SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Oct. 19, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — A Salt Lake City man faces felony and misdemeanor charges after police say he broke in and changed the locks on a neighborhood house after the owner refused to sell him the property for less than a fifth of its value.
An arrest warrant was issued Friday for Andrew Blackwell, 25, who has been charged on suspicion of:
- Burglary, a third-degree felony
- Forgery, a third-degree felony
- Stalking, a class A misdemeanor
- Theft, a class B misdemeanor
- Three counts of criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor
- Criminal mischief — intentional damage, defacement, destruction of property, a class B misdemeanor
A call to police
The investigation started on Aug. 30 of this year when an officer of the Salt Lake City Police Department was called to a residence just south of downtown on a report of a belligerent man inside a residence that belonged to someone else, taking things.
The responding officer told Blackwell not to reenter the house or make modifications or it would be considered trespassing, the probable cause statement says.
The next day, another officer was called when Blackwell allegedly broke into the same residence. Blackwell told the officer he had permission to be at the house, and had worked on it, and was ventilating the property. The officer told Blackwell to leave the property and not enter the residence.
On Sept. 11, SLCPD Detective Nate Meinzer responded to a possible burglary at the property, and talked to Blackwell, who admitted he had cut down trees and shrubs on the property. Blackwell stated he had written a letter to the owner stating he wanted to buy the property for $90,000, the probable cause statement says.
An online estimate through real estate website Zillow states the property is worth more than $457,000.
Approaching the owner
The statement says Blackwell did not receive a response, so he determined where the property owner lived and went to her residence. She “told Blackwell she was not going to sell the home to him for that price,” the probable cause statement says.
The property owner was interviewed by police, and told them Blackwell threatened her when he came to her home, and “he had stated that he would forge any documents needed to get the home from her.”
On later calls to the property, officers noticed a broken window at the house, that the interior had been emptied, and that a refrigerator was sitting on the front porch. In addition, three new deadbolts had been added to exterior doors.
During her interview, the property owner confirmed she had not removed any contents from the house, that her keys no longer worked on her property, and that Rocky Mountain Power would not tell her who controlled electricity at the house. She also expressed concern that Blackwell would damaged cars she had stored in the driveway, the probable cause statement says.
On Sept. 12, Meinzer received an email from Blackwell saying he wanted to remove more plants from the front of the residence, “just as long as it builds my case to gaining title to the house,” the probable cause statement says. The email also said that the addition of the deadbolt locks was an attempt to upgrade the house, and admitted to clearing out the contents. Blackwell also asked Meinzer to help him get the water turned on, “complaining to Meinzer that they wouldn’t turn on the water until he could prove that he owned the property.”
Blackwell also admitted going to the residence to leave the lights on, and putting mulch onto the yard, the probable cause statement says.
A neighbor who lived near the property told police she had seen Blackwell entering the house on many occasions.
A second neighbor told police the Blackwell had told the property’s tenants he was “responsible” for the property, and he had removed the front yard trees in early September.
Blackwell reportedly told that neighbor he had found a way to get electricity turned on “through himself,” and was thinking of “finding a way” to get the water to the home through himself by forging a note of the owner.
A third neighbor told police Blackwell told her the property owner had given him permission to move in, and that he had purchased the residence for $5,000 and paid back taxes. Blackwell also said he was going to move the owner’s cars from the driveway to the street so the city would tow them away, the neighbor said.
The police statement concludes with the following statement:
“The defendant does not have a criminal history, but his behavior is troubling, and with the escalation in his behavior that he has already shown the State believes that a warrant in the amount of $10,000 is needed to ensure the safety of the victim and the witnesses in this case.”
Gephardt Daily will have more information on this case as it breaks.