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Disabled York man removed from decrepit home with no water, toilet

In the old house at 14 Rose St., paint was a rumor. So many gaping holes in the roof, the sky was the roof in places. Broken windows. No running water, and the toilet and bathtub had fallen through the floor to the ground.

Also inside, York police say, piles of garbage, buckets filled with human waste – and a man weighing at least 350 pounds sitting in a chair next to a mattress stained with urine and feces.

The odor inside the house “was horrendous,” four York police officers reported a month ago, after having to climb in through an open window. They climbed over Jimmy Lovelace sitting in the chair by the window amid freezing temperatures.

That’s where Lovelace – disabled, living alone and weighing anywhere from 369 pounds to what he says was his top weight of 486 pounds – had been sitting for weeks, maybe even months. Maybe years.

It’s where many in York saw Jimmy Lovelace as he looked out that open window, over the old sink and tub and garbage on the falling-in porch at the front of the house. Summer and winter, fall and spring. The profile of Lovelace in his chair. The only heat, a small electric heater and electric blanket.

Still, Carl Edward “Jimmy” Lovelace Jr., 47, with not a single arrest his whole life, didn’t want to leave. He told police they would have to kick the door in to get him out. He even told police “you are not taking me out of here alive.”

Lovelace was taken out of that house last week, very much alive. Police reported that Lovelace would not fit in the back of a police car, so an ambulance was called to take him to Rock Hill for court-ordered medical testing and evaluation. York firefighters were called in to help paramedics load Lovelace, Fire Chief Domenic Manera said.

Lovelace remains hospitalized despite his protests that he has done nothing wrong and hurt nobody. He lives how he wants to, he says, and other people should mind their own business.

But the state Department of Social Services does mind Lovelace’s business. State law requires its social workers to mind his business.

“They come over with a search warrant, kicked me out of my house,” Lovelace said last week in an interview from his hospital bed. “They oughta mind their own business. It had to be one of my neighbors sticking a knife in my back.”

DSS officials declined to say who notified them of Lovelace’s living conditions. They refused to even admit they are involved with Lovelace. A Family Court judge’s order allowing DSS caseworkers to inspect Lovelace’s home with a police escort and remove him by force, if necessary, is sealed.

DSS spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus declined to even say that DSS was investigating, whether it took any action, and why.

“Adult protective services are confidential,” Matheus said. “We can’t confirm anything.”

In fiscal year 2013, DSS protective services caseworkers handled about 4,000 reports involving adults. Only about 200 of those – 5 percent – were described as “self-neglect,” according to DSS’s annual report to the Legislature.

Sometimes people do fight – and win.

The state Supreme Court earlier this year ordered a new hearing after a Family Court ruling and DSS intervention involving an 86-year-old Columbia woman. That woman had barricaded herself inside her house, which had no running water and had holes in the roof. She claimed she was fine and neither wanted nor needed help.

State law requires DSS to investigate when someone notifies them that an adult is living in unfit conditions. But the agency is not required to tell anybody other than the person it is investigating about what it finds or file any public records so others can find out what happened or why. The only reason the Columbia case is public is because the appeal went before the Supreme Court, and the woman is identified as Jane Doe.

Lovelace will have the right to a Family Court hearing, but DSS actions are not public and the courtroom will be closed and sealed.

The York Police Department filed a three-page report of the Nov. 7 inspection of the home, and its officers confirmed both that inspection and the Nov. 24 removal of Lovelace.

On several occasions before his removal, York police officers had taken food to Lovelace. According to police reports, they offered to help him find better housing and other services. Officers had warned him that DSS could act on the deplorable conditions investigators had documented, reports show.

“He was a big guy; he stayed and sat in the same place all the time” said York Police Capt. Brian Trail. “We knew about him. He was in need of help. The house was unlivable. The roof was falling in.”

Lovelace told authorities that his father, long dead, had given him the house. County tax records confirm that. The old house is valued at about $14,000, records show. It is surrounded by well-tended homes filled with light and heat, and covered this month with holiday lights and decorations.

Lovelace says he has siblings, but he hasn’t seen them or talked to them in years. He told police he receives disability benefits, $721 a month, and had not worked since 1998.

Aside from occasional visits from friends and neighbors, Lovelace had been in that chair at the window for close to 16 years.

York City Manager Charles Helms said the city does not have condemnation or any other actions pending against Lovelace or the property.

But the only record that matters now, sealed in a DSS case, is pictures and videos of seemingly unbelievable filth and waste that Lovelace had lived in for so long.

Inside the house, the police report shows, officers found “a massive amount of ... household garbage” that blocked the front door. Some rooms contained human waste, decaying trash, an unplugged refrigerator infested with insects, and more, according to the report. A bathroom was open to the elements, and even had outside vegetation growing into it.

A couple weeks after the inspection, after a judge reviewed the living conditions in a secret hearing, police and DSS came back and with the help of paramedics and firefighters took Lovelace to the hospital.

So Jimmy Lovelace now is a ward of the state. He expects to be placed into some kind of assisted care living, after his medical testing is done.

Lovelace said he understands DSS officials have the right to do what they did, but he doesn’t have to like it.

Or agree with it.

“I wish they had left me alone, but they stick their nose in people’s business whether I wanted it or not,” Lovelace said. “It oughta be my business, if I want to live in a tent ... I am drawing disability, so they think they own me.

“They oughta leave people alone. If they need help, they will ask for it.”