May 21, 2011

Neighbors from Hell, On Both Sides

The Greater Seattle Area isn’t usually part of the RBA, but this is such a great story that Burbed reader nomadic sent in, we thought you’d really enjoy it. (That is, if by “enjoy” we actually mean “take great delight in the woes of these nuts.”)

Neighbors’ dispute escalates into all-out legal war

A neighbors’ dispute that began with a wrecked motorcycle has escalated into a saga of police investigations, allegations of dog poisoning, ruined careers and the disbanding of the Sultan Police Department.

By Jonathan Martin, Seattle Times staff reporter

Photos: MARK HARRISON / THE SEATTLE TIMES.  Two very different gated homes near Echo Lake in rural Snohomish County are the scene of a bitter feud between neighbors. Gayle and Ray Harvie, above, are seen with one of their mastiffs. Neighbor Caroline Pepperell lives in a yellow manufactured home.

Gayle and Ray Harvie were at Disneyland when they learned a troubled neighbor had stolen, and then crashed, their new $12,000 Yamaha motorcycle.

The 18-year-old thief was fine, but the Harvies, who’d raised three boys themselves, thought he needed to be taught a lesson. They called police and pressed charges.

When his mother, Caroline Pepperell, and Ray Harvie spoke a few days later, Harvie insisted she or her son pay for the damage. Pepperell refused. They hung up.

That was the last conversation between the Harvies and Caroline Pepperell for nearly six years. In that time, their dispute metastasized into a saga involving three separate police investigations, a dead dog, Adolf Hitler’s secretary and allegations of forgery and organized crime. It led to the conviction of a decorated cop, the disbanding of the Sultan Police Department and, in March, a $79,146 judgment after a four-day jury trial.

You really have got to read the entire story to get the sense of how completely out of hand things got.  It would not be fair for me to summarize this incredible story (other than to say it’s the Hatfields vs the Jarndyces, the Trash vs the Cash, or maybe The Rubes vs a poorer Larry Ellison by way of Half Moon Bay or something).

Gayle and Ray Harvie have the white fence, and Carole Pepperell the brown one next door in a rural neighborhood that seems anything but peaceful in light of their long, costly, complicated feud. After years of personal havoc and legal conflict, neither side is ready to back down.

And even the article isn’t enough, the arguments go on in comments, where one poster suggests the article itself was solicited by the Harvies’ attorney, and goes on to accuse the Harvies (these are the people with the big house and the big dogs) of paying neighborhood teens to “vandalize and harass other neighbors.”  Oh, and supposedly the Pepperell son had a key to their place all along, which is why he “borrowed” the motorcycle.  Pepperells = the trailer trash.  You can feel the contempt in the house descriptions:

The Harvies’ 3,200-square-foot gated home sits among more modest houses — including Pepperell’s yellow manufactured home — on a 4-acre plot in the woods southwest of Monroe. The Harvies own a successful concrete-design firm and proudly note one of their three sons is a scout for the Los Angeles Angels.

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It didn’t take too much trouble finding their respective houses, above.  That’s the Harvies’ place on the left, and the Pepperells’ on the right.  The article implies the Harvies are some modern Lords of the Manor, or at least of the block, and doesn’t inform that there are other large houses on their street, some with even bigger lots.  This one, literally around the corner and sitting on a ten acre lot, is for sale, and for a lot more than the Zestimate of the Harvie place.  That said, Zillow pegs Harvie House at more than twice ($541K) the value of Pepperell Palace ($224K).  Both lots appear to be similarly sized.

Yowza.  Good thing the worst neighbor problem I had was yappy dogs.  No biting, no poisoning, no stolen motorcycles.

Left, Motion-sensor lighting, an array of video surveillance cameras and some signs on tree trunks, all on the Harvies’ property, reflect the ongoing feud between neighbors.

Oh, and these guys have now appeared on Good Morning America.  Guess the newspaper wasn’t enough free publicity.  Plus the Harvies are the sort of people who quote George W Bush when they create web pages proclaiming justice was served.

