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Saturday, Jun 18, 2011County: Riverside
Defendant/Suspect: Randall T. Austin
Case Updates: 1 update(s) available
Kathleen Sandlian wants people to know she did everything right, but she says police and the courts could not protect her from a neighbor who turned against her when she wanted nothing to do with him.
"This is my home," the San Jacinto woman said, pointing to burned furniture, twisted metal, broken glass and, just inside the door of her single-wide mobile home, the charred remains of her granddaughter Zoe's dog, Coco.
Sandlian says Randall Austin, who had been staying with her neighbors, threatened her repeatedly since May. In filing for a restraining order, she described 72 calls in a 45-minute period, including one in which he "threatened to destroy my home, including by fire."
Austin, 51, was arrested on suspicion of arson June 19 near her gutted mobile home at the Hemacinto Mobile Park.
After the threats started, sheriff's deputies advised Sandlian to seek a restraining order, which she did May 12. A temporary one was granted but according to court records, Austin violated it, which is a misdemeanor. May 24 he was ordered to serve 20 days in jail, stay 10 yards from Sandlian's mobile home and have no contact with her.
On June 2, a judge denied a permanent restraining order because a protective order already was in place from the misdemeanor case against Austin, according to court records.
Sandlian, 52, says the last time she called police June 16 about continued threats, the deputy didn't take her seriously.
San Jacinto Police Chief Sue Trevino said the temporary restraining order was removed from the law enforcement computer system on or after June 2. When the deputy responded to Sandlian's call, there was no record of the other court order, something that needed to be entered by court personnel for law enforcement to see.
If a court order had been in the system when a deputy responded to Sandlian's report in June, Trevino said, "We would have taken some form of action. He probably would have been arrested."
Court officials did not respond to a request for comment on their procedures.
Sandlian's home was damaged -- twice -- by what authorities called arson fires June 18 and 19.
Sandlian had lived for several years in the mobile home on a tree-shaded, narrow access road, where rent is less than $350 a month. A prior owner added on a larger room and an enclosed spa. Since 2009, her son and granddaughter had lived with her.
She said she has two artificial hips that have given her problems since 1999, making her fearful of falling.
"I can't even tell you how many times I've been in the hospital," she said.
In April, Sandlian said she was released from medical facilities where she had been undergoing treatment for the hip problems since January. That's when some neighbors introduced Austin to her as someone who could be a caregiver.
Sandlian said Austin just "wanted a paycheck," but she never let him become a caretaker. After knowing him only about three weeks, she didn't want him around.
"I tried to get rid of him and he wouldn't go away," she said. "His behavior started freaking me out." Constantly, either her phone would ring or he would be at the door.
She said she told him on his May 6 birthday, "Please stay away from my house."
That's when she says the harassment started: nonstop phone calls, banging on her doors and windows and, finally, threatening to burn down her house.
Sandlian said last week that her cell phone voicemail has been full from trying to save the threatening messages Austin left so fire investigators could listen to them.
FEARS COME TRUE
Fearful of what might happen, Sandlian was staying at a friend's home in Hemet when the first fire started at 12:57 a.m. June 18. Her son, Jeff Reppe, was at work and granddaughter Zoe was staying with another relative.
The next night, a fire at 6:17 p.m. finished the destruction. This time, Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department investigators said, the fire caused moderate damage to a second mobile home whose occupant was displaced, and caused minor damage to three other homes.
Austin pleaded not guilty June 22 to two counts of arson, one of making a criminal threat against an unnamed female, one of animal cruelty and an allegation that he violated terms of probation in the previous case in which he was ordered to stay away from Sandlian.
A judge Tuesday ordered Austin be examined by doctors because of doubts about his mental competency, according to court records.
Back at the mobile home, Sandlian finds little left to salvage. She had no insurance.
"Every thing I owned was in there," she said.
"They are going to want me to clean up. I'm on Social Security, I'm disabled," she said.
For now, she is staying with her boyfriend, Richard Castle, who said it was "total shock" after the first fire. Her son and granddaughter are staying with other relatives.
|A 51-year-old San Jacinto man has pleaded guilty in connection with setting arson fires two days in a row last summer, gutting one mobile home and damaging a second at Hemacinto Mobile Home Park.|
Randall T. Austin also pleaded guilty to stalking Kathleen Sandlian and one count of animal cruelty, John Hall, Riverside County District Attorney's Office spokesman, said by phone.
Sandlian, her grown son and her granddaughter were not home at the time of the first fire but her granddaughter's dog, Coco, died in the fire in the mobile park on San Jacinto Avenue. Neighbors came to the aid of a next-door neighbor whose mobile was damaged in the second fire.
Sandlian, who needed hip-replacement surgery at the time, said last year that Austin had threatened her repeatedly in the month before the fires, included a specific threat to destroy her home, including by fire. She said he wanted to be her paid caretaker, but she rejected his offer.
Austin faces up to 17 years in prison for the five felonies when he is sentenced April 13 in Riverside County Superior Court, Hall said. Austin also admitted to five prior convictions dating back to the 1980s.
Austin was scheduled to go on trial, but he changed his plea Wednesday in an appearance before Judge Charles J. Koosed, according to court records.
Last year, just days before the fires, Sandlian called police about continued threats, but a court-issued protective order to keep Austin away from Sandlian was missing from a law enforcement computer system, so deputies were unaware of the order.
|Source: pe.com - Feb 13, 2012|
Update posted on Feb 24, 2012 - 6:36PM
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