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Residents: 'Meth epidemic' behind house fires

Posted: 6:44 PM, Jan 12, 2016
Updated: 2016-01-13 04:02:43Z

As the ABC Action News truck rolled thrown the Fishbowl area of Homosassa, two men in a white pickup truck began to follow us.

Knowing someone is trailing you on purpose is easy to figure out, especially in this town.  There is only one stoplight.

When we stop at a burned out house, the men see their chance to block us in and roll down the window.

"You here because of what is going on here?" questions Henry Huggins.

Huggins, who is wearing faded flannel plaid shirt, can barely talk over the sound of his diesel engine.  It isn't until he shuts it down that you can here is drawl.

"Been living here 66 years," Huggins belted out.

We don't have to say why were are there, Huggins and his adult son, who is in the passenger of the pickup, already know the reason: meth.

"Don't know how many kids have got to die? How many got to die before they'll actually try to do something to stop this mess?" Huggins questioned.

He is quick to tell us he lost his 21-year-old granddaughter to drugs.

He adds that two of his nephews are rail thing from using.

Two other family members are behind bars for meth.

"Manufacturers and meth sellers are no more than a cockroach or a rat to me," he explained.

VACANT HOMES TURNING INTO SQUATTING GROUNDS

As Huggins scours the neighborhood with a cold look, he begins pointing at homes, and explaining who he knew that died in each one and from what drug.

He explains that a new type of meth is being manufactured in the area and it's called Black Ice.

"It's got shoe polish, glue," he said of the ingredients.

Then, he points to the home of Laura Lyles.

"Talk to her, she lost her stepdaughter to meth," Huggins said.

But before heading that direction, it is hard to miss, the shell of a home taken by fire on South Willard Avenue on January 1.

The State Fire Marshal ruled the fire suspicious.

On January 10 they arrested and charged Amanda Brown with arson.

According to an arrest affidavit, Brown said she burned the house down, which did not belong to her, because she is addicted to drugs.

A second suspicious fire occurred in December.

Both houses, less than a block from one another, are complete losses.

Lyles told ABC Action News her brother had moved out of the second home and was coming back every now and then to pick up some remaining items.

When he left one night, squatters came in and burned the home down.

"i went from trusting everyone in my town to trusting no one now," said Lyles.

Lyles and other neighbors all suspect drug addicted squatters caused both fires but an arrest was not made in the December fire.

A CHANGING NEIGHBORHOOD: FROM FAMILY FRIENDLY TO LOCKED DOORS

Lyles has lived in the area for more than 40 years.

She raised her children in the area but noted in shift in atmosphere 12 years ago.

"I have a concealed weapons license and in my 60 years, never carried one, I do now. I am afraid for our community," Lyles explained.

Lyles lost her stepdaughter, Angela, to a meth overdose in 2012.  Angela's body was found in a vacant trailer, without electricity and water, just a quarter mile from her family's home.

"We didn't make it, we had people against us on her getting the help she needed and this town was part of it," Lyles explained.

Angela was just 41.

And while her death is not the first, Lyles explained it will not be the last.

"The first and third of the month, you should see the traffic on this street, people on bicycles," she explained.

All of them, according to Lyles, are going to known meth houses in the area.  She says little girls she once babysat are now wasting away on meth.

"Manufacturers and meth sellers are no more than a cockroach or a rat to me," Huggins said.

Lyles explained the situation is so dire, many elderly residents are afraid to leave their homes out of fear someone will come and cook meth or do drugs while they are away.

NEIGHBORS VOWS TO TAKE BACK TOWN

Lyles and other residents want to take back control of their neighborhood.

They even formed a new neighborhood watch group six months ago.

According to Lyles, Citrus County Sheriff's deputies did attend a few of their meetings.

But, the resident feel that meth houses and drug users keep popping up and perhaps there are too many for law enforcement to handle.

"That is why I got into this crusade, I am tired of seeing it," Lyles added.