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Squatters evicted from Michigan home, neighbor details 'chemical' smell, cash-bearing criminals in hiding

A Michigan man, his family and neighbors are celebrating the end of a horrible squatter situation that involved illegal drug activity and police for years.

A residential community in Michigan is tearfully celebrating the end of a tumultuous squatter situation that invaded their neighborhood and daily lives for over three years.

Residents of Dowagiac feared for their safety and their children’s safety when one of their neighbors allowed a man, his beat-up campers and all of his friends to assume her backyard dwellings for their own.

"When he moved in, he would just start bringing in trash, old washers, dryers," Demarko Smith, Dowagiac resident, told Fox News Digital over the phone. "We hang out in our backyard. We have a movie theater and a bar, and there was just always random people back there."


Two years into the move, the homeowner passed away. Despite her family’s attempt to take the home back and give it to the bank, everyone involved was met with Michigan state squatter roadblocks, and the unwelcome parties took over the home entirely.

"They had no running water, no electricity for about three years," Smith said. "He scrapped most of the electrical. He took the copper plumbing out and sold the furnace."

Smith built a six-foot fence all the way around his yard to separate his wife and daughter from the constant chaos ensuing next door. However, upon installation of his fence on his property, Smith said some men tried to tear it down and it is still partially in shreds today.

"We’ve got 14 cameras around our property," Smith said. "They did drugs over there, I already know that. Some days, we couldn’t go outside because it smelled like chemicals through the wood burner. The fire department went eight times. They caught the shed on fire in the backyard."


Smith added, "My wife and my daughter did not feel safe here – when I was gone, they felt terrified."

He described the area as a "great neighborhood" and said the local residents had no issues with one another or others on the street until the squatters moved in. Smith said that, sometimes, they would see chemical smoke rolling out of the home on the cameras.

"My daughter plays in the backyard," he said. "I’d have to go outside and smell the air before she went outside to play. We would be outside watching a movie, and we’d have to go inside because of the smell. We felt like we were backed into a corner."

After $4,500 in expenses to shield and protect his family from the illegal activity next door, Smith was equipped with surveillance that generated on a seven-day battery backup, a 120 dB siren as a warning, Apple watches to monitor the home while Smith and his wife were at work, a fence and a gun.

"I have people on camera walking in the house with backpacks, and walking out of the house counting money," he said. "It was all the time. Last winter, I think it was in November, they had a six-hour standoff with police. The police came over there looking for someone, and they wouldn’t come out of the house. They were saying ‘Come outside with your hands up,’ and no one would come out."


After six sleepless hours, the police kicked in the door, but were unlucky in finding the perpetrator.

"A half an hour later, I got him on camera walking out," Smith said. "Sometimes, the police will have issues on the street, and they’ll come right to my house."

Despite encouragement from his friends to uproot his family from the home, Smith said he and his wife spent 16 years developing their dream home and would not be forced to evacuate because of the situation.

"To feel like that in your own home, it's really sad," he said. "We’d go on vacation, and sometimes we would cancel because I had a bad feeling. We stayed home countless summers. We couldn't enjoy ourselves because we would have to worry about our house. I don’t wish this on my worst enemy."

Smith, a DJ in Michigan, detailed how he and his wife would spend at least four hours per day watching footage, including what they missed while asleep. He said, while at work, he simultaneously played music for partygoers and watched the cameras.


Nevertheless, Smith said the police did all they could do, including making numerous arrests, and even dragging out someone hiding under a shed. He believes the city is at fault for the recurring torment caused by the squatter and his friends.

"You can write people a citation for their grass, and then you have people doing stuff like this and nothing happens," he said.

Finally, after years of torture, Smith says the bank was able to evict the squatter and his friends.

"When he pulled out of there, we were on the front porch crying because we were so happy he left," Smith said.

Unfortunately, he packed up and moved his duct-taped, flat-tired campers to another street in the area, which happened to be the same street as Smith's mother-in-law.

"Now, they’re mad over there," he said.

Smith said the home, about 25 miles from the shoreline of Lake Michigan, was up for sale, despite a gaping hole in the roof covered by tarp, and missing wiring throughout the house. On both Zillow and, the home appears to be off the market, though estimated to be worth over $100,000 on both sites.

"I’ll offer them $15,000 for it," Smith said. "I just want to tear it down and have the property."

Though the Smith family and other residents are jovial since the eviction, there is residual fear among them in case a similar situation ever presents itself again. Additionally, there are lingerers presently unaware the lead squatter moved out, and still coming to the home.

"We started a group chat with the neighbors," Smith said. "We tell each other, ‘Hey, this guy is walking, looking suspicious, just a heads-up.’"

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