NewsCovering Colorado


Pueblo disabled veteran fed up with squatters in his home

Ray Rico says squatters took over his home while he sought medical treatment
1138 E ROUTT AVE PUEBLO Medium.jpeg
Posted at 6:38 PM, Feb 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-06 13:43:51-05

PUEBLO, Colorado — A disabled veteran in Pueblo cannot return to the home he's lived in for 18 years. Squatters live in Ray Rico's house in Bessemer, and the squalid conditions on the property have frustrated relatives and neighbors.

Rico and his daughter Rejeanna Livengood gone to court, contacted law enforcement, code enforcement, and the public health department without much help.

Livengood showed News 5 the property last week.

"They are defecating in buckets or two liter plastic bottles and either leaving it in the yard, or throwing it on adjoining neighbors property," she said.

Our cameras recorded video of a bucket of human waste tipped over in the backyard. There was another container of apparent human waste left in the alley.

"I want to see it cleaned up. I don't want to see buckets of poop or pee!" Livengood said.

Video recorded by a neighbor's surveillance camera captured people leaving the cellar of the home and emptying buckets along the fence.

Livengood said she had the water utility turned off and has since boarded up windows not already blocked by wrought-iron bars.

"We've changed the locks, we've had the police out here multiple times," she said.

On one visit the property, Livengood said officers told her they would contact the health department. She later received a call from the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment asking her for access to the property.

"I called back a couple of hours later, and I said, I was just wondering about a time, you know what's this look like," Livengood recalled. "They said, actually you know I talked to my supervisor and because they're choosing to live that way, there's nothing the health department can do."

A health department spokesperson denied that anyone ever said that to Livengood.

"I feel frustrated. My hands are tied," said Rico, who met with our crew a block away from his home.

Court records show that Rico was arrested in October for a felony charge of menacing. Officers say he threatened the next door neighbor and fired a handgun. Rico pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years probation and ordered to pay restitution.

Restraining orders now prevent Rico from coming within 100 yards of the victim. Their front doors are separated by around 30 feet.

Rico left the home in November to start a substance abuse treatment program. At the time, he was letting another man stay in house in exchange for help fixing the property.

"He needed some work and I helped him with some temporary work," he said.

Rico and Livengood say the other man, Tim Byrd, took over the house while he was away and let others live in the cellar. Rico claims the squatter went through his mail, accessed his bank accounts, and stole his identity.

"He had my Social Security Number, he had my VA number from opening my mail, and had that information, and the bank gave him another card, they mailed him another card," Rico said.

"It's my house that I owned for 18 years, it's paid off. I can't go in my own property because they feel that I'm going to threaten them and endanger their life."

Neighbor Tommy Morely lives a few houses away.

"I told him as a friend, dude don't be letting these people in your house because they gonna steal from you, they gonna do all this and he wouldn't listen," Moreley recalled.

Like Rejeanna, he said he's called the authorities to the home multiple times this winter.

"They tell me, well, you've got to call Pueblo city police, Pueblo city police say you've gotta call the health department. The health department told me one time you have to call code enforcement," Morley said.

"Nobody wants to take responsibility for what's going on."

Colorado lawmakers passed Senate Bill 15 during the 2018 General Assembly in response to a series of investigative reports by News 5 about squatters.

That law created an expedited eviction process whereby judges are required to hear eviction cases within 24 hours of someone moving into another persons home without authorization and refusing to leave.

That emergency protection does not apply to Rico because of the verbal agreement he had with Byrd.

Rico and Livengood tried to evict the squatters once before using the traditional landlord-tenant law but their case was thrown out.

"When we filed the eviction process, you have to have them properly served," Livengood explained. "So, I go to the sheriff's office and I pay to have them properly served. They come and serve him, and I did tell them, I said what happens, I need you to sign an affidavit saying that you served them."

She said the sheriff's office insisted that the receipt alone would suffice as evidence for their case.

"So, we go to court, they weren't properly served, they say they didn't have enough time, so case dismissed. Didn't ask any questions."

News 5 shared an image of the bucket of human waste with the Pueblo Public Health Department. The home was condemned earlier this week meaning law enforcement can now evict anyone living in the building.

Livengood and Rico reapplied for an eviction order. This time they used a private process server and the squatter appeared at a hearing on Thursday.

However, the judge considered Livengood's testimony that the health department condemned the home as hearsay and required them to subpoena the health department.

But Rico and Livengood are and his family are still frustrated by the whole ordeal.

"My dad served this county. He's a marine corps vet. And right now he is displaced, he is homeless. How is that possible?"

Rico said they just wanted someone to listen to them and help.

"Just took a shot in the dark and thought maybe you guys would help," he said. "I hope this does help and other people going through this stuff too."

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