The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

March 21, 2013

Ashtabula nursing home on auction block today

Park Haven closed after meth lab fire in resident’s room

ASHTABULA — Park Haven Nursing Home, previously named the James L. Smith Home for Aged Women, goes on the auction block at 11 a.m. today.  

The auction will be at Park Haven, 4533 Park Ave., with Dave Bambeck of Bamback Auctioneers in Dover in charge. Terms of the sale include a minimum opening bid of $250,000. Prospective buyers must present a $25,000 cashier’s check at time of auction to be qualified to bid.

James L. Smith, (1850-1919), an aristocrat and one of the city’s civic leaders, bequest the money to build the James L. Smith Home for Aged Women, today’s Park Haven. (Cour-tesy of Harbor-Topky Library.)

Bambeck has said the historic facility is suitable to be remodeled into apartments.

The long-term care nursing home made national news last year after a methamphetamine lab fire exploded March 4, 2012 in resident Kevin Bucci’s room on the second floor.

In Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court last week, Bucci said Shawn Warrens, 31, and Keith Bilbrey II, 27, came to visit him.

Warrens made meth in a one-liter pop bottle inside Bucci’s room because it was too cold outside, Bucci said.

While Warrens was  lighting the bot-

tom of the pop bottle, it blew up on him, Bucci said.

Warrens was transported to the hospital, but died the next day.

Six people were injured or suffered smoke inhalation, according to reports.

Park Haven residents were evacuated from the building when the fire broke out at 8:37 p.m. March 4, and the fire was quickly extinguished, according to firefighters’ reports. Late that night, the chief cleared the structure for re-entry, but one room and a hallway were heavily damaged, the report said.

The facility closed its doors in late March after moving its residents to other area nursing homes, including Carrington Park in Ashtabula and Lake Pointe Nursing Center in Conneaut. About 50 employees lost their jobs.

The owner of the facility is Beatrice Knowlson of Ashtabula.

The front of Park Haven is a historic house, which adjoins a long, narrow building.

Before the meth lab fire last year, Park Haven housed 39 residents in 31 rooms with most living on the first floor, according to the Ohio Department of Health report.

The Ashtabula Fire Department determined the fire was the result of the explosion of an illegal one-bottle, “shake and bake” meth lab operation evidently conducted by the fire victim, according to the ODH report.

Soon after, inspectors from the Ohio Department of Health uncovered several deficiencies at the nursing home.

In January, Bilbrey was sentenced to eight years in prison for his part in the meth lab fire.

He was charged with complicity to aggravated arson, a first-degree felony, according to Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court records.

Bilbrey had been held in the county jail since Aug. 29 on a separate meth felony drug charge.

Common Pleas Judge Ronald Vettel said this was a serious case as Bilbrey helped Kevin Bucci and Warrens, which risked the physical harm of others.

Last week, Common Pleas Judge Alfred Mackey sentenced Bucci, 42, to eight years in prison after Bucci pleaded guilty to complicity to aggravated arson and illegal assembly of drugs, according to court records.

“Your actions had an impact on others,” Mackey said. “I can’t imagine anything more fearful ... to be engulfed in flames. They must have been terror stricken.”

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