Don’t feel any sympathy for Pepperell because of the Harvies’ politics.  She’s lost police jobs not once but twice for using police computers for her own personal issues.  Pepperell was fired for using police databases against the Harvies, and lost a previous job at a different department for running license plates of men she wanted to date.  Note: a judge ordered her reinstated to the Sultan police department, where she managed to get fired a month later for some other unrelated reason.

Above, Fred Walser resigned as Sultan police chief in 2008 and pleaded guilty to a crime after the feud led to a cover-up scandal. Walser regrets his plea and says the city acted out of fear the Harvies would sue.

Do these people remind you of anyone featured on Burbed before?  Maybe these jerks?  We have a follow-up here, their lawyer has had his license suspended and is now being held on various felony charges in San Diego.  But they never managed to get any police departments shut down.

Comments (20) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:15 am

20 Responses to “Neighbors from Hell, On Both Sides”

  1. SEA Says:

    Spend $60k on a home security system, and then complain about home values?

    CRAZY!

  2. sfbubblebuyer Says:

    This required being read aloud to others in the near vicinity. That neighbor dispute is full of win!

  3. SamAdu Says:

    Is this dispute or the dog poisoning something that will have to be disclosed when the Harvies sell their house?

  4. Tuno Says:

    This sort of thing is why I’d MUCH rather rent than own. The moment that you learn that your neighbors are psycho scumball garbage, you can flee. You don’t have to stick it out, and find out just how crazy you can be driven by crazy people. Imagine, week after week, month after month, year after year, freaky incident after hideous incident, being tied economically to some location because you Bought the House.

    yes, we own our squalid condo, but it’s just because we have a dog and it’s impossible to rent around here w/pets. but we got the cheapest possible place so that we’d have options if the location got gross.

    Ugh. this case is truly my housing nightmare.

  5. madhaus Says:

    This is the sort of dispute guaranteed to drive everyone away from their 4 acre parcels. Can you imagine how ugly this would be if their houses were 15 feet from each other in, say, Mountain View?

    Supposedly before we moved into our current hood, there was an out-of-control teen male who enjoyed bashing out car windows to relieve stress. I only heard these stories from one neighbor, so maybe we missed some exciting drama there.

  6. nomadic Says:

    Thanks for finding more juicy info, madhaus! I was hoping you’d find pics of the houses in question.

  7. The Gilroy Alex Says:

    Tuno this is the kind of thing that kept me biased toward renting for years. Friends of mine always had these horrible neighbors. Even in one trailer park, my best friends, my next door neighbors there, real law-and-order types, had real problems with the rest of the people there. Not with me, I was tight with them, though what’s funny is, I was also pretty tight with one guy my neighbors hated, the neighbors would give me an earful about him and then I’d go over to his place and we’d shoot his .22 at the local billboard.

    I’ve seen more people with Neighbors From Hell than otherwise. A few have had great neighbors, and we have pretty good neighbors.

    In this case I’m gonna lay all the blame with the trailer-trash. There I said it, trailer trash. Now sure, I live in a trailer, but with my various patches and favala-fabulous “new” (recycled?) roof, and general rot and decay, it’s not capable of being trailed anywhere. I’m thus not trailer-trash but rather a hooch living hobo, and don’t you ever forget it. The stupid kid stole the damn bike, he has to work out a payment plan or some sort of restitution and like, not do it again or something.

    Instead they started a war. I hope it’s a war they lose, spectacularly.

  8. Real Estater Says:

    Alex,

    You are far more likely to run into problem neighbors when you are squeezed into an apartment unit with other low income people.

  9. SEA Says:

    #8- While I am not disputing anything you claim, I’d like to fix it for the instant case:

    You are far more likely to run into problem neighbors when you are squeezed into an apartment unit with other low income people build a mansion in the trailer park.

  10. tuno Says:

    #8 – yes, it is true that you are more likely to run into problems when you’re in a smaller space, such as a rental apartment, cheap or expensive. duh. that’s often WHY people buy houses – they have revolting neighbors where they rent, and they think that if they buy, they can avoid dealing with revolting neighbors. But they’re wrong. There are revolting neighbors everywhere. But if you rent – voila! – you can move!!!

    When you’re rich and have revolting neighbors who are also rich, the financial stakes are high. There are often fascinating stories in the NYT re such cases; they always involve stunningly expensive lawsuits.

