The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

September 12, 2013

Scene of murder added to house demo list in Conneaut

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — The scene of a grisly 2009 murder could become just an unpleasant memory in a matter of a few months.

A two-story frame house at 255 Clay St., is one of several in Conneaut that will be flattened with money from the state-funded Moving Ohio Forward program. City Council formally added the house to the demolition list this week.

On May 6, 2009, Richard Hackathorn — the 65-year-old occupant — was struck in the head during a robbery. He died two days later in an Erie, Pa., hospital. In 2011, Jeremy Summers of Conneaut was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to spend life in prison with no chance for parole until 25 years were served.

Four years after the crime, the dilapidated house sits partially boarded at the end of Clay Street.

The Clay Street address is one of 10 structures the city hopes to demolish with $150,000 it received from the state-wide program, said Deanna Gates, planning/zoning administrator. Gates identified the rest: 284 Jefferson St.; 552 Clark St.; 152 Poplar St.; 22 North Lane; 890 Harbor St.; 524 Lakeview Ave.; 180 Hayward Ave.; 295 Cleveland Court; and 344 Crown St.

The city has lined up five alternates in case any of the above properties encounter legal snags, Gates said: 151 Hiler St.; 131 Hayward Ave.; 345 E. Main Road; 674 W. Main Road and 654 Harbor St.

So far, the city hasn’t razed one house with the money, part of billions obtained from mortgage companies in a nation-wide, foreclosure-related legal settlement. The city is still working to verify ownership of the targeted properties and to secure permission before swinging the wrecking ball, said City Manager Tim Eggleston. In some cases, ownership shared among several family members, which makes the identification process very cumbersome, he said.

“Some have voluntarily signed demolition orders,” he said. “We’re trying to contact all the parties involved.”

Other funded communities must be encountering the same problems because the deadline to spend the money — originally the end of 2013 — has been extended six months, Eggleston said.

The extra time won’t diminish the administrators determine to demolish the houses as soon as possible, Eggleston said. “We still want to get it done. We would like to get at least eight houses down by the end of the year.”

Moving Ohio Forward is the second program geared to demolition work that’s been utilized by Conneaut. Over a period of a few years, the city was able to flatten nearly two dozen houses and commercial buildings with money provided through the now defunct-Neighborhood Stabilization Program.