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Published: Tuesday, 7/8/2008

Judge orders East Toledo drug house padlocked; first in memory

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

After years of watching drug activity and police raids at 160 Dearborn Ave., and about four months after hearing Toledo officials intended to take action, residents in the East Toledo neighborhood soon will get relief.

A judge in Lucas County Common Pleas Court yesterday granted the city's request to padlock the home for a year. Judge James Bates agreed with the city's argument that the significant amount of proven drug activity in the house constitutes a nuisance under state law.

City crews are to board up the house and padlock the doors today.

Although the city has successfully shuttered massage parlors after having them declared nuisances, John Madigan, general counsel for the city, said this is the first home the city has tried to shutter in recent memory.

It was welcome news for Robert and Irene Troje, who have lived next door since 1956.

The Trojes said after their elderly neighbors died and bequeathed their home to their son, it became a well-known drug house and created an intolerable situation for the neighborhood.

"It will make us feel a lot better and safer too," said Mr. Troje, 78. "We shouldn't have to live in a place like that."

Homeowner Richard Sibberson, Jr., 43, did not respond to the city's March 4 complaint.

Mr. Madigan said yesterday that Sibberson is in a local drug treatment facility as part of a crime sentence.

Sibberson has had several misdemeanor drug-related arrests in the past eight years.

In June, he was sentenced to a court addiction diversion program followed by intensive supervised probation for violating probation in a permitting-drug-use case.

Neighbors say he has returned to the house.

The city filed the complaint for preliminary and permanent injunctions against Sibberson after more than a year of police raids, arrests, and neighborhood complaints, Mr. Madigan said.

"We did it because what's happening here is that the criminal process wasn't working," he said, saying the police have been to the home numerous times. "There are different people there each time and the homeowner isn't always there. What's left to do? The only thing left to do is seal it up."

As part of the preliminary injunction hearing yesterday, a detective with the police department's vice narcotic squad testified about three visits to the home within the past year resulting in arrests and confiscations of drug paraphernalia.

Sibberson's daughter attended the hearing, but no one spoke on the homeowner's behalf.

The city will return to Judge Bates' courtroom Sept. 25 to request a permanent injunction and request that the court find Sibberson liable for police costs.

Even though the permanent injunction hearing will be held two months after it is initially padlocked, the house can only be boarded up for one year, Mr. Madigan said.

Edith Erhardt has lived across from 160 Dearborn for 37 years and watched the situation get progressively worse. Now she worries the drug activity will just move somewhere else nearby, but she said she's looking forward to a night of quiet.

"I think we deserve it. It's gone on long enough," she said. "The longer it went on, the worse it got. Maybe there'll be some peace and quiet."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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