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Student Lives 3 Months in Hideaway at High School

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An 18-year-old high school student lived for the past three months in a secret apartment above his school’s auditorium in Sun Valley, building a carpeted home with a bed, TV, VCR, microwave oven and telephone, authorities said Friday.

Robert Davis used his talents as a stage-set designer for the drama class at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School to create a refuge from his parents in an attic area above the stage, Principal Virginia Holt said.

“Believe me, it was very, very surprising to all of us that a student could do this. But if a student is creative and enterprising enough, he can do anything he wants,” Holt said.

Davis was arrested at the school Tuesday morning on suspicion of trespassing after campus police discovered his hide-out when they apprehended three companions the night before, Holt and police said. He is free on $2,500 bail, Los Angeles Police Detective Oscar Caraballo said.

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Holt, who gave reporters a tour of the garret Friday, said Davis took up residence there during Christmas vacation, apparently because of trouble with his parents.

“He had problems at home with his parents and needed a place to stay,” the principal said. She said Davis’ parents did not contact school authorities during their son’s absence, but she declined to provide further details.

Davis and his parents could not be reached for comment.

“He really had no place else to go,” said Antonio Brown, 18, who said he was one of six students who knew where Davis was living. “I knew about it for some time but didn’t say anything about it. I didn’t want him to get into further trouble.”

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Davis attended classes as usual while he lived above the stage, the principal said, and managed to avoid detection because of “a very large, very active school.”

Holt said the three-year high school on Roscoe Boulevard has more than 2,300 students enrolled in day classes and about 1,200 in night school. “People are here as of 6 a.m. and they’re here until 11 p.m.,” she said. “He may have been seen as just anyone here.”

The principal declined to discuss Davis’ academic record in detail but said “he was a rather creative kid” who was involved in the school drama club and enrolled in a stage-crew class, in which he excelled at designing lighting, sound, props and other technical systems.

Because of his involvement with the stage, Davis was entrusted with a key to the auditorium, and he made at least two duplicates, Holt said.

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The small, triangular room he occupied was among several crannies in an attic space above the school stage. It is used to gain access to the auditorium’s loudspeakers, according to Holt and the school’s plant manager, Eric Hillman.

Davis painted the speaker room’s bare, concrete walls white and installed wall-to-wall, khaki-colored carpeting. He built a loft space in which to sleep and installed a mattress, couch and chair. He hooked up a telephone to the school’s system, Holt said.

The microwave, and some but not all of the other items Davis used, were taken from the school, according to Holt, who said administrators and teachers noticed the appliances were missing but were unable to determine where they had gone.

A narrow, metal ladder offers the only entry to the room, so Davis must have installed his furniture and appliances by hoisting them up on stage scaffolding, Holt said.

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Holt said Davis changed the lock on the speaker room’s door, confusing school custodians who tried to enter and then assumed that the school administration was responsible for the change. According to the principal and police, a campus supervisor noticed a youth trying to enter the building about 11 p.m. Monday, became suspicious and alerted school police. Officers entered the auditorium and found four students, including Davis. They arrested three, but Davis fled.

He turned himself in at the school the next morning and told authorities his story, Holt said.

Holt said she had not decided whether to take administrative action against Davis. A spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which will decide whether to file any criminal charges, said it had not yet received Davis’ case for review.


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