Police Lack Foundation for House Arrest

Times Staff Writer

How do you arrest a house?

That summed up the problem the Los Angeles Police Department had with a request Thursday from Margaret Cicero, who runs the Cicero Bros. farm in the Sepulveda Basin.

Cicero's problem was that, when her work crews showed up shortly after dawn Thursday, they found a three-bedroom house and two-car garage in one of the cornfields.

There had been no house there when they went home the night before.

"We've found some awful strange things in our cornfields over the years, from crashed airplanes to telephone poles, but this is the first time anyone ever left a house there," Cicero said.

House Being Moved

The house was parked in the field by the Mac Bros. House Movers Co., which was hauling it from Norwalk to a lot on Sylvan Street in Reseda, said Virgil McGinnis, the driver of the tow truck.

The 45-ton structure was moving west on Burbank Boulevard when one of the three trucks moving it in sections "got stuck on the hill going over the San Diego Freeway," McGinnis said.

That delayed the movers for hours and caused a traffic jam that delayed early morning commuters. Finally, the truck succeeded in cresting the hill and easing its part of the house down into the Sepulveda Basin.

But, because city and county traffic laws limit house moving to between midnight and 6 a.m., the house had to be taken off the road, McGinnis said.

So he pulled all three sections of the house into the cornfield and parked them there.

Cicero was irate.

"They damaged the ground, which was all plowed and waiting to be planted," said Cicero, who leases the land from the Army Corps of Engineers. "We've been over that ground nine times getting it ready for the next corn crop.

"They just left the thing there and went away. I called the Corps of Engineers and they said to report it to the police.

"I called the Van Nuys police station and asked them to come and impound that house, which has no business being in our field. The police said they had never run into something like this before and didn't know what to do about it, that there's nothing like that in their procedures."

"We aren't going to impound a house," agreed police Sgt. Fred Haptonstal.

"Have you ever heard of such a thing? When it starts talking to us, then we'll book it; otherwise she's just going to have to straighten it out with the movers.

"Accidents do happen, and I guess the guy had nowhere else to go," Haptonstal said.

"McGinnis, reached by telephone at his home in San Bernardino, promised, "I'm going back to get it tonight.

"I don't think we hurt anything; we just made a few tracks in the dirt."

Cicero said, "I'll certainly be glad to see that thing out of here,"

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