Utah Man Asks Police for Assistance in Stealing Woman's House

A Salt Lake man faces several charges accusing him of breaking into a home and changing the locks on the doors after threatening the owner and asking local police for assistance.

Andrew Blackwell was charged Friday with burglary and forgery, both third-degree felonies. He was also charged with stalking, a class A misdemeanor, in addition to theft, criminal mischief and three counts of criminal trespass, all class B misdemeanors, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

It began when the homeowner refused to sell Blackwell her vacant home for $90,000. According to Salt Lake County assessor's records, the market value of the home is more than $300,000.

He initially wrote her with an offer but when she didn't respond, Blackwell went directly to her home and threatened her, prosecutors wrote. She later told police he said "he would forge any document needed to get the property from her," the charges state.

"The victim in this case, who is an elderly woman, has expressed fear to the police about what the defendant may do," police wrote.

On August 30, police were called to the home and an officer encountered Blackwell there. He was told to leave and not return. The next day, the police were called back to the home after reports of a break-in. When police arrived, there were tools on the front porch and a front window open.

Blackwell said he was working on the yard, and had opened the window for ventilation.

On September 11, another officer responded to a possible burglary at the same address. There, the officer found Blackwell, who said he'd cut down trees, shrubs and bushes on the property.

He also added new deadbolts to three doors and had cleared out the home.

In an email to the officer, Blackwell said he'd locked the gate of the home with his own chain and lock, and planned to remove more plants "just as long as it builds my case to gaining title to the house."

empty house
The homeowner alleges that Blackwell threatened the owner into selling the house at a dramatically reduced rate. Eugene Keebler/Getty

He also told the officer he'd removed the contents of the house—and asked for help getting the water turned on, complaining "that they wouldn't turn the water on until he could prove that he owned the property," prosecutors wrote.

On September 20, he sent another email to police admitting he left the lights on at the house; put mulch in the yard and put air in the tires of the vehicles in the driveway, according to the charges.

According to neighbors, the man said he had contacted the electric company and gotten the electricity turned on to an account he controls, and he was "thinking about finding a way to get the water" turned on "by forging a note" from the owner.

On September 24, the homeowner told police that Blackwell had a truckload of wood chips delivered to the home. She also contacted Rocky Mountain Power about the home's electricity, but the company wouldn't give her information about who was controlling the electricity at her own home.

A squatter's right to take over a piece of real estate—also called adverse possession—exists in almost every state. Unlike Blackwell's approach, though, a successful squatter is someone who moves onto your property and takes up residence without your knowledge or approval.

It doesn't happen often, but if the squatter stays long enough without being discovered and removed—the exact amount of time varies, depending on the locale—the property and title can become his.

A warrant for Blackwell's arrest was issued on Friday but he was not in custody as of Monday morning.