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Boys Set Up House in Attic of Shopping Center

October 27, 1987

TURLOCK, Calif. (AP) _ For a while at least, the attic of a shopping center became a cozy, makeshift home for two teen-age boys, one of whom reportedly had been kicked out by his foster parents.

″Apparently the boys were just living up there for lack of somewhere else to live. They couldn’t find anything else,″ said Fire Marshal Dick Lutz.

″It came somewhat as a shock to some of the storeowners,″ he said. ″Some of the people out there were concerned about access to their stores, but nobody seems to be missing anything.″

The boys, whose names were not released because of their ages, hauled up a mattress, carpeting, two metal lawn chairs, a small stove, milk crates for shelves, and even tapped into a circuit breaker for electricity, Lutz said.

The electricity probably powered a hot plate, although one was not recovered, he added. They even painted and partitioned the area, using cardboard for insulation.

To get to their domicile, they had to climb up an access ladder to a 16-by- 16-inch air conditioning vent through which they crawled into the attic.

″They had everything set up - carpeting, partitions, the whole works,″ said Richard Sargis, owner of the Video Box, which is right under the attic where the boys lived briefly.

Neither police nor fire officials say they know exactly how long the teen- agers, ages 16 and 17, lived in the hideaway.

The 16-year-old reportedly had been kicked out of his foster home and left to fend for himself, said Steve Sanders, co-owner of Sanders Construction in Modesto, which developed the shopping center.

″It’s kind of sad,″ Sanders said.

Lutz said the 16-year-old continued to attend high school and work part- time at a restaurant in Turlock, a community of about 35,000 people some 100 miles southeast of San Francisco.

Neither Lutz nor police Sgt. Carlos Martins knew whether the 17-year-old was homeless or whether he had moved into the shelter just to be with a friend.

″They were real nice guys,″ Sargis said. ″It takes someone pretty ingenious to do all that ... They really took it all seriously.″

Police first caught the boys in the attic on Oct. 10 after merchants complained about footsteps from above.

The room was found and cleared out and the teen-agers were taken into custody for investigation of trespassing, but Sanders decided not to file a complaint and released the boys to their families.

On Wednesday, however, firefighters checking for an electricial short- circuit discovered that some of the furniture and carpet had been moved back.

This time, the boys were not found. Martins said Monday he is unaware of any followup investigation to make sure both boys still are living their families.

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