Woman goes to jail over messy yard

South Carolina town comes to homeowner's aid after she is locked up for six days for failing to pay a $480 fine. Neighbors argue that she had plenty of time to clean up and didn't.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jan 18, 2012 1:55PM

© Wade Spees/The Post and Courier/Evening Post Publishing Co.Neighbors have come to the aid of a South Carolina woman who spent six days in jail because of her messy yard.


Linda Ruggles, a 53-year-old photographer in Mount Pleasant, S.C., near Charleston, said she couldn't install the shingles stacked on her roof or keep up her lawn after the recession scuttled her photography business. She sold blood plasma, worked part-time at a supermarket and collected scrap metal in her driveway to pay back taxes and save her ranch home from foreclosure, she told The Post and Courier in Charleston.


In her view, she's being persecuted because she is poor.


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"I feel like they want to make an example out of me," she told the newspaper as she sat in jail. "This should be an embarrassment for the town of Mount Pleasant. And it should be an embarrassment for my neighbors who called the code enforcement officer, because no one offered to help me -- no one."


After Ruggles was jailed for failure to pay the $480 fine, residents came to her aid, including a contractor who said he would fix her leaky roof for free and landscapers who offered to clean up her yard.


Is your suburb the next slum?


“It’s all about giving back,” landscaper Corey Ireland told the newspaper about his decision to help Ruggles, who is going to photograph his upcoming wedding. “She’s having a hard time and needs some help. Hopefully, someday, if I ever need help, someone will be there to help me, too.”


City officials said they went out of their way to help Ruggles, but she failed to comply with the city ordinances and didn't show up for court dates.

"The town bent over backward for her," code enforcement officer Mark Sargeant told the newspaper. "We did everything we could to accommodate her, but she didn't reciprocate."


Her neighbors complained to code enforcement authorities more than a year ago, asking that Ruggles be required to clean up her property. The loose shingles could become missiles if a hurricane blew through, and her unsightly property was dragging down their property values, they said.

"This is not something that just cropped up," next-door neighbor Marty Vermillion told the newspaper. "This has been going on for years. This person had multiple chances to avoid all of this. ... Offers of help have been rejected and rejected. It's affecting our property values, and that's not right or fair."

Mar 17, 2012 9:39AM
I had some very trashy neighbors in Florida.  Their trash was constantly being blown or thrown (by them) into my yard and everyone's yards.  On so many levels, they were unbelievably disrespectful garbage themselves.  The community was thrilled to be rid of them a little over one year ago.  Good riddens!!! 
Mar 17, 2012 2:37AM
Folks, it is called responsibility. This woman is RESPONSIBLE for her actions/inactions. It is not up to her neighbors to put up with her trash.  She made the mess, she needs to get off her **** and get it cleaned up. People offered, she rejected.  Let her sit in jail, but sadly, if she has not learned how to be responsible for her actions by now, she never will.

