Sewage up to 6 inches deep. A furnace that hadn't worked for months. Residents being forced to pay higher rents based on their incomes.
Newly released court documents detail some of the alleged conditions of a Midvale care center that was shut down in January by the Unified Fire Department and Salt Lake County Health Department after residents were found living in conditions described as "deplorable" by the sheriff.
On Jan. 26, police, fire and public health officials descended on the Ririe Care Center or Evergreen Place, 163 E. 7800 South, after receiving a tip that 16 residents were living in bad conditions.
The investigation actually began on Jan. 11, however, when Unified police received a tip from the sister of one of the residents who asked her to buy him a space heater because "the heat of his care center had been out for over a week and he was cold," according to a search warrant affidavit.
The sister purchased the space heater and went to the care center to deliver it. But as soon as she walked into the building, she was "immediately overwhelmed by the odor of raw sewage. She said it was very cold in the home and found many other residents complaining of being cold," the affidavit states. The woman said she noticed feces on her brother's clothing. When she asked about it, he said "it was from leaking sewage in the home."
Police responded to the care center after getting the call. Among other things, the warrant says they discovered:
- The furnace had stopped working possibly since November.
- The main sewage line downstairs had broken and "raw sewage filled the basement 3-6 inches in various places," including four bedrooms occupied by residents.
- Space heaters "with extension cords were running through the raw sewage, causing a fire hazard."
- Some parts of the bathroom were sagging to the point that they had the "potential to give way and fall through into the basement."
The 22-year-old owner of the facility was called to the scene and said he would fix the issues right away.
On Jan. 25, police returned to the care center to check on what work had been done. The residents in the rooms with sewage had been moved to new rooms, and the furnace was replaced.
But there was still sewage in the basement as well as now in the upstairs portion of the building, according to the warrant. "Tenants said the sewage was now coming from the drains in the bathroom. Multiple residents had sewage on the feet, legs and clothing."
Police then called for the assistance of fire crews and the health department.
As the investigation continued, police interviewed some of the tenants. One of them said he paid $1,400 a month to live there but had no idea where his money went.
"(He) said the Ririe house is all about making money and not supplying their daily commodities," according to the warrant.
Investigators interviewed the care center owner who said he had applied for an assisted living license, but "due to some background issues" never heard back from the state health department, so he opened his facility as a "group home" instead, the affidavit says.
His business license granted by the city of Midvale to operate the facility had expired in October and he had not applied for another, police also noted. The man told police that residents paid between $700 and $1,400 per month in rent. When asked why some residents paid more, he said some received more money from their pensions and were therefore charged more, according to the warrant.
"The reasoning seemed unfair," police noted in the affidavit.
When asked about admissions paperwork for each tenant, the man said he would provide them to detectives. But a full day later, the man had failed to contact police and a search warrant was drawn up. The warrant also sought medical paperwork and medication logs of tenants.
As of Thursday, the investigation into abuse of a vulnerable adult was continuing. The owner has not been arrested or charged.