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Messy Helen tossed in jail

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By Damon Lawrence

Over the years Roane County Attorney Tom McFarland has filed dozens of complaints against people for having too much junk on their property.

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They usually don’t reach the point of the person going to jail.

However, that wasn’t the case with 60-year-old Helen Hayes.

McFarland said Chancellor Frank V. Williams III found her in contempt of court and ordered her jailed for failing to comply with an order to clean up her property at 1812 Bluff Road.     

“This isn’t a nit-picky thing,” McFarland said. “This is a terrible state that she’s allowed her property to get into. It’s probably a danger to the public. It’s something that we had to take seriously.”

Junk, including old furniture, clothes and rusty car parts, is scattered across the property.

McFarland said Hayes’ release is dependent upon her willingness to clean up the mess. Before being jailed, he said Hayes was given multiple chances by the judge.   

“She has to simply tell the judge she’s ready to work with the county officials to clean up her property and comply with zoning laws,” he said. “That’s all she has to do, say, ‘Judge, I’ll clean it up within 60 days,’ and she’ll be out before the sun comes up.”

Hayes was found to be in contempt in September, but she wasn’t jailed until last Thursday.

McFarland said she could remain behind bars until February.

“If she doesn’t comply with the law she will,” he said. “The judge will review it again in February. The court indicated that if she comes back then and tells him the same thing, she can stay there another four months.”

McFarland said the county has been active in putting people on notice when they violate zoning laws.

He said threat of jail time usually prompts them to get their property in compliance.   

“When it becomes quite clear that someone is headed to jail, that property gets cleaned up really fast, but not in this case,” McFarland said.