Hoarder collects belongings as cleanup begins

SAN JOSE, Calif.

By truck, tractor and by hand, a private contractor and the county of Santa Clara dug in. Bit by bit and load by load, more than a dozen men began to haul away a mess that's been growing since the 1970s.

Rudy Valente's been the most vocal neighbor on the street.

"Now you can see the house," he said.

When our first story aired just three weeks ago, we reported how 58-year-old Richard Baker's manic collecting pushed his neighbors to the edge. That story prompted the county Board of Supervisors to take action.

Monday, a county hearing officer declared the house an official public nuisance.

"I've not seen a job on this scale, not for a single residence," said sheriff investigator Larry Lundin.

Baker showed up Tuesday morning, salvaged a few things, but mostly looked resigned to the inevitable. He didn't want to talk to us and he didn't stay long.

Lundin was one of many county officials there to make sure Baker's belongings were treated respectfully, a process that he says could take up to five days for the yard alone.

"Anything that is determined to have some value to the estate, we're putting off to the side and they'll be inventory that, catalog it, warehouse it," Lundin said.

The public guardian is now in charge of all that cataloged stuff and will eventually go into the house to begin the process of unraveling what's left of the messy estate. Baker's deceased parents are still listed as the legal owners of the home and the county recently located Baker's sister in Santa Cruz. Who gets what will be decided in probate court.

But on the street today, there is just the spectacle. "Can you imagine the stuff that's been coming out of there?" wondered Valente. And, after all these years, relief. "The service we've been getting here, especially from Channel 7, they've been doing a lot of coverage here and I appreciate it."

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