Castle Hayne house condemned, officials investigating possible illegal dumping

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and the Coast Guard are investigating a house and neighboring trailer in Castle Hayne for illegal dumping, possible drug activity and a number of other issues.

Deputies showed up to the house on Velva Road Wednesday morning to serve arrest warrants to the two residents for simple larceny, but when deputies arrived, they found even more problems.

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The house is now condemned, and the two residents each face several charges.

“I don’t understand how people can live that way,” Joyce Benton, who lives across the street, said. “It was just constant activity. You knew what was going on. Sometimes they would have their little drug parties and have fallout in the yard and lay for hours. Just a mess.”

The sheriff’s office says the house has been in bad shape for years, but when they got there this morning, things looked bad from the outside and even worse on the inside.

“There’s no electricity” Lt. Jerry Brewer said. “There’s no running water. Once we began our investigation and arrived here and saw the state of conditions that the home was in, that prompted some secondary investigations.”

The house sits now in a state of squalor. Benton wasn’t surprised when she looked across the street Wednesday morning to see more than a dozen investigators outside.

The sheriff’s office deemed the home unlivable. Brewer says they found trash scattered around the yard, but what they found inside was even worse.

“Our guys are having to go in with full Tyvek suits, so it’s a situation,” he said. “There’s bugs. there’s flying bugs inside. There’s no sheet rock. Everything’s been cleaned out, or torn out. It’s just a very inhumane place to be in.”

Investigators also found a neglected dog inside the home. Not only that, but the Coast Guard is investigating possible illegal dumping into the creek behind the house.

“As you can see there are a lot of things up here,” Brewer said. “There’s a lot of suspicion on possible drug activity that we’re investigating as well.”

Brewer says they’ve been called out to this house for reports of dumping and other suspicious activity multiple times in the past several years. Neighbors say things just got worse though.

“We did experience watching them catch rain water in buckets in the front and take baths, and wash their hair out of the rain water,” Benton said.

Benton and other neighbors are relieved to see the house and the dilapidated trailer next door condemned.

“It’s a very bad eyesore and it’s unhealthy,” she said. “Very unhealthy out here.” 

The two residents living inside the home, Grady Harwell and Donna Simmons, were both arrested and charged with simple larceny and animal cruelty.

Brewer says the dog has been taken to the New Hanover County Animal Shelter.

The sheriff’s office and the Coast Guard will have to run tests to figure out what, if any, drug activity and dumping was going on.