th Avenue home were 28-year-old Alexander Nicholas Ayers; 29-year-old Molly Maxine Garmire and 23-year-old Benjamin Lee Miley.

Kerry Cunneen, 26, and 24-year-old Michael Desmond Welch were arrested at the North Minnesota home.

The home on Northeast 14th Avenue is owned by a woman named Penny Livingstone, who has been on the news in the past. She owns several vacant homes in Portland and neighbors have complained about them in the past.

Police said they believe the group of squatters may have known about all of those homes and targeted them as places to live.

KATU News reporter Lincoln Graves contributed to this report.