Woman accused of squatting in home

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HOUSTON – A woman has taken over a vacant house in the 4900 block of Griggs Road, claiming to police it was abandoned, and she is homesteading it. Precinct 7 constable deputies identify the woman as Denise Eckford, 36.

The owner of the house, Dr. Canaan L. Harris, a surgeon, said the house was being offered for sale, but someone painted over the “For Sale” sign on the property. He said he only learned this week that someone had moved into his property.

According to neighbors, Eckford and family members moved into the building last March, installed cable TV and phone service and had the electricity turned on.

One neighbor, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, said she hasn't felt safe since Eckford moved in.

“They shot guns last night. They are a nuisance.” she said.

Harris said he doesn't want to put anyone on the street but doesn't understand how anyone could simply take over a house.

“I'm paying all these taxes. I'm paying the note on this property, and someone comes and tells me that they own this property now?" Harris said. "And they moved in my building while I'm paying all the bills?”

A Precinct 7 constable deputy said Eckford told her she'd been awarded the building by the county tax appraisal district, because it had been abandoned.

The deputy said Eckford was unable to produce any paperwork that might back up her claim. However, police can't immediately force Eckford to leave.

"Because of the law, there's a legal process we have to go through either eviction process or (the district attorney) accepts criminal trespassing, it'll be criminal trespassing," said Sgt. Angie De La Rosa with the Harris County Constable's Office said.