December 22, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria family engages in ‘war’ with the roaches

ELYRIA — “Please, if you see one, don’t just stand there,” said Kathy Dembek, nearly crying as she stomped the ground outside her Woodland Avenue home.“Step on it. Kill it.”

Dembek had barely uttered the request when she was interrupted by a scream — her own — as a cockroach fell on her head.

“Oh, my God,” Dembek said. “I need something done.”

SHAWN FOUCHER / CHRONICLE
Kathy Dembek fights the cockroaches with insecticide at a Woodland Avenue home in Elyria after a bug bomb at a drove hordes of insects out of the house and into neighboring residences.

All around her — on the ground, on the sidewalk, on her porch — cockroaches were skittering around her home.

The neighborhood infestation began Wednesday afternoon, when Joe Hardee set out to clean up his condemned, two-story rental home at 1226 Lake Ave. 

“It wasn’t that bad when I went in there about an hour ago,” Hardee said, watching as Dembek and neighbors used rubber mallets to smash cockroaches.

Hardee said he used a “bug bomb” — essentially a bug-battling smoke grenade — to oust a colony of cockroaches and other creepy-crawlies that had overrun the house after his former tenants were forced to leave last month when the city condemned the home.

The bug bomb cleared out the home all right — sending hordes of cockroaches scrambling into neighboring homes and yards.Dembek and about a dozen other residents spent the better part of two hours smashing, spraying, slaying and scraping the little monsters as they darted around the neighborhood.

Elyria building inspector James Love said Hardee was cited in June for various building violations at the house, including unsanitary living conditions and various electrical and plumbing issues. 

“Mr. Hardee has been working with us,” Love said. “He’s cooperated the whole time.”

Hardee blames the former tenant, Kelly Osborne, for letting the property fall into ill repair, while Osborne said Tuesday that Hardee neglected the property and refused to make basic repairs.

SHAWN FOUCHER / CHRONICLE
A roach crawls on top of a coffee cup.

Hardee has since put the home up for sale, and he said he wanted to clean it up.

Love, who was called to the scene Wednesday by neighbors who contacted the Elyria City Health Department, said the home’s cockroach infestation ranked as the “No. 2 worst’’ he’d ever seen in the nine years he’s been in the business.

“I realized they were bad here, but nobody knew it was that bad,” Love said. “Nobody expected it to be like this.”
Health Department official John Toth said he was the one who suggested Hardee use a bug-bomb.

“I had no idea they were that rampant,” Toth said, adding that cockroaches don’t normally scurry from homes as they did Wednesday.

At Love’s behest, Hardee said he agreed pay exterminating costs for the neighbors whose homes were invaded Wednesday.

Later Wednesday evening, Dembek and others were still yelling any time a cockroach was spotted. Love tried to make the best of the situation.

“It’s all right, they’re not doing to you what you think they’re doing,” Love said. “It’s psychosomatic. It’s equivalent to laying in bed when you think something is crawling on you.

“I don’t blame her for being spastic,” Love said afterward. “It’s as bad as it looks.”

Dembek, meanwhile, was too busy to hear him.

“They’re coming in my front door,” Dembek said, scrambling onto her porch and using the mallet to end a cockroach’s flight.

The Dembeks, who moved from Lorain to Elyria last year, are hoping things calm down.

“We could have stayed in Lorain for this kind of grief,” said Joe Dembek, Kathy’s husband. “At least it wouldn’t have been cockroaches there — they’d just be waterbugs.” 

Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.