A Chicago woman is speaking about her family’s fight to remove a “professional squatter” from the apartment building she inherited from her deceased mother.
A squatter is defined as an individual who lives on the property without the permission of the property owner.
Darthula Young says that she and her siblings inherited their mother’s two-flat apartment building on Vernon Avenue near 80th Street in Chicago, Illinois, after her mother passed away last year. Young’s mother had owned the home for 30 years, but now, an uninvited guest identified as Takito Murray has taken over the building.
Young told CBS Chicago that after a neighbor called her to inform her there had been a shooting in the building, she arrived to find the locks to the building had been changed and there was a bullet hole in one of the windows.
“On September 23, I got a call from the neighbors to say there HAD been a shooting in the building,” said Young. “And when I went to the building and put my key in, it didn’t work. The person who had been shot in the apartment — this guy named Takito Murray — came back from the hospital and informed us and the police that he now lived there, that he had rights — he was a professional squatter.”
The police told Young that there was nothing they could do and informed her she needed to fight Murray through the court system. Young hired a lawyer and has been trying since last September to get Murray out of her home.
CBS Chicago got in touch with Murray, who claimed that he was looking for a place to live but could not find one easily.
I’m in the process of finding somewhere to stay,” said Murray. “You can’t just move like that. Hopefully, by the beginning of May or April — sometime in April. We’ve been looking.”
Young added that Murray has been telling her that he would be vacating the building soon since September. “It’s been a nightmare. It’s been a nightmare,” she said. “Every time I’ve been there, he tells me he’s leaving in two weeks. He’s leaving in two weeks. He just cannot find a place.”
Removing a squatter from a home is an extremely difficult and lengthy process, landlord and tenant attorney Michael Zink told the CBS affiliate.
“Evictions in Chicago — whether it’s about squatters or anything else — are taking approximately six to eight months,” he said. “The problem that police have is when they show up to a scene like that, they don’t know who is telling the truth.”
Murray claimed that he signed a lease with one of Young’s siblings but could not provide any documentation saying so. He did admit that he knew the building belonged to her mother but claimed to the station that he was not squatting in the home.
Young told the outlet that Murray has also racked up a more than $1,300 water bill in the building, and the bill is in her name. Because the building is currently occupied, albeit illegally, the city can not legally turn off the utilities in the cold. Young added that she couldn’t sell the building either because Murray is squatting in the home.
Another woman who owns property in the same neighborhood as Young also had a squatter living in her home last year.
Danielle Cruz was also told by the police that they could not help her remove the squatter, identified as Trineka Stevenson.
Stevenson claimed to have signed a month-to-month lease and said she paid $3,000 to “the owner” of the property. Cruz says she’s never received any money from Stevenson. Cruz was finally able to get her out after five months when she filed an eviction order, and Stevenson decided to leave on her own.
“A stranger shouldn’t just be able to break into someone’s home and then live there for free for months,” said Cruz.
As for Young, she is scheduled to be back in court in two weeks. Murray — who has been arrested six times for drug and weapons charges since 2017 — has yet to miss a court date related to the squatting case.