An elderly Sams Valley resident awoke to answer her phone at 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 15. Apologetic Sheriff’s Deputy, Ben Fazio, asked her if she knew who owned the Silver pickup bearing Texas plates encroaching on her neighbor’s adjoining property. “I let a Shady Cove man named Ernie use one of my outbuildings to restore an antique truck,” she replied. “Ernie also owns a silver pickup with Texas plates, but he shouldn’t be here at this hour.”
The property owner had drawn a written agreement with Ernie last summer stating he’d have use of the “shop” for one month between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. In exchange, he would perform whatever repairs or maintenance she might need on the grounds. Ernie’s 30 days had long expired, but he still hadn’t completed this antique truck restoration.
The Deputy requested, and received a phone number to contact Ernie. He reached a voice mail box, and left messages.
The Sr. Citizen hurried to the shop building, and knocked on the locked door. Dave, Ernie’s sleepy-eyed buddy came outside. She asked how long he’d been there. “I just got here at 7 a.m.,” he said. She protested; he couldn’t have, because it was still barely past 6:30. By phone, at the property’s lower gate, Fazio relayed that the truck felt ice-cold to the touch, indicating it had been parked there for hours.
Dave headed downhill to meet the waiting Deputies, while the landowner entered the fully-illuminated shop. There stood Sarah, Dave’s girlfriend. Fazio arrived to join the landowner in confronting Sarah. “How long have you been here?” he questioned.
“A couple of hours,” she said. “I’m helping Dave do the body work on this vintage truck.” At first Sarah adamantly refused to permit any searches of her pockets or belongings. “We’re going to call for drug-sniffing dogs to come here right now,” Fazio informed the hapless homeowner who noticed windows had been blocked; alterations and damage had occurred in the outbuilding. The elderly widow also noted a fire had been lit in a wood stove, where chunks of wood and large pieces of cardboard sat dangerously close by.
Fazio alerted backup personnel. By then a morning shift had arrived, and a total of six law-enforcement units occupied the driveway. Through further investigation, Deputies discovered neither Dave nor Sarah had Oregon drivers licenses, and had indeed brought and used meth on the trusting victim’s property. They left under arrest, with Sheriff’s warnings never to return to the premises.
“Unfortunately, this happens a lot to trusting souls who get conned by criminal-minded people,” Fazio said. He gave the homeowner some tips and resources for how to better protect herself. He also promised to follow up to see how she was doing.
“I’m making my story public to warn others that might be conned this way,” she said. “Better not to be so trusting of seemingly polite people wanting the use of someone else’s property.”