Villa Park eyesore is torn down

Times Staff Writer

The motto of Orange County's smallest city is "Villa Park, the Hidden Jewel." It's a burg of about 1,900 mostly upscale homes with pools on nicely landscaped half-acre lots. To everyone's relief, one of those dwellings recently disappeared.

The "Cat House" gave new meaning to the phrase "fixer-upper."

"People are happy to have it gone," Villa Park City Manager Ken Domer said.

The sale and demolition of the Center Drive home -- where weeks earlier authorities discovered 76-year-old Mary Maloney living amid mounds of trash and numerous cats, alive and dead, settled one issue: What was to become of the malodorous dump.

Maloney's 53-year-old son, Kevin, remains under investigation for elder abuse. Orange County Sheriff Department's investigators are awaiting results of medical tests before turning the case over to the district attorney.

"It'll be up to them to see if they charge him," sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said.

Mary Maloney remains at an assisted-care facility, he said.

When paramedics were called to Maloney's home of 20 years in late February, they found her lying outside on a blanket. Inside, authorities were shocked by the squalor: urine-soaked walls, cat feces stacked 2 feet high in places, and debris throughout.

"We always knew something screwy was going on over there," neighbor Mike Fris said. "Once in a while there would be these smells. But we had no idea the extent of it."

The "Cat House" became the talk -- and drive-by spectacle -- of the neighborhood. City officials were poised to declare it a public nuisance, which would have forced a cleanup.

Maloney put the four-bedroom, two-bath home on the market for $700,000 -- far below the value of homes in the $1-million-plus north Orange County neighborhood.

More than 100 people inquired about the property, and 10 written offers were made, said Lesslie Giacobbi, the real estate agent who handled the sale to a Villa Park investor for less than the asking price.

The buyer wasn't interested in the house, just the 20,000-square-foot lot, where he plans to build a new home, Giacobbi said.

"The house had to be taken down to the ground," she said.

On April 19, a bulldozer arrived and quickly removed the flaw in the hidden jewel of Villa Park.

Domer said the city had only one request: that the work be done on a Saturday so as to not disturb students at the elementary school across the street.

"We wanted the kids to leave school for the week with the house there and come back Monday with the house gone," Domer said. "End of story."


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