Written for the Argus Observer. Published on May 14, 2015
The body of another homeless man was found at a duplex on Northwest Second Street in Ontario, bringing the count up to two found at that location this year.
The police were notified that the body of Rand Nilsson, 54 was discovered at 612 Northwest Second Street at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, according to Ontario Police Chief Mark Alexander. He said there is no sign of foul play and Nilsson had some medical conditions that may have contributed to his death.
“I haven’t had a chance to dig through his medical records or anything, but we know he was on some medications and we also know that he drank a lot,” said David Brauer, the Malheur County medical examiner. “I have to review his records, but everything’s looking like it’s a natural death. We’re right in the middle of everything.”
Nilsson may have been from Blackfoot, Idaho, according to Alexander, and still has family in that area, and they have been notified. The Ontario police department has had around 200 contacts with Nilsson since 1996, though Alexander didn’t go into detail on Nilsson’s police background out of respect for the family.
Nilsson’s body is one of two that have been found at that same location. The first was found on July 11, 2014 and was identified as Michael Heck, 53, from Ontario, another homeless man from the area. Heck’s body had been decomposed beyond recognition when it was found by another transient man who had stopped by the vacant building. On July 18, Heck was identified by his dental records.
“[Nilsson’s body] had not been there for an extended amount of time, as opposed to the body we found last summer,” Alexander said. “As far as we know, he was last seen on Saturday, which would be [May 9th].”
Alexander said the duplex is known as a hangout for Ontario’s homeless population
“It’s a yellow duplex and the front doors don’t face the street,” Alexander explained. “It’s a little more hidden and it’s probably the worst one on that block. It needs to get secured and they need to work on the appearance outside. We’re working on that.”
Neighbors of the duplex said they saw the police arrive at the scene and watched a hearse take Nilsson’s body away.
“It was like the neighborhood telegraph going on in the area,” said Pat Kropp, who lives a few houses down from the duplex, “Bob talked to Jack and he told me what was going on.”
Kropp and other neighbors said they’ve been worried about the property for several years, but nothing has been done. One suggestion was to condemn the building and burn it down.
“I thought maybe they were going to get that thing locked up,” Kropp said. “Two [bodies] in less than a year is getting ridiculous.”
Kropp said even if it is locked up, he suspects people will still find their way into the building
“You try to lock it up and they’ll break the window and just go on in,” Kropp said.
Neighbors have also started looking into the property owners, who are listed as John and Dina Castagana, according to the Malheur County Assessor’s Office. Their mailing address listed is 610 Northwest Second Street and the assessor’s office has no further contact information for the owners.
“We know that the address they gave is fake,” said Alexander. “We’re trying to follow up on that.”
The tax collector’s department of the assessor’s office said the $1,140 property taxes on the duplex for this year have been paid.
Alexander said that his department will continue to try and track down the owners of the duplex and work toward getting the property safely secured and toward cleaning up the outside of the building.