Imagine moving into your dream home and then being told... it used to be a meth house. That's the nightmare a Colorado Springs family is facing.
The property is a $1 million Tuscan style villa. And right now it's so contaminated the family can't even live there.
It was a standout, winning the 2007 HBA Grand Award in Colorado Springs. This 8,000 square-foot custom Italian villa in the Peregrine neighborhood is called Tramonto Tuscano, which means Tuscan sunset.
I'm told the five bedroom, five bath, $1.3 million home took years to design.
But now the home is vacant.
The only ones allowed inside are workers wearing protective suits, gloves, and self-contained breathing gear. They wouldn't talk about the job, but we're told they're removing traces of the drug, Methamphetamine by cleaning and fixing the home.
According to the lawsuit, new owners bought the property for just over $1 million in late July. When they found out about the possible contamination days later, they hired an expert to test the home. The 90-page assessment not only confirmed the presence of Meth, but found the levels to be so high... the property is now considered unsafe and dangerous.
The lawsuit alleges the new owners were told to immediately move out and leave behind their belongings, which reportedly had to be thrown out or put through an expensive decontamination process.
The lawsuit also says the new owners were told they had to comply with state law and make the property safe again. The price: more than $125,000.
Monica Marshall, the former owner says, "The family is living in temporary quarters, in some type of temporary housing and they will not be able to set foot on their property that they bought."
Monica says a sad series of events led to the corruption of the property which many call "the million dollar Meth house."
Monica says it started with the divorce from her husband, Brian. She says she was living in the home until an emergency sent her to Italy to care for her injured mother. Monica says in the months she was out of the country, her ex-husband Brian took possession of the home with a court order, one she's now fighting. She says she never was told about the court proceeding.
Brian moved in to the home along with their two daughters and their 19-year-old son, Martin. Monica says it was Martin who turned the property into a Meth house. She says he recently had been released from a drug rehabilitation center and was struggling with a history of drug abuse.
Monica says, "It's devastating. You have no idea. He had weight scales, he had torches, all sorts of tools to prepare the drugs and the amount of money lying out in the bedroom."
And on the outside, neighbors began to get upset about the comings and goings at 2350 Orchard Valley Road.
One neighbor told us, "A lot of traffic. Some suspicious traffic... all hours of the night."
While overseas, Monica says she got several frantic e-mails from one of her daughters, asking her to come home. When she returned to Colorado Springs, she says she was stunned to learn she had lost ownership of the home. That's when she started pursuing the legal fight against her ex-husband.
Months later, Monica says she took another frantic call from her daughter.
This time, begging her to help with the family dogs who reportedly were stuck in the hot garage, sick and malnourished.
Monica says when she met her daughter at the home, she was shocked at what she saw.
Monica says, "I saw the torches, the crack cocaine spoons, the Methamphetamine tubes, the... all the gadgets to prepare Methamphetamines."
Monica e-mailed these photographs, which also show a handgun, to the Colorado Springs Police Department's Metro Vice Narcotics Squad.
Monica adds, "The community needs to know about it and something must be done to stop the criminal behavior."
What Monica says she didn't know was that her ex-husband had already signed a contract, agreeing to sell the home.
And in the days it took her to decide whether to e-mail those photos to police ... a young family had already moved in.
That new family has since moved out, and is now suing to rescind the sale, trying to get their money back. 11 News talked to Monica's ex-husband, Brian Marshall about the lawsuit against him. He's accused of fraud, breach of contract, and not disclosing the presence or use of Meth in the home in real estate documents, which is required by Colorado law.
Brian told me it was not a Meth house. And he says he lived there all along, going to work every morning at Lockheed Martin at 4:30 a.m. and returning home at 3 p.m.
Brian's attorney also filed a formal response to the lawsuit against him.
In it, he denies that his son, Martin sold or used drugs. He also denies that he breached the contract or broke any laws.
Colorado Springs police tell me, they can't comment on what happened at the home because Brian's son, Martin Marshall and the house are now part of a criminal investigation.
But court documents show the younger Marshall is accused of possessing drug paraphernalia which had traces of Meth on it and possessing and selling Heroin to a police informant.
He's entered a not guilty plea in El Paso County and his trial has been set for next January. In the meantime, a family who thought they'd moved into their dream home ... is still in the middle of a nightmare.
So what can we all learn from this terrible situation?
Peter Riley, the owner of Crystal Clean Decontamination recommends that everyone buying a home have it tested for Methamphetamine first.
Peter says, "I would say test your property just like you would test for radon or lead-based paint or any other issues. It should be done because the costs are going to fall on you after the fact unless you can show it was contaminated prior to."
We found an easy-to-use test kit from SKC, Inc. It was developed by the Centers for Disease Control.
It uses a special cloth that you wet, wipe the surface you want tested, then spray the cloth. If there's a certain amount of Meth residue, the cloth will change colors. It quick and easy to use and costs less than $90.
The family who owns the home didn't want to talk, but this 90-page assessment explains just how widespread the Meth contamination is. For example, it's recommended that the entire furnace system and duct work be ripped out and replaced. Mattresses must be thrown out and carpet and carpet pad must be ripped out. It even says a child's Bible in the downstairs bedroom is considered contaminated because it was laying out and exposed.
This is sentimental loss, not just a financial one.
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