Apr 18, 2013 10:56 PM by Jacqui Heinrich
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO- A local family got the shock of their lives when they learned they'd been breathing in deadly toxins for more than four years. They never knew the house they were renting was once a meth lab. Now, they're searching for answers in the nightmare they say has taken their health, a child's life, and the roof over their heads.
Immediately. It's a word that haunts Lonnie and Teresa Chafin. That's what an officer said when he told them to get out of their house and abandon decades worth of belongings.
They called police to report a person stealing firewood from the back yard. When he arrived, the Chafins got the shock of their lives. The address came up on the officer's map as a condemned structure, a once-active meth lab left untreated for more than a decade. It was 2002 when the suspect, Matthew McCarty, was arrested and pleaded guilty to cooking meth in the same home the Chafins unknowingly rented for four years.
"It's just a lot of our stuff that we have to leave behind. Everything I look at I know when I got it, the reason for getting it, the memory behind it," Teresa Chain said. "I have my moments where I break, I do."
They were given just days to salvage what could be de-contaminated, all the while trying to find someplace else to go.
"A big pile of stuff we're having to throw away," Lonny Chafin described, while shooting home video of the house as they were saving what they could. "Furniture, my bedroom set my mom got me."
Abandoning their belongings soon became the least of their worries. Suddenly, everything started making sense. Since they'd moved into the house, Lonny, Teresa, even their daughter Tisa, all began to struggle with severe health problems.
"I'd be talking and suddenly a tooth falls out, its like wow," Teresa said.
Doctors couldn't explain why Lonny, healthy at 58 years old and a nurse, suddenly went into renal failure, had strokes, went blind in one eye, and started losing his teeth. All conditions that can come from meth exposure, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Doctors also couldn't figure out why Teresa suffered from constant migraines and unexplained tooth loss. Perhaps the most devastating event, the death of Tisa's first child.
"I thought it was weird that once I moved into that house I started getting sick a lot more," Tisa said of her symptoms while pregnant with her daughter. "I never put two and two together. She ended up living for 23 and a half hours."
Born without a small intestine, doctors couldn't save little Elena's innocent life. All the Chafins have left today are memories.
"I sort of feel responsible," Lonny told News 5. "You're always wanting to protect your children and this is one thing we couldn't protect them against."
"You cant put a price on a baby," Teresa said.
Now the Chafins, their lives changed forever, can only hope for justice, but they're left with more questions than answers.
"I want to meet them and show them pictures of my daughter and be like, because of you she not here," Tisa said. "I can't bring back my child, I can't bring back my dad's good health, the only thing I can possibly hope for is for somebody to be punished."
We're not done with this story. News 5 is tracing the ownership of the house and finding out who allowed the Chafins to move into that toxic home without telling them. The problem could be even larger than this one incident. There could be hundreds more in Colorado Springs living in the same situation as the Chafins. Look for that part of the story next week.
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