Leith leaders seek to condemn Cobb’s house
LEITH, N.D. — City leaders here are moving ahead with plans to condemn and demolish the home of a jailed white supremacist after he missed a deadline to install water and sewer service in his home.
Saturday was the deadline given to Craig Cobb to install water and sewer service or risk facing fines and condemnation under a uniform building code the City Council approved in early November, after Cobb’s plan to turn the town into an all-white enclave became known.
City Councilman Lee Cook said city leaders recently consulted with City Attorney Thomas Kelsch to begin drawing up the paperwork so they’d be ready to “pull the trigger” when the deadline passed.
“We’ve fought a hard battle here, and we’ve been terrorized, and our lives have been living hell, and we have no intention of backing down or backing off,” Cook said Monday.
Cobb and Kynan Dutton, a white separatist who relocated his family to Leith in October and moved in with Cobb, remain jailed without bond in Stanton. Both are set to appear Jan. 13 in Grant County District Court on felony terrorizing charges for allegedly approaching Leith residents with loaded firearms last month.
Dutton’s girlfriend, Deborah Henderson, continues to live in Cobb’s house with her three children. In a phone interview Monday, she said a construction permit was obtained to install sewer service within six months, and that she’s received no other notice from the city.
“I am just a single mom being thrown out of my house illegally, and I’m going to take it up with the courts,” she said.
Aaron Johnson, an environmental health practitioner with Custer Health, said a permit was obtained to install a wastewater holding tank at Cobb’s house, but it hasn’t happened, and at last check the company supposedly hired to do the work said the contract hadn’t been signed, he said.
The city, not Custer Health, will enforce the building code requirements. Mayor Ryan Schock said Monday afternoon he was trying to reach City Attorney Thomas Kelsch to find out how the process will move forward. Kelsch did not return a phone message left at his office.
When initially reviewing Cobb’s house, Custer Health identified 11 total properties in Leith as public nuisances, Johnson said. Six of those properties contained a total of nine structures, three of which belonged to Cobb, including his house. One of the structures is an old creamery building that Cobb deeded to Jeff Schoep, commander of the National Socialist Movement.
Johnson said the city must address the nuisance properties, either by sealing them, cleaning up junk or demolishing the structures. Custer Health has been calling the city weekly to take action.
“I was a little surprised it didn’t happen this past weekend,” he said.
Schock said the city is waiting to see what happens with Cobb’s house. If they can condemn it within the next 10 days, all of the structures will be razed at the same time, he said. Otherwise, the city will deal with the other public nuisance properties right before or after the New Year.
“Tomorrow wouldn’t be soon enough, in my opinion,” he said.
Dutton said she has a yearlong lease paid in full on Cobb’s house, and that Cobb will eventually sign the house over to her. She said she didn’t want to comment at length on the matter, calling it “really childish” and not newsworthy.
“It’s the Christmas season, for goodness sakes,” she said. “We should be a little more compassionate and showing some heart and love.”
Dutton previously told Forum News Service that two of Cobb’s acquaintances had removed all of his belongings from the house, saying Cobb plans to relocate to Louisiana when his legal troubles in North Dakota are resolved.
Cook said his employer, general contractor Weisz and Sons Inc. of Bismarck, has agreed to do the demolition.
“There shouldn’t be anybody living in that house with no water and sewer, especially three children,” he said.