Special Report: Beating Bed Bugs

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – A Virginia mother of four, whose public housing unit was repeatedly infested with bedbugs and mice, has taken the housing authority to court and reached a settlement.

“I’m holding on because of my kids,” Lakeitha Drake told WATE 6 On Your Side’s sister station WAVY. She and her four sons moved into Dale Homes in October 2012. She told us from that point on she had continuous problems with bedbugs. “I’ve seen them come out of the baseboards and crawl back in.”

A week after moving in, Drake was covered with bites, and feared for her children. “I haven’t had a restful moment in here since I’ve been here because I have to constantly watch my kids. Pull the covers back, pull the sheets, watch them, make sure there’s no bugs crawling on my kids. And I’ve seen it.”

The exterminating contractor for Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority,Accurid, treated the unit and did follow ups each time, but the bed bugs would return.

She says her kids were freaking out. “Mommy! It’s a bug mommy!”

The third infestation came with another problem, mice. Drake had to bag up much of her family’s belongings so they wouldn’t be contaminated with mouse droppings. PRHA put down mousetraps and she bought several of her own. “Within minutes, squeal, squeal,” she said.  “Mice downstairs, mice upstairs (getting caught).”

Drake says she was catching mice throughout her unit. “I stopped counting at 45.”

She says mice turned up in her oven, her dishwasher, and even jumped out of the family’s Christmas tree. She began collecting dead bed bugs and dead mice to prove a point. Armed with the evidence of her family’s nightmare, she and her Legal Aid attorney took the case to court.

Drake told Judge Douglas Ottinger her unit was treated a total of six times in three years for bed bugs or mice.  According to court documents, the housing authority says it was treated and cleared four times. “This is very emotional,” Drake said in court.  “No one should live like this, I don’t care who you are.”

A week later Drake convinced Portsmouth Public Housing to settle her case. The terms are confidential, so no one can comment on it, including Drake, her lawyer or the Housing Authority.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the housing authority provided 10 On Your Side with records from the exterminating company, Accurid.  Lakeitha Drake’s unit had been treated several times in the prior 15 months, and so were the units connected to hers, including one that’s boarded up now.FOIA Report: Dale Homes Extermination Treatments

WAVY went to Accurid to find out why after repeated visits, each consisting of three treatments, the bed bugs and mice kept returning. Manager Dennis Gray had no comment, telling WAVY he did not want to discuss it.

WAVY took the issue to another exterminator, Cory Newell, and asked him what attracts bed bugs in the first place.  “You are the bait,” Newell said. He says bed bugs are like little vampires, attracted to the warmth of human bodies and then they bite and suck blood.

Newell said a quarter of his business is for bed bugs and they demand serious warfare. “We’re not just spraying the baseboards, a nice pretty little mist and stream,” Newell said. “We’re literally turning the community or the dwelling upside down.”

Newell said with connected dwellings like the ones at Dale Homes, you just have to keep at it. “With a multi-family situation, you’re there until you don’t see bed bugs.”Related:Dogs brought in to sniff out California bed bugs

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