By Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily
After living the past three months in a homebuyer’s nightmare, a Cheyenne couple got a little comic relief Sunday.
That’s because Catherine and Armando Hernandez watched in real time as a pair of thieves got their car stuck in deep snow in the driveway while burglarizing their property outside Cheyenne.
“That was just funny. I was just laughing watching that go on,” Catherine told Cowboy State Daily.
Catherine and her husband have installed several cameras high up around the property and are alerted whenever the motion-activated devices are triggered.
Unfortunately, that happens a lot, about “every couple days,” Catherine said.
And each time more damage is done to the unoccupied home and more items are stolen from the property, she said.
On Sunday, the two people in the red sedan got away with some tools, but had to work pretty hard to push their car out.
Not What They Bargained For
While Catherine and Armando had a good laugh watching the thieves struggle in the snow – as did thousands of people on a Cheyenne community Facebook page where she shared photos and video – there’s nothing funny about the couple’s real estate horror story.
It began in October when they bought a home on some rural property outside Cheyenne.
The house was in bad shape, which is why they got a good deal on it, and Catherine said she and her husband were prepared to do a lot of work cleaning out and fixing up the house.
“Originally, it was a hoarder house and there were drugs everywhere and the police took some of the drugs out,” Catherine said. “We thought the house was empty.”
What was supposed to just be a clean-up job quickly turned into a much larger headache, she said.
They also didn’t know that some of the children of the former owner were still squatting there and had turned it into a drug flophouse.
“The day I bought it I went over there to check things out and there were, like, 15 people in the house,” she said. “There were all these dogs and just drugs everywhere. There were crackheads everywhere.”
Problem Just Beginning
Although they didn’t know the property had become a crash pad for drug users, Catherine and her husband tried to be reasonable, she said.
“I gave them a week to come back and get all their stuff, and some of them did,” she said. “But at this point, I think they’re just grabbing everything they can to sell.”
After installing cameras, the couple quickly learned that a steady stream of people keep returning to the house, breaking windows, causing damage and stealing everything that’s not nailed down, Catherine said.
All she and her husband can do is watch on their video cameras.
Signs Don’t Work
At first, Catherine said the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office told them to put up “No Trespassing” signs. Then, the serial burglars could be arrested.
“The cops told me to put up ‘no trespassing’ signs and they’d arrest them,” she said. “So, I did that.”
But that’s as far as it’s gone.
While the cameras alert them when people approach the house and Catherine calls the police right away, it takes about 15 minutes to respond. Most of the time by then, the thieves have skedaddled.
When deputies do arrive in time to catch people on the property, there’s usually not much they can do, Catherine said she’s been told. Sometimes the trespassers will be arrested on outstanding warrants, but so far no consequences for stealing from them.
“I am very frustrated,” Catherine said. “Every couple days we get someone out there trying to take stuff who had lived there at one time or who knew about it.”
The Laramie County Sheriff’s Office didn’t respond to a Cowboy State Daily request for more information about the situation.
The couple has already cleaned up the hoard inside the house and plan to either renovate or rebuild. But at this point, Catherine said they’re worried that anything they do will just be destroyed.
A gate blocking the driveway onto the property wasn’t much of a deterrent as one of the thieves drove right through it at one point.
“They’ve broken windows and now that they know the cameras are there, they’re trying to break the cameras too,” she said. “We just want to prevent them from coming back on the property.”
Catherine said she’s concerned about eventually living there with her family, but also believes that an occupied home wouldn’t generate the same attention as one that’s empty.
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” she said. “We wanted to tear down the house and rebuild our own house. But now I’m not sure how safe I feel about living there.”
In the meantime, Catherine and Armando will continue to watch over video in real time as a steady stream of people continue to trespass onto, vandalize and steal from their property.
“At this point, I have no idea what to do,” Catherine said. “We have four kids, and I don’t know if I want to put them into that situation.”
She also said that if they’re occupying the property, the thieves would have something more to fear than deputies responding in 15 minutes.
“If I was there, I’d probably feel very threatened and would probably be shooting,” she said.