East End building condemned, landlord arrested
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Candise McKean pointed to a once-white stovetop now charred with a thick layer of grease while a cockroach scurried up the oven and burrowed itself under a burner.
"I've never been able to cook dinner for my family," she said.
Brandon Lester opened his bathroom and removed a piece of wood covering exposed tile molding on the floor. He pointed to a grime-covered bathtub and yellow-stained toilet.
"I go to my mother's place when I have to use the bathroom and shower," he said. "I don't go here."
McKean and Lester weren't surprised when Charleston building inspectors condemned 1411 Jackson St. on the East End and the building's seven rental units on Thursday.
Lester said he's complained about the deplorable conditions to the landlord for months and McKean even filed a civil lawsuit against the landlord in Kanawha County.
The landlord, Timothy Harold Stone, 44, scuffled with officers immediately after the building was declared unsafe, police said.
"He showed up as the building inspector and police officers were on scene and he was extremely belligerent and angry," Lt. Shawn Williams said. "As a result of receiving a citation from inspectors, he brandished a screwdriver and began pushing on officers and a brief struggle ensued."
Stone was charged with battery on a police officer, brandishing a weapon and a second offense of carrying a concealed weapon. Police said they also found a 10-inch open switchblade knife on him.
Stone is currently being held in South Central Regional Jail in lieu of a $150,000, or 10 percent cash, bail.
Stone's building has been a large hindrance in police efforts to rid Jackson Street of crime, Williams said.
Officers have been called to that building more than 1,000 times over the years for complaints of drugs and prostitution, he said.
"One of the biggest problems we have here in Charleston is housing," Williams said. "And this is a prime example."
The building and its condition is the worst that Williams said he's seen in his 15 years as an officer. Building inspectors found infestations of cockroaches, bedbugs and scabies inside every rental unit. Many of the units didn't have working heat and many didn't have smoke detectors, he said.
About 15 people renting apartments in the building need to move out by Monday.
McKean and Lester said they only moved into the building out of desperation. Their previous apartment was unexpectedly sold to a realtor and they needed to find somewhere quick to live. Together they have two children, ages 2 and 3, and McKean is nine months pregnant. They said weren't aware of the problems with drugs and prostitution when they signed the lease.
"When we first moved here we didn't think it was that bad, but things just got worse and worse," Lester said.
The couple pays $485 a month for one single bedroom. They share a communal bathroom and kitchen with three other apartment units on the top floor.
The kitchen and bathroom are virtually unusable and there is no cold water, only hot.
They did everything they could do to make the apartment livable and installed new carpet and tried to clean up the kitchen. McKean said she put insecticide near every electrical outlet to kill the roaches, which move in and out of the outlets.
However, Stone refused to address other safety issues and put a padlock on their door on several occasions demanding more money, they said.
"I wouldn't call him a landlord, he's more of a con artist," Lester said.
Their children stay with Lester's mother most of the time because the apartment's conditions are so bad.
The couple has since found an apartment on Charleston's West Side, but it won't be ready until Jan. 15. Lester said that in the meantime, he's taking McKean and the children to his mother's home.
Williams said Stone owns several other apartments along Jackson Street. He also has a residence along Bradshaw Branch in Ashford in Boone County.
Police would be looking at Stone's other units and additional charges could follow, Williams said. Reach Travis Crum at email@example.com or 304-348-5163.