LEWISTON — City officials said Tuesday they were shocked and saddened by the “off the charts” hoarding conditions at a Lincoln Street home where a man was found dead Monday evening. 

Lewiston police Cpl. Jeffrey Baril said the man’s name was being withheld pending notification of next of kin. His death is not considered suspicious.

The man’s companion, Lisa Courtenay, was safely removed from the home at 245 Lincoln St. after authorities discovered the man, who had been dead since Monday morning.

His body was taken to the state Medical Examiner’s Office in Augusta for an autopsy.

Lewiston police Lt. Michael McGonagle said concerned neighbors called police Monday and a well-being check was made at the home. During the check, police discovered the man was deceased, prompting the investigation of an unattended death.

Emergency crews broke through a window on the second floor, accessed by an extension ladder. Both Courtenay and her companion were lowered from the window to the ground in litters using ropes Monday night, Baril said.

The man, known locally as Walter, had been taking care of Courtenay, who had medical issues. But he became ill about three weeks ago, Baril said. Neither had eaten and had barely anything to drink over that period, Baril said.

Courtenay was in medical distress, he said, but was doing better Tuesday at Central Maine Medical Center, where she had been taken by ambulance Monday night.

“It’s just very shocking when you see this type of hoarding,” Baril said. “Our heart goes out to the people who are suffering in those conditions.”

Baril said the house will either be cleaned or torn down. The city is working with Courtenay to determine whether she is able to remedy the issue that created a health hazard in the home.

“On the hoarding scale, this was off the charts,” Baril said. “There’s hoarding and then there’s shocking.” Police officers and firefighters were awestruck by the living conditions at that address, Baril said.

Baril said they have identified other properties occupied by hoarders in the city and work to resolve those issues a couple of times a year.

Hoarders are “not bad people,” he said. Often, health issues play a role, both mental and physical. “There are a lot of factors.”

Some collect bags, others bottles. Some throw nothing away, he said, including their own excrement. In most cases, city officials are tipped off by landlords, home health agencies or neighbors, he said.

The exterior of 245 Lincoln St. was sound, but the interior was “deplorable,” Baril said.

On Tuesday, heavy machinery cleaned up debris that was strewn on the sidewalk and the roof of a front porch. Most neighbors said the couple, who had lived there roughly 10 years, had kept to themselves.

They said food deliveries were made to the home, but the couple would come outside to take delivery.

Two dogs were found in the home, neighbors said. One dog couldn’t be removed Monday and remained in the basement Tuesday.

Neighbors said the man had been hit by a car on Lincoln Street roughly three years ago and was believed to have lingering disability from that accident.

He had worked as a dishwasher at Luiggi’s Pizzeria until about four years ago, according to Lisa Dorrington, the restaurant’s daytime manager. He was quiet and a hard worker, she said. He and Courtenay often ate lunch at the restaurant.

Dorrington said she wasn’t surprised to hear the couple’s home was loaded with belongings. “They shopped all the time,” she said. “They shopped daily. If it was on sale, they bought it.”

Dorrington said the couple owned a Shih Tzu mix they got from her as a puppy. That dog was taken to the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society on Strawberry Avenue.

“I couldn’t believe how barricaded it was in there,” said Christine Eccles, who lives across the street. She said the couple often called police to their home, which has several “For Sale” signs posted in windows on the first and second floors.

She said she watched as emergency crews tried to reach the couple, who had occasionally feuded with certain neighbors over the years, but more often recently.

“I thought it was horrible that all of those firemen and police officers — in this heat — trying to save people and they can’t even get through windows” because of items piled inside. Eccles said officers broke several windows and pushed in doors in an effort to get inside.

“She looked pretty exhausted,” Eccles said of Courtenay, who is listed in city records as the building’s owner. The property’s assessed value is $18,300.

Eccles said she and her husband have lived on Lincoln Street for 24 years. She saw people arriving to make deliveries at the Courtenay home, but “nobody ever went past that porch,” Eccles said. She said she hadn’t seen Courtenay leave the house in about six months, never saw the couple take the dogs out or even put their garbage on the street.

Lincoln Street neighbor John Johnson said he knew the couple for about five years.

“I was just shocked to find out,” Johnson said, saying he received the news while out walking his dog Monday.

“They’re real nice people,” Johnson said. “They’re Christian; they’re loving.”

Johnson said he used to help the couple clean and did other odd jobs for them from time to time. In return, Johnson said, they would offer to help him out with returnable bottles.

Johnson said he recently expressed his concern to the couple regarding their health but said he wasn’t sure whether they acted on his advice.

Eccles said there are nearly a dozen condemned buildings on Lincoln Street, including one next door to them. She hopes they’ll be torn down soon. “It’s a safety issue,” she said. 

The city’s website shows the land Courtenay’s house is on is owned by Franklin Property Trust, one of the founders of Lewiston, and is leased. The couple is considered a tenant by the city, despite owning the 2½-story building.

Most of the buildings on that block are owned by the trust.


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