    Middle class vs. trailer trash (not of course a function of income or actual dwelling; I’ve known well brought up people who lived in trailers) never ends well. You don’t want to be up against someone who has nothing to lose economically or in matters of reputation or self respect.

  11. tuno Says:

    #8 – it seems that by your reasoning, the best thing to do is to rent a house in a decent area. You don’t have to deal with crowding or low income people, and you can leave if one of your neighbors is an evil freak.

    I will admit that higher income people are often better socialized, if typically more selfish (until you get further up the income ladder and they become psychopaths or sociopaths like Strauss Kahn). but it is really, really common for people who are well off to rent a house in a upmarket area for their hideous adult kid, the kid’s freakoid spouse, and their grandkids to live in. I’ve had a couple of friends who had neighbors of that sort; unemployed drug addicts with neglected waifs/little psychos living off parental largesse in a fancy neighborhood where everyone else was working hard to pay the mortgage.

  12. tuno Says:

    I think that this is why so many people don’t know their neighbors. They have learned that it is often better *not* to get to know them. They are told over and over again by the media how people should know everyone on the block and beyond, but then they learn (sometimes consciously, sometimes otherwise) that if you don’t know what another person is like, that person is less likely to be annoying.

    Take, for instance, RE. If he were my neighbor, and I didn’t know him at all well, I might think he was okay. Best to leave things that way.

  13. SEA Says:

    “it seems that by your reasoning, the best thing to do is to rent a house in a decent area. You don’t have to deal with crowding or low income people, and you can leave if one of your neighbors is an evil freak.”

    Oh, and let’s not forget that the purchase price to rent ratios are very attractive in the better neighborhoods. Sure renting might seem expensive if you don’t have the cash, but today it would be even more difficult to buy. I suspect the days when it was easier to buy than rent are long gone.

    I never really understood the whole idea about the all inclusive $2,000 per month in rent is very expensive, but buying the same unit at $1,000,000 plus expenses is so much cheaper. Ok, so my example of a purchase price-to-annual rent multiple of 42 might be a bit on the high side, but there were some deals where the ratio was much greater. Yes, I know, housing price appreciation is sure to save all owners, or at least those who sell in the magical RBA.

  14. Real Estater Says:

    SEA,

    As a landlord I can say that you are completely out of touch. There is no way you can rent a $1M house for $2000. A $500K house in slummyvale will rent for $2000.

  15. RealEstatologist Says:

    As a landlord I can say….
    —–

    LOL!!

  16. SEA Says:

    “A $500K house in slummyvale will rent for $2000.”

    Oh, so the multiple is “only” 21?

    No matter what, you will never understand that if we keep the rent at $2,000, the higher the purchase price, the better the rent deal, and at some very low purchase price, it’s likely cheaper to buy, even if the selling price will be lower in the future. Yes, there are cases where no matter how low the positive purchase price is, it’s still a bad deal.

    If I remember right, the rent is just free money for the landlord, since he’s really in it for the housing price appreciation, so I’m not sure why you’re not suggesting that the multiple is much higher, say over 80, since the value is in the land.

    Can you remind me how much Zuckerberg pays in rent, and what is the fair market value of the property?

  17. Real Estater Says:

    Yeah, you get a great deal if you pay $4000+/month to rent a RBA house. Can you afford this kind of luxury? Do you realize those who bought a few years back get to own that house for less than that amount in mortgage payment?

  18. SEA Says:

    #17- $4,000 per month to rent in the RBA? Why pay $2,000,000 when one can rent so cheap? And besides, if one purchases an RBA home, the taxes will probably be $4,000 per month, which is not included in that mortgage payment. Why not take advantage of Prop 13 by renting?

  19. Real Estater Says:

    SEA says,
    >>#17- $4,000 per month to rent in the RBA? Why pay $2,000,000 when one can rent so cheap?

    What a dumb ass. $4K per month will get you into a $1M shack. You are still far far away from getting into a $2M home.

    >>the taxes will probably be $4,000 per month,

    Math is really really hard!

  20. SEA Says:

    The RBA has the same purchase price-to-annual rent as the non-RBA?

    CRAZY!


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