Code violations force LaPorte family out of home after toddler found on roof
"There are naked babies on a roof over here!" yelled a frantic caller to a 911 dispatcher in LaPorte.
It was a shocking sight for her and others driving in the 300 block of East Lincolnway around 6:30 Tuesday evening - a naked 2-year-old girl, on a roof of a home. After screams from passersby, the father pulled the little girl back inside.
"I didn't know what to do because I was banging on the door and couldn't get anybody," the caller continued. "There's dirty diapers in front of the house, the kids are dirty."
All six of the children who live in the home were inside when police arrived. The father told officers his other children let the 2-year-old out of an upstairs window. He was home alone with all six of his children while their mother was at work.
According to a police report, when officers looked around inside, they found dog feces in two bedrooms, garbage on the floors, a rotting staircase and many upstairs windows screwed into the walls - creating a fire hazard. They also said the house smelled and was 'very dirty.'
The LaPorte City Police Department forwarded its report to Indiana's Department of Child Services and the city's Code Enforcement Department.
WSBT talked to a woman outside the home Wednesday who acknowledged the children living inside the home belong to her, but she refused to answer a reporter's questions about what happened and why.
DCS confirmed to WSBT it received a report of the incident to its hotline, but would not say more about its investigation because it is confidential.
When a woman who identified herself as the mother of the six children called the WSBT newsroom to complain about the story on our website, she told the news director the children were still with her, but DCS would not confirm that.
A former neighbor heard the call on his police scanner. John Patrick said he used to live next door to the home and he's not surprised Code posted a notice Wednesday morning, saying the house must be vacated.
"That kind of brought a bad gut feeling on that, you know?" he asked. "If they're not being watched like that and they got six kids, I don't know. It's just unreal. Unreal."
Patrick said his son was the last tenant in the building before the family moved in more than a year ago.
"I was waiting for something to happen because the place, it does need condemned. It's non-livable. I don't know if you've been in it but the walls are falling in, ceilings caving in, roof leaks," he added.
Code Enforcement Director Lynn Cains told WSBT the house has 'a lot of safety issues.'
Code's been there before - for high weeds, trash and other things outside. But, he said, he had no idea things were so bad inside the home.
Legally, they can't just go inside someone's home unless they're invited.
"We have no landlord registry so it's tough for us as city officials to go inside and see what the conditions are. It may be perfectly fine on the outside but inside it may be just disaster," Cains continued. "We don't get the calls because the tenants are afraid they're going to be evicted."
The property owner and landlord lives in Michigan City.
Miguel Cardenas told WSBT he bought the house years ago, hoping to re-open it as a restaurant. He said he doesn't have money to put into it and has been doing the family a favor - letting them live there without paying rent.
"I really don't know what's going on there," Cardenas said. "The guy who's staying there right now, he said he was going to fix it little-by-little, that I don't need to worry about anything because he just needed a place to stay because he's got a lot of kids and he don't got nowhere to go.
Cardenas also said the building is in foreclosure because he hasn't made payments on it in the last year. If he doesn't fix it, the Cains said the city will take him to court and eventually demolish it.