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Squatter caught trying to steal city water
The saga of the squatter versus Corning continues.
Sara Beck, 40, and her 11-year-old daughter are still living in a house on Colusa Street as squatters, according to City Manager John Brewer.
And they are living there without any city water services — again.
Beck moved into the unoccupied residence about eight months ago. She believed the home to be abandoned and said she paid part of the property taxes due on the residence, giving her the right to move into the three bedroom structure under adverse possession.
The house was owned by Jim and Joan Parker, both who died years ago, and the house has been vacant since then.
In October, Beck petitioned Corning for water service. The City Council denied her request on the advice of Assistant City Attorney Jody Burgess.
Burgess said state law requirements of adverse possession include occupying the residence for five years, paying all taxes on the property and filing a legal claim in court and receiving a court judgment.
"She has not met any of these requirements," Burgess said.
Mayor Gary Strack said if the city provides water to the residence, "we would be validating that she (Beck) is living there."
The city took the water meter from the house, thinking the issue was final.
However, Brewer said a city community service officer was reading water meters on Colusa Street on Dec. 4 when he "noticed that Beck had reconnected the water service to the house ...
"We went to check and found that someone had illegally plumbed in a connection from the city water lines to the house with conduit and hose clamps. Corning police were on site when we checked the line," Brewer said. "City workers disconnected the illegal connection, then placed and secured a large, heavy metal plate over the water connection."
City staff also contacted the city attorney and confirmed California penal code that describes water theft from public facilities.
On Dec. 5, Corning police cited Beck for stealing water from the city.
In the meantime the Parker's daughter, who lives in Southern California, is working with lawyers to clear her parents' probate and take legal ownership of the property, Brewer said.
"Once that is complete, she can deal with the problem as a civil matter, be it evicting Sara Beck or a matter of trespass," said Brewer.
City Attorney Michael Fitzpatrick has been in contact with the Tehama County District Attorney's Office on the issue to learn whether Beck's occupation of the residence is a civil matter or criminal trespass.
"A letter the city received from Beck shows she is squatting on the property," said Burgess. "That is trespass."
Beck could not be reached for comment and did not respond to a written message left at the Colusa Street property.