Mar 17, 2012 2:16AM
I live next to a very trashy neighbor, their trash blows into my yard almost daily. It has brought the neighbor hood down. They also have six barking dogs. I have to call city ordinance every third month, they clean their yard, and a week after the inspection the trash is all over the yard again. Trashy people are a blight to society. If I was to sell my house like one of her other neighbors tried to do, I would have to take a big loss.
Mar 17, 2012 1:22AM
As to my last comment, I see there were ordinance involved, but how about the neighbor offering help, like the contractor did instead of crying to the police.  Would they like it if poeple called the police on them next time they had a loud domestic dispute?  Community, people, community.   Learn the word!  Some of these neighborhood housing boards just like to act like snoops and dictators. They need to go.  My husband and I have both agreed we will never live in a place like that.  Right now we are forced to live in military housing on base in Germany.  That is bad enough for me!
Mar 17, 2012 1:15AM
While I believe in keeping your surroundings as nice as possibble, I also don't believe in others butting into people's business.  Were there city ordinances here?  If so, which ones were broken.  If none, she should never have been fined.  And neighbors could have helped her with things like getting the shingles off the roof.  She might have gotten the contractors over and maybe they cheated her or she ran out of money to finish.  You don't know what happened, but you expect a lady to get up there and do that herself.  I see chivalry is very dead, neighborhood gentlemen!  How about acting as a community to help others.  It might have encouraged her more to keep that yard clean!   No, instead in this mean and morally depleted society, we have to kick a person when they are down.  Think of that you people on here who are ragging on her.  Just goes to show me who the neighborhood bullies are! 
Mar 17, 2012 12:32AM
Mar 17, 2012 12:02AM
Stockpiling scrap metal in a driveway was poor judgment. Leaving bundles of new roof tile perched atop your roof for months-on-end was also a bad call. How on earth did you get all those bundles up there anyways? What is running through your mind? Don't you think that your neighbors at some point are going to complain? And when city officials asked many times that you clean up the mess, you ignored and defied their warnings. Now you want to be a poster child for an intrusive government and insensitive neighbors? You weren't the victim here. Your neighbors and city officials are the victims of your baseless slander. You are poor in mind and in judgment. No matter what amounts of wealth you could acquire, you would remind steadfast defiant and irresponsible. Do you really expect your neighbors to attach shingles to your rooftop? What is the slope of that roof? Are these folks roofers? Handymen? Are they elderly? Men of suits and ties? Men who'd give up two or three weekends with their families to tack down tiles on a roof not even knowing how to set lines tack down tile or even where to begin? You want them to pay out thousands of dollars to have roofers do it for you? And for whom? You who calls them shameful? No you just want to do as you will without respect to laws or common civility. Better take a snapshot of yourself, Ms. Ruggles, take a hard long look at that picture of yourself. It is not pretty.   
Very simply put this is one right out of the communist manifesto law books of callifornia. Criminalizing the poor here is staus quo espescially if one is disabled to the point of not being able to seek employment legally. What do you think vagrancy and panhandling statutes are for? Why don't we try this? First we will allow massive illegal immigration and fail to penalize people who employ them, then we will allow massive flow of drugs over the boarder, and subsequently criminalize the children who become addicted for the failure of law enforcement to clean up the streets. But first we must ban any form of self defensive weaponry that would allow for revolt against the communist regime. Then we will put welfare reform at the top of the agenda in order to further isolate and destroy our youth when there are already to few jobs. Then we will start a legal form of prostitution called XXX that allows young females to be victimized for money because of the 2001 welfare reform of the democrats and viola! Panhandling statutes and vagrancy statutes and alll the other bother bull$^&* that makes california a pile of crap bear thats full of its own Sh&*(. Why don't you all try those laws on for size. And then realize Obamas weapons bans intentions eh? After they allow the Illegals to suffocate us to death from underemployment and lack of employment opportunities then we will be criminalized for speaking out against the regime of communist hippies that have donee this to us, plus we wont have any weapons to fight back against the mafia that obviously controls legislation in california. No one can escape the all seeing eye of ZUES.
Jan 28, 2012 10:48AM
So now if one is poor, they can let their yards be a complete mess, ignore pleas and orders from the city, and then call foul when you are punished.  If she was poor, she could still simply rake the yard, pick up the trash, and eventually remove the shingles from her roof.  She chose not to do any of the above, and totally ignore officials.  It would have cost her nothing to maintain the yard nor remove the shingles.  Don 't make the rest of the neighborhood suffer because you are a slob.
Jan 28, 2012 10:38AM

So easy for everyone to sit back and make judgments.  As usual, this story leaves many questions unanswered and no one reading it really knows what actually happened on either side.  Instead of declaring this woman to be lazy, one might consider that she was very depressed.  With everything she was trying to deal with financially, plus being socially isolated (apparently), she was probably overwhelmed and emotionally and physically exhausted.  This happens to many people who are struggling financially ("poor" people) and everyone is so quick to judge them as "lazy."  There are lazy people out there for sure, but sometimes people who are faced with so much adversity just feel defeated and depressed.  They could use a helping hand from others to pull them back up and make them feel they have a reason to care again.


Jan 28, 2012 10:13AM

I agree that some people are too picky about other people's property, but I was wondering...she couldn't manage to get the singles OFF the roof - how did she manage to get them ON there in the first place?  That's not how they're normally delivered, at least not in my experience (the roofer has to tote them up).

