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Tipline Investigation: Solvang woman struggles to kick squatter off her property

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A Solvang woman struggled to kick a squatter off her land, that's when someone contacted the local NewsChannel on her behalf.

SOLVANG, Calif. - Paulette Miller and her daughter, Erica, live on an acre of land in Solvang. Paulette’s husband, a former U.S. Marine Colonel died years ago. Since then, she’s devoted her life to church and helping the homeless.

One day in February, she noticed something strange.

"I went out into the patio and here’s an electric cord going out to the back acre and I’m like, ‘what’s this?’" said Paulette Miller.

She followed the extension cord through a gate, past a line of trees, up a hill, to the back of her property and discovered the other end was connected to a live-in trailer. Paulette said she started to cry and confronted the man inside.

“And he said, ‘Well, I was going to ask your permission, but I knew you’d say no,’" described Paulette.

“He had it delivered to our backyard without our permission, without us knowing,” said Erica Miller.

A Solvang woman struggled to kick a squatter off her land, that's when someone contacted the local NewsChannel on her behalf.

The Millers said the man was an acquaintance of a person renting a room at their house. As it turns out, the two men had met in prison.

The Millers said they didn’t see the trailer at first because there’s a separate entrance in the back which has a Do Not Enter sign and because a row of trees blocks the view from the main part of the house.

The Millers said they asked him to leave.

“He was very polite and said he would remove it within three days,” said Erica.

But the Millers said that didn’t happen. They kept asking him to leave and when he didn’t they called the Sheriff. A deputy came out, but the guy wasn’t there at the time. The Millers said the deputy suggested they start the eviction process.

“We have to do a civil situation, like hire a lawyer, but we don’t have enough money for that. I know it’s very expensive and a long process,” said Erica.

Instead, they wrote up their own 30-day notice to vacate and posted it on the trailer door. That was in March. 

“He read it and everything and then he wrote me a letter saying that he was going to move out within two weeks and he said a lot of stuff in that letter,” said Erica.

In that letter the guy promises to be out in two weeks. He also admits to using drugs, specifically meth. Two days later, Governor Newsom issued the stay-at-home directive to stop COVID-19. The Millers said the guy then refused to leave claiming they couldn’t kick him out because of the Governor’s order. 

About the same time, Erica said they noticed he had connected a hose to their house and was using their water.

“I told him he couldn’t and he came down and he was yelling and swearing at us because we weren’t going to let him use the water,” said Erica.

The Miller’s told us they can hardly afford the water and electricity they use. At one point, Erica posted about their nightmare on facebook and she said they received hundreds of responses of support. One of those people apparently called The NewsChannel and that’s how we got involved.

We did some digging and quickly found out the guy in the trailer has a long criminal record which includes guns, violence and drugs. The Miller’s admit they knew he’d been in trouble with law before, but they didn’t know the full extent until we told them.

“We don’t want the guy to get mad and maybe retaliate against us or anything,” said Erica.

They were scared, who wouldn’t be? So we came up with a carefully drafted plan and we contacted the Sheriff’s Office to let them know what we were doing just in case.

We helped the Miller’s draft a forceful, straight-to-the-point letter which gave the guy one week to vacate. It also included my cell phone number if he had any questions about the story I was working on.. and a sheriff’s deputy stopped by a few more times.

The guy never called me, but he did get out by the deadline and the Miller’s say he was cordial as he left.

“I couldn’t believe, after all the struggles we had and all the time we spent trying to convince him to leave, that you got him to leave in a week. It was just awesome and with complete politeness and no hassle, nothin’. It was just amazing. I can’t thank you enough, seriously, seriously,” said Paulette.

You’ve probably noticed that we haven’t identified the guy in the trailer. There are a couple of reasons for that, he left quietly this time and we would like to keep it that way for the Miller's sake.

Also, he admits what he did was wrong and that he’s trying to turn his life around. He has a new business. We really hope this is a new beginning for him.

We would also like to thank Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s officials for their help. Specifically, Sgt. Woodill, Senior Deputy Kurowski and Public Information Officer Raquel Zick. Besides stopping by the house to check on the Miller's, they were also contacting social service groups hoping to find a place where this guy could go. Fortunately, the guy in the trailer figured out on his own where to go next.

If you have a problem and need help call our NewsChannel Tipline at 805-882-3903. Leave a message with as much detail as possible. Please understand that we get so many calls, emails and social media requests, we can't get back to everyone. We apologize but we try to reply to as many people as possible.

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C.J. Ward

C.J. Ward is the evening anchor for KEYT News Channel 3 and the station’s lead investigative reporter. To learn more about C.J., click here

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