Concerns raised after overdose death in Salisbury

JIM SULLIVAN/Staff photoResidents on Seabrook Road in Salisbury are complaining about people living in tents and driving cars in and out all of the time in a patch of woods called "the compound."

SALISBURY — Neighbors call it "the compound on the hill" and they say they've had enough of it.

Joe LeBlanc lives across the street from the parcel, located between and behind 46 and 49 Seabrook Road, where he said a shed was built and people have been living without electricity, running water and a bathroom for three years.

"We call them squatters," LeBlanc said. "They are saying they have some sort of deed but they are not sure if the deed is legal or not.”

The deed for the three-acre parcel shows it was granted by Barbara True to Kevin Toomey on May 13, 2013. But ownership took a turn when Toomey died earlier this month. His body was removed from the property July 8, the victim of what Salisbury Police Chief Thomas Fowler said was an apparent drug overdose.

Neighbors said they have seen plenty of activity there.

"It is obvious to me there are some nefarious things going on there," LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc's next-door neighbor, Tony Hook, said Toomey's body was the second removed from the property in two years.

"The first was an overdose and they pretty much suspect this was, too," Hook said. “They put a fence up after the latest death" earlier this month.

The ownership of the property is still in question and the land is not being taxed by the town, according to assessor Cheryl Gorniewicz.

"It is an owner unknown property," Gorniewicz said. "The description on the deed, which was presented by the person who has passed away, was too vague and gave no specific metes and bounds, no plan references, and we are not able to determine if that deed is in fact the parcel (Toomey ) claimed was his, without a title search.”

LeBlanc said he spoke to an investigator who responded to the property July 8 and wasn't happy with what he was told.

"He said it's a house of horrors up there," LeBlanc recalled. "I believe the Police Department knows there is something going on and wants to do something about it. But, for whatever reason, the building inspector and the Board of Health are not allowed to go on the property because they just recently put up some 'no trespassing' signs, even though they don't own the property. They won't go on the property without police protection."

Fowler said his department has been called there about 10 times in the past three years but no citations have been issued.

"We have gone out for anything between welfare checks to suspicious activity," he said. "Obviously, the death of that one resident was the most serious."

Hook said many vehicles with New Hampshire license plates are parked on the land and he wants his neighbors to "be held to the same standards the rest of us are."

“If you go into my driveway, you're going to find two New Hampshire license plates but those are both registered to my New Hampshire company,” he said. “You will also find three vehicles registered in Massachusetts. I pay Massachusetts income and property taxes. You’ve got people up there who are not being held to any of the standards and laws as we are. They are also dragging down our property values. That is kind of a stone in the shoe."

Building inspector/zoning officer Scott Vandewalle said several owners and pieces of property are involved with that parcel.

"We have been up there, we have been trying to deal with it," Vandewalle said. "There are no easy solutions and we will be talking about it again soon. The gentleman who was living there is deceased. He would have been the main concern, so that seems to resolve that issue."

Fowler said concerned neighbors should call his department if they are worried about criminal activity.

"This may be a civil matter between the property owner and the people on the property," Fowler said. "But that is not criminal and does not fall into my purview. If there are public safety issues involved, or if there is suspicious or criminal activity going on, by all means they should contact the Police Department. We will address it and investigate it."

 Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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