Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Stealing a house

When I heard about this story, I couldn't believe it. I was checking to Houston Chronicle's website for information about an explosion at a plant in Texas City, but I couldn't resist clicking on a link to story about a "house stolen brick by brick." See for yourself:

East Texas house stolen brick by brick

LINDALE — When Smith County Constable Dennis Taylor got a call reporting a stolen house, his first question was, "Is it a trailer house, ma'am?"

"No, it's a brick house," the real estate company representative replied.

Board by board, shingle by shingle, for nearly three months, thieves dismantled a three-bedroom brick house in this East Texas town and carted it away until only a pile of rubble was left.

Authorities allege Brandon Ray Parmer, 29, and Darrell Patrick Maxfield, 44, both of Tyler, took the house apart and sold it for drugs, in plain view of everyone cruising by on U.S. Highway 69, Lindale's main street. Both men were arrested this week.

Taylor said the men worked slowly and haphazardly in daylight, with no one questioning their work, because everyone assumed it was the work of Wal-Mart or Lowe's, the two large retail stores laying new foundations nearby.

"It's the strangest case I've ever worked in my life," Taylor said. "Everybody drove by and waved at them."

But the home actually belonged to Dallas-based St. Ives Realty.

Authorities also arrested Jesse Gino Vega after executing a search warrant at his Lindale home Tuesday. Vega, 36, is accused of giving cash and methamphetamine to the other two men in exchange for the materials from the home.

All three suspects were charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, a second-degree felony, and released from Smith County Jail after posting $10,000 bond.

Authorities recovered lumber worth about $25,000 from Vegas' house. They also found plumbing, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, fence materials, doors and windows.
Officers got "about five trailer loads of property that came out of that house," Taylor said, then paused. "Well, it didn't come out of the house. It was the house."

The investigation is continuing, and at least three other people may have been involved in the crime, Taylor said.

Is that not the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard? I've been to Lindale numerous times in my life and must say that is a town where something like this could happen. It's small-town East Texas. Other than Tyler, there is no real "city" atmosphere. Everything is spread out, so who would have seen this going on? No one. And the result...a stolen house.

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