Lisa Cipriano has lived on Van Buren Street for four years, and her husband has been there for at least 20 more. And for as long as they can remember, Gunnar Carlson has lived across the …
Lisa Cipriano has lived on Van Buren Street for four years, and her husband has been there for at least 20 more. And for as long as they can remember, Gunnar Carlson has lived across the street.
She last saw Carlson about a month ago when he pulled up in an orange jeep with Connecticut plates. She immediately called police, but by the time they, arrived the jeep was gone.
Carlson didn’t show up Thursday at Warwick Municipal Court as the city pursued action to clean up the property, which according to area residents reeks of dog feces, attracts rats and has become a blight on the neighborhood. According to Annamarie Marchetti in the building department’s division of minimum housing, Municipal Court Judge Joel Gerstenblatt gave the city the authority to post the property, the next step in the process to legally clear the way for the city to cleanup the mess. She said a representative of Wells Fargo that holds the mortgage attended the hearing, but there was no sign of Carlson or his former girlfriend, who was also listed on the deed.
Marchetti realizes the process could even take years, as it did before the city moved in and demolished a house of Warwick Neck early this summer after about 10 years of legal wrangling.
“If we don’t go through the process we may get thrown back further,” she explained.
This case has its own peculiarities.
Carlson carried the headlines in September when, armed with a warrant, Warwick police searched his house and charged him with 20 counts of cruelty and mistreatment to animals. The charges stemmed from a joint investigation conducted by Warwick police and the Rhode Island SPCA. Ten pit bull-like dogs were removed from the property, with seven of the animals going to the Warwick Animal Shelter and the remaining three remaining in the care of the RISPCA.
“It’s just disgusting,” Cipriano said Sunday of the property.
A discarded television, stroller and household items are strewn in front of the house. A section of a stockade fence lies on the ground to reveal a backyard of dog pens cluttered with debris. Several notices declaring the house unfit for habitation are posted on the front door.
Cipriano said she has seen rats, and that a Channel 10 news clip of the interior of the house shows soiled mattresses and debris throughout the building.
Cipriano had a number of encounters with Carlson over the years. She said she knew he had more dogs than permitted by city ordinance and threatened to call animal control, but that “he said he had an in with the pound.” She talked to him again last winter when she saw a puppy in this car. She said she told him to get the dog out of the car immediately, which he did. A couple of days later when it happened again, she called police and there was an immediate response.
Despite those incidents, Cipriano said Carlson cared for the animals and trained them.
“He was very good with them,” she said, although he left them unattended this summer when he took off for a week. Cipriano said she could hear the dogs crying and would throw bones into the yard so they would have something to eat.
Cipriano said she couldn’t imagine the house being cleaned up to the point that it would be habitable. In her opinion, it will have to be torn down. She said when Carlson was there he lived in the “mansion,” a shed-like structure in front of the house, and that the dogs lived in the house.
Cipriano is hardly alone in complaining about conditions at 70 Van Buren. Over the past two months, Fred Fullerton has pushed for action, contacting neighbors, city officials, and the news media. He also listed his concerns on the concerns and complaint page of the city’s website, and has taken photographs of the property. He said he was not successful in his efforts to talk with the mayor.
“The property at 70 Van Buren St. has been a eyesore for far too long,” he wrote in an email to the newspaper.
According to the Warwick Animal Shelter, three of the seven dogs taken to the shelter are no longer there. One dog was released to Carlson on the advice of the RISPCA; a puppy was released to Carlson’s ex-girlfriend; and a third was adopted.
Joseph Warzyka, enforcement officer with the RISPCA, could not be reached for comment.