CHICAGO (CBS) — A life lost…along with family treasures.
A Chicago couple said their loved one’s possessions were thrown in the trash after he died. They’ve been trying for a year to get answers.
CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot joins us now with a story you’ll see only on 2.
Marvin Dickerson called a Chicago Housing Authority apartment in Lakeview home for four years. His family said even though they followed all the steps to pick up his belongings, some were not only put in the garbage, they were stolen.
Julian Marvin Dickerson died on May 27th of last year. He lived at the CHA Mary Hartwell Catherwood Senior Apartments in Lakeview. His nephew and namesake, Dr. Marvin Jackson and his wife, Dr. Yvette DeBois, took care of packing Dickerson’s possessions.
They paid rent through June, only to find his belongings in a massive dumpster behind the CHA building.
“It was astonishing, given the fact that we had contact with them just days before,” said Dickerson.
“We found his medication. We found all kinds of things. Financial records,” added DeBois.
Not only was the apartment cleared out, it was freshly painted.
“It was like he was taken from us again,” Jackson said.
He added that several things were also missing. Jackson filed a police report.
“Flat screen TVs, Apple computer, iPad, those are the things that could have monetary value,” Jackson said.
But for Jackson, this isn’t about money. His uncle was the family historian. Digitized family photos were on the now missing computer. His uncle served in the U.S. Army, was a medic in Vietnam and worked as a Chicago firefighter. He was featured in books by Chicago author Studs Terkel. An autographed copy of the book “Race” to Dickerson from Terkel was found in the trash.
“You can’t believe someone would do something like that,” Jackson said.
DeBois said she was told by the CHA staff were seen on camera taking things out of the apartment.
The couple reached out to 46th Ward Alderman, James Cappleman for help.
“I hope we get to the bottom and I hope to also see, if this happening to other people as well. It makes me question it,” Cappleman said.
The Habitat Company, whose employees work for CHA told CBS 2 the suspected employees were suspended then fired after an investigation. Habitat said an item of value was recovered and told the family it can be picked up.
The family attorney learned Monday it was a TV. The family said they were never told about it. Staff were also retrained and protocols reviewed for this type of situation. The CHA would only say the independent CHA inspector general is investigating.
CHA responded to CBS 2’s request for information. The agency released the following statement:
The family of Julian Marvin Dickerson says they have been trying to get a resolution to a situation for about a year now. Dickerson died. His family paid his rent through the end of the month in June of last year in order to move his belongings from his CHA apartment, located at Mary Hartwell Catherwood Senior Apartments. They had gone in a few times, to pack and sort through his belongings.
When they went back to continue, all of his remaining belongings were gone. A resident directed them to a dumpster towards the back of the building. When they went there, they saw their uncle’s belongings in the dumpster. What was missing was his MacBook computer and many other valuables (I have an extensive list of these items). They also saw their uncle’s medical and financial information in the dumpster along with that of other residents that had just been dumped in there as well.
The family insisted on watching the video tapes, to see who was involved in the dumping and theft. They were told by CHA they would let them see the tapes. That still hasn’t happened.
While the CHA and Habitat Company have admitted their own policies were not followed, there’s still no resolution. They were told three of the six CHA staffers involved have been let go and two higher up staffers left, but the family still awaits the whereabouts of Dickerson’s computer and camera equipment. He was the family historian and had extensive genealogy research on his computer, that is very important to his family.
Habitat released a statement to CBS 2:
Upon being notified of the alleged theft of Mr. Dickerson’s belongings, Habitat immediately suspended the suspected employees, notified the property owner, the Chicago Housing Authority, and launched an internal investigation. The investigation lasted approximately 10 days, after which the employees were terminated and The Habitat Company filed a police report that a theft had occurred in the building. At that time, Habitat was able to recover one item of value and notified both the family and the police department more than six months ago that the item was available for the family to pick up at their convenience. We have yet to hear from the family and welcome the opportunity to return this item to them. Habitat continues to work with the police, assisting with their investigation. Habitat subsequently reviewed protocols and re-trained staff about appropriate processes and procedures for this type of situation. The CPD visited the office and saw the TV and made note to also contact the Family. Again, Mr. Jackson can contact me directly as he has in the past.