Eccentric left a home full of rats, 69 vintage cars and a disputed estate … – Los Angeles Times

Posted: Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Where does it all go after we’re gone?

Gerald Willits’ life was full of things, but he was very much alone.

When he died a year ago at 76, it took days for anyone to notice. By then, said Orange County Deputy Public Administrator Brett Williams, his body had begun to decompose.

Willits had lived in Buena Park, in a little one-story house behind a high chain-link fence. His rooms were piled high with papers and trash and fast-food wrappers. His roommates were swarms of bees and rats. The rodents ate away at everything, including the furniture.

By the time officials discovered this classic case of hoarding, it was so bad that county workers had to cover their noses and mouths with masks.

Part of the job of the district attorney’s public administrator’s office is to secure property when people die without clear plans in place. In Willits’ case, the challenge was most unusual — obvious to officials from the moment they stepped into his yard.

There, entirely unprotected from the elements (though in some places obscured by large trees), was a collection of 69 vintage cars: Model As, Model Ts, vintage Mercedes, Volkswagen bugs and buses, as well as piles of tires and engines and other assorted spare parts.

Outside as inside, rats had claimed dominion. They camped out in the cars, eating the upholstery sometimes down to the springs and making nests under the hoods. Squirrels squatted where they could.

Some cars were bumper-to-bumper rust. Just about all had flat tires, even the oldest ones with wooden spoked wheels.

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