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67-Year-Old Hoarder Dead; Dog Rescued

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A Dallas County medical examiner crawled through a window and over piles of debris Thursday to reach a man found dead inside his home, on the 6200 block of Martel Avenue. Dallas police said he appeared to be pinned under the weight of his own possessions.

“It just looks like something from a really bad TV show,” said neighbor Sarah Blanchette.

Friends of the homeowner noticed him missing Tuesday of last week, and eventually reported their concerns to police, who called in firefighters. For days, neighbors watched their efforts to find the man.

“They’ve been pulling out jugs and jugs of urine and feces and just the things that he collected is amazing,” said Jessica Zacek, who has lived across the street for eleven years. “Everyone knew there was a hoarding situation.  No one knew the extent,” she said.

Firefighters first tried to push their way in Saturday, but a ten foot wall of trash blocked them. Thus, they cut a hole through the roof, instead, climbing down through the attic. Even a cadaver dog couldn’t track the man down, though.

Firefighters say it was thrown off by the scent of dead animals.

“We just could not get around or find anything,” said Dallas Fire Rescue Lt. Joel Lavender. Calling the debris a health and safety issue, Dallas police got a warrant to clear the home.

Neighbors said they were warned it would eventually have to come down, releasing rodents living inside.

“They’re advising everyone to get rat bait traps, just to make sure they don’t invade everyone else’s homes and to make sure your pets are vaccinated,” said Zacek.

A hazard materials cleaning crew contracted by the city began work Wednesday.

Around noon Thursday, they finally discovered the 67-year-old homeowner.

April Tepera was a friend. “It’s a sad loss. I know it’s a bad way to go, but he was a good guy. He was a good guy. He had a heart of gold,” she said.

Firefighters did make one rescue from the house — a little dog named Buddy.

Without water for days, he was barely able to move.

“Gave him a bath, cleaned him up,” said Leo Gregg, a friend, who is now taking care of the dog.

The dog was all his owner would talk about, and he knows Gregg said he would want him taken care of.

“I knew that dog meant everything to him,” he said.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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