I-Team: Family returns from vacation to home trashed by teen squatters

August 22, 2013 (MINOOKA, Ill.)

When we first heard about these summer squatters it sounded like a bad Hollywood movie. Family goes on vacation, hires a neighbor girl to water the plants and feed the pets. And they return to a trash heap with walls.

It is a story of drugs, sex and partying from a southwest suburban family with a warning about handing over that house key.

"Everything that we worked for, just felt awful," said Theresa Donley.

When Theresa and Alan Donley headed off on family vacation to Arizona earlier this summer, they left their cat Sybil in the care of a teenage neighbor and gave her a key to their home in the quiet far southwest suburban Minooka neighborhood.

"We've had this person watch the kids, she's fed the cat before," Theresa Donley said.

But on their last day of vacation came a call that the cops were at their front door back home and their truck had been in a serious accident.

"He's like, 'I need permission to get into your house,' and I didn't even know what to think," Alan Donley said.

Inside police found an absolute mess, even two teens asleep in their bed.

Police say a dozen teens moved into their home the day after they left and partied for four days straight.

"There were things everywhere, there were drugs and cigarettes, and the smell was overwhelming," Theresa Donley said. "Drugs on the carpet that my kids play on, they threw up all over."

"They slept, they ate, they took showers, they brushed their teeth upstairs with the toothbrushes you get from the dentist," said Alan Donley. "They wore my clothes because they ran out of their own clean clothes."

"This is where we worked hard to make a family and to make a house and to make a home and these people took advantage of that," said Theresa Donley.

"It hurts," Alan Donley said. "How can somebody do that, and just walk away from it?"

"They ate the food, took whatever they wanted, they slept in the beds like it was a big hotel, nice vacation getaway," said Minooka Police Chief Justin Meyer.

Police arrested a teenager when he drove the family's wrecked truck to McDonalds and charged another teen with possession of drug paraphernalia.

"Because I don't think I should tell anybody about it, I went to court, it's done with," said Joe Panek.

The I-Team went to get answers from the neighbors with the house key but no one would open the door or return our phone calls.

One partying teen is listed as a witness in court documents and isn't accused of wrongdoing.

"We ate their food, we drank their booze, and stuff, we were smoking in the house or whatever, we basically just used that as a party house for a couple of days," Andrew Santucci said.

Despite the trashed house, authorities haven't filed charges against any of the other squatters or even the teenager that had the keys.

"It's case closed at this point, the case has been resolved," said Grundy County State's Attorney Jason Helland.

Helland says he isn't filing any more charges because they can't prove who did what and that the partiers didn't have criminal intent to damage the home.

"Merely being present at a crime scene does not make you accountable for actions at a crime scene," Holland said. "At the end of the day, the prosecutor is the gatekeeper of justice and we have to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt."

"If there really are no charges that can be pressed, how do they atone for what they've done?" said Theresa Donley.

"Everybody I talk to says I have my neighbor watch my cat or they bring in the garbage cans, and I'm like, well, maybe you better rethink that," Alan Donley said.

The teen who stole the family truck pled guilty to the possession of stolen vehicle charges and is now in court-ordered rehab.

In Illinois, parents of 11- to 19-year-olds can be held liable in a civil lawsuit for the destructive actions of their children.

So if you're going out of town police recommend you give your keys to an adult you trust, see if your police department has a vacation home check program or see if new apps or security systems might help you keep a real time eye on your home.

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