Neighbors and drivers passing by the intersection of Mariposa Avenue and Old Auburn Road in Citrus Heights know the site all too well. An overgrown yard, a two-story home that’s falling apart, people apparently living out of vans in the yard, and most recently: boarded up windows.
So what’s going on?
Citrus Heights Police Sgt. Jason Baldwin said the home at 7716 Old Auburn Rd. has been the site of “a litany of code violations” for several years, with weeds, vehicles, trash, and homeless camps being cited in the past. But following an inspection of the property earlier this year, Baldwin said the owner passed away inside the home.
The man’s name has not been released due to him having no next of kin, according to Baldwin. A phone call to the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office also found no information could be released — including a name, date of death, or cause of death — as necessary notification of next of kin had not been made as of July 7.
Neighbors and others contacted by The Sentinel identified the man as James Wheeler, who was described by those who knew him as a bit reclusive and eccentric. A woman who was cleaning up the property on Saturday told The Sentinel that Wheeler had died in March, but was reluctant to answer any other questions for this story.
Carrie Burchett, who lives nearby the Wheeler home, said she had known James since he was five years old. She said he was an only child and had married in his old age, but his wife “up and died” about a year ago.
Burchett, 93, shared several memories of Wheeler, describing him as one who kept to himself but also helped others. She said he ran a yard maintenance business and would mow her lawn on a regular basis.
“He was a good person and never did anything wrong,” she said. “He was always helping people if he could.”
Asked about the history of the home, Citrus Heights History and Arts Commissioner Larry Fritz said he had met Wheeler on at least one occasion and was told that his father had constructed the home in 1940. County property records also list 1940 as the “effective year” for the home being built and show the three-bed-one-bath home sits on a sizeable lot of nearly three acres.
Fritz said Wheeler is believed to have graduated from San Juan High School in 1959; his parents both graduated from the same high school 30 years prior in 1929. A photo of Wheeler’s parents, Anna and James, is also reportedly in the San Juan museum, taken during their 50th high school class reunion.
Several others who knew Wheeler said he was a “walking history book” and was knowledgeable about Citrus Heights history. He is believed to have been in his seventies when he died.
The future of the old home is unknown.
According to Sgt. Baldwin, due to building violations, liens, and unpaid taxes, the county recently took possession of the property. The home was also boarded up by authorities due to the building violations, Baldwin said.
As of Friday, the county assessors office was not able to confirm a transfer in ownership had occurred, but probate issues could be causing a delay in transfers being recorded.
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