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St. Petersburg police remove disabled adults from ‘deplorable’ assisted living facilities

ST. PETERSBURG — Beef jerky, mayonnaise and Altoids mints were the only edible things in view inside one of the houses. There was no running water. The refrigerator was empty. A bed sat on top of the deteriorating living room floor. Cigarette butts buried ash trays. And the smell inside was rank.

Those were the "deplorable conditions" St. Petersburg police cited Thursday when they shut down two assisted living facilities and evacuated nine disabled adults who had been living there.

Code enforcement officials slapped yellow stickers on the windows of the properties with an ominous, capital-lettered warning: "UNFIT FOR HUMAN HABITATION."

One disabled resident, Rotharrio Smiley, 20, described the homes in one word. "Horrible," he said.

His mother had more to say.

"I’m livid, I’m furious," Nicole Ford, 40, said as she and her son stood outside the two houses along 34th Street S. "You don’t do that to (a) human being."

There’s a connection between the two shuttered facilities and the scene of a recent murder, the Sugar Room nightclub. The assisted living facilities are owned by Marcus Real Estate Trust LLC. The registered agent for the LLC is Marcus Anderson, according to records, and he owns the Sugar Room. That club was the site of an April 2 fatal shooting and the source of several of its own code compliance issues.

It’s unclear whether the assisted living facilities, located next to each other at 3434 Second Ave. S and 3418 Second Ave. S and run by Tampa Bay Behavioral Health, should have been open in the first place. State records show the facilities listed as "closed."

RELATED: City, police focused on St. Pete strip club before fatal shooting

Police and city officials targeted the facilities after one officer responded Wednesday to a report of a robbery in the area, said police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez.

One of the residents let an officer into a facility on Thursday. The officer found drugs, no running water and several other issues, Fernandez said.

That prompted a forceful response later that day by police and code enforcement, who did a full sweep of both properties.

They found even more problems, officials said, like a jury-rigged bypass of an electrical meter to steal free power, a major fire hazard. One building had open sewage in it. Doorways to the outside didn’t have doors. There were broken windows and no smoke detectors.

Those were in addition to preexisting code issues at 3434 Second Ave. S building, said the city’s Director of Codes Compliance Assistance James Corbett. That building had already been cited for ceiling and wall disrepair and a toilet that wasn’t anchored to the floor, among other things.

Police and the Department of Children and Families were working to help find new homes for the nine residents, officials said.

The owner of the two buildings, Anderson, also owns Tampa Bay Behavioral Health, the company that operated the assisted living facilities.

Anderson’s other business, the Sugar Room, has been visited by officers more than 20 times in 2018 and police are trying to have it declared a chronic nuisance, which would empower them to fine the business. At one time, records show the Sugar Room was an assisted living facility prior to 2016.

Anderson lists the Sugar Room’s address as the main office for both the behavioral health company and the real estate company. Anderson did not return calls for comment left with his cell phone, the Sugar Room or Tampa Bay Behavioral Health.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration said it has received numerous complaints for both properties that were closed Thursday, as well as three others in St. Petersburg that Anderson runs under the Tampa Bay Behavioral Health banner. All five facilities are registered as "closed" by ACHA, and their licenses surrendered.

Anderson has been arrested twice in Florida, according to state records, the first in 2014 for driving under the influence. He pleaded guilty. He was most recently arrested last year on a charge of exploitation of an elderly or disabled person, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The charge was later dropped.

Police said no arrests were made in connection with Thursday’s incident.

The shuttered buildings will remain uninhabitable until permits are pulled and repairs are made, Corbett said. Then code enforcement and fire department officials will have to inspect the buildings. Only after all that can people live there again.

Ford said she was glad Anderson left before she saw the conditions her son lived in.

"I would have been in attack mode," she said.

She accused Anderson of driving new cars, wearing brand-new Jordan sneakers and using the latest iPhone, all the while neglecting his tenants.

"Marcus promised he’d take care of my son," she said. "This is not taking care of my son."

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] Follow @SunBizGriffin. Contact Josh Solomon at [email protected] Follow @ByJoshSolomon.

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