BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore has nearly 15,000 vacant homes, and many believe divestment is contributing to skyrocketing violence in the city.

One landlord, Darryl Brown, told WJZ he regrets ever buying a townhouse as an investment property in the troubled Carrollton Ridge neighborhood in southwest Baltimore.

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He said his purchase at auction last year turned into a nightmare with multiple unsuccessful legal battles to evict the squatters.

Brown’s house after it burned down; photo of Mike Hellgren

Brown received notice from the city this week: The home at 325 Furrow Street he bought for $22,000 last year must be repaired or demolished within 30 days.

Baltimore City Notice

This follows the startling discovery firefighters made less than two weeks ago: Miguel Soto Diaz’s body was found with gunshot wounds inside and Brown’s house burned down.

“My heart goes out to the family. I am sorry. It could have been mitigated,” Brown told WJZ investigator Mike Hellgren. “The city – and I hate to say it like this – but they killed this guy because they allowed this to happen.”

Brown said he called the police last year to evict the squatters who had moved in. “I started trying to fix it. As soon as they saw me trying to fix it, that’s when every time I left at night they would break in,” Brown said. “The cops came, and the cops were like, ‘There’s really nothing you can do. The only thing you can do is go downtown.

So he turned to the courts, writing in an emergency motion for eviction that the squatters were stealing electricity and detailing rampant drug use.

Brown’s Emergency Petition

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A judge threw it out on the grounds that there was no provision for an expedited trial.

“Sir, I was just as flabbergasted and confused as you are,” Brown told Hellgren of the court battle. “The first time, for the expulsion, they refused me. The second time, for an emergency eviction, they also refused me.

Finally, last month, he was able to get another hearing.

This time, the judge ordered the eviction, but more than two weeks passed and the sheriff’s office – cluttered with cases – was unable to enforce it.

Last eviction order

This eviction order had not yet been served when the house burned down with the body inside.

“What can someone do if he is like you, a landlord? What can you do?” Hellgren asked Brown. “Well, at that time, I learned there’s nothing you can do. A lot of my friends don’t even like investing in Baltimore,” he said.

Brown said while he hoped for change, he was not optimistic. “I feel for the people with all my heart… I wish I had never bought this house.”

The lower floors are now barricaded. There is an $8,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the homicide.

WJZ recently highlighted several independent investors fixing homes in Carrollton Ridge.

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The community continued to see the violence, including the shooting of an elderly man as he took out his trash last week.