Neighbors who want a Newport home gutted by fire three years ago torn down may have to wait until the dust settles from a current court case involving the property.
According to Washington County Common Pleas Court records, foreclosure proceedings on the property at 25 Dana's Run Road have been ongoing since January 2013 between Bank of America and property owner Scott O'Grady, now living in Wingett Run.
Newport Township Trustee Randy Jackson has been working with residents who live near the burned-out property in an effort to have the heavily-damaged home torn down.
"These people were asking for my help, but it's apparently mired in the court system and I've been looking for any way we can expedite the process," Jackson said Wednesday.
He said the neighbors feel three years has been long enough and the blackened two-story structure is an eyesore as well as a safety hazard for the community.
"We know the wheels of justice turn slowly, but these citizens are not interested in the legal proceedings, they just want the house removed," Jackson said. "And we want to encourage the court to move on this soon."
The house caught fire around 3 a.m. on July 27, 2011.
According to a report in The Marietta Times the following day, O'Grady and his cousin, Frederick McKitrick, were home at the time of the fire, and both escaped injury. But according to Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks, fire officials who arrived at the scene said O'Grady and McKitrick appeared to be intoxicated.
Mincks also reported that, prior to arrival at the scene, his office had received an anonymous phone call claiming that the owner of the house had threatened to burn it down. But the sheriff emphasized that the statement was unsubstantiated and O'Grady had denied making such a threat.
"My brother was sleeping in the house at the time of the fire, and his cousin was there, too," said Scott O'Grady's sister, Rachel Murphy-Stollar.
They both escaped without injury, but she said since the fire the house has been the focus of a three-year court battle.
"We know and understand the issue about the house being an eyesore and it's still standing. But right now, technically no one owns the property until Judge (Ed) Lane makes a decision in the court case," Murphy-Stollar added.
The Ohio State Fire Marshal's office was also notified of the blaze in 2011.
"That case remains open and is still under investigation," Lindsey Burnworth, spokeswoman for the state fire marshal's office, said Tuesday.
She said because it's an open case the office could not release more information, including whether the investigation is potentially related to arson.