Jan 28, 2012 10:04AM
I am on a commision and I'm gooooooing to get go happens way to many times.The town I'm from has the grass police so I have to be real careful what I say. So many ideas start out good and go to hell so fast
Jan 28, 2012 9:27AM

The code enforcement here in Elkhart has been zeroing in on me. My yard is clean and when he said I needed to paint the garage I did. When he said my garage roof needed replaced I did. But when he said the ground underneath the pine needed cleaned I had enough. The neighbor had a 6x6 trash square with an entertainment center, chairs, and several trash bags had he had to have seen it when he went thru the alley to look at my garage. I called the city department and was suppose to have a meeting with him it never happened. But I have not had any letters either. Some people have power go to their head.

Jan 28, 2012 9:25AM
A small example of what's wrong with our Country today-"it's not my responsibility", "'if I had lots of money like other folks...", poor/lazy=helpless.  Don't enable her by helping her until she has done all the cleaning-up she is capable of doing.  If she refuses, throw her in jail again.
Jan 28, 2012 8:39AM

Because she's poor ???

Cleaning is FREE !

Just get up off that couch and get busy.

Jan 28, 2012 8:25AM
What is really sad is how so many communities are dictating how we can have our property.
Associations are ridiculous and I think the people in them are the ones who love to stick their noses in others business.
I'm not advocating having a junk yard for your property but c'mon, It's getting out of hand how **** people are getting.
Affecting property values is a lame excuse just to get the city's attention. Scrubby hedges, some dandelions and a dead branch doesn't affect squat.
Maybe this lady didn't care, But I'm thinking she could have been embarrassed and that's why she declined help and it snowballed from there.
She had more things to worry about unlike her neighbors due to the effect of the economy.

Jan 28, 2012 8:23AM

After reading some of the comments and the article, I have this to say.  Where I live in NC - we help each other.  Volunteering in one way or another is common.  When Irene came through we all helped each other clear our yards of debris, cut trees, and find shingles that had blown off.  If she was offered help from her neighbors, she should have taken it, if they didn't offer but the city did (with a price) I can see her not accepting.  I also agree that if she couldn't install the shinges, she should have gone up and gotten them down a few at a time until they were gone.  I know she can't carry a bundle all at once.  She also could have gotten a local teenager that needed prom pictures taken to do it.  The barter system works great - just like the landscaper that did her yard will now have a wedding photographer.  As for doing her yardwork, I had 3 different yardsale lawnmowers that cost me $10 before I could afford to buy a nice new one.  You can handle your yard.  If you had scrap metal in your driveway, you could store it in your back yard.  It's not polite to make the rest of the neigborhood look bad.  Having said that - I hate neighborhoods that can tell you what to do on your property, that's why I chose one that doesn't have those type of HOA, covenant rules. 


Also, in my experience the reason some "poor" peoples homes or property are messy is due to laziness.  Not all, but some.  In times where jobs are available and they still don't work (lazy) they don't keep up their homes (lazy). 

Jan 28, 2012 8:15AM
Hopefully, this woman will recover, and have the chance to call the police on her neighbors.  Maybe several nice "Domestic Disturbance" calls, after some angry family shouting match, etc. -  guaranteeing someone gets taken to the Tank.   She should also be aware, and on the lookout,  for any minor infractions her neighbors commit,  such as being away on vacation,  and dogs have tipped over the trash cans,  or an un mowed lawn...The best one would be to call in a report of a small child screaming,  and allege abuse.  Her neighbors were pricks to her - they deserve payback in kind. 
Jan 28, 2012 8:06AM
Anytime to move into a neighborhood, you had better take a look around at  your neighbors.  Also, you had better be very well acquainted with local ordinances.   Generally, in the cities and burbs neighborhoods the ordinances are going to be strict.  If you have lived in a small town say in Eastern Nevada, you may be in for a shock.   No you cannot do an engine overhaul in your garage or driveway.  You cannot park a junker on the street, you have to keep the yard neat and clean and much more. 
Jan 28, 2012 7:37AM
Mount Pleasant is a stuck up snootie rich area..ifeel sorrow for this lady
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