Home Sweet... Meth Home? Indiana Family's Real Estate Nightmare

The Nugents never imagined they would need to check their dream home for meth.

ByABC News
October 30, 2014, 4:40 PM

— -- When Chris and Jenny Nugent bought their dream home in Indiana, they made sure to get the house inspected for mold and damaged pipes.

But they never imagined they would also need to have the house tested for meth contamination.

The Nugents said they used their life savings to take out a mortgage on the $144,000 cheery-looking home nestled on an acre of land in the quiet suburbs, enough room for them, their two young daughters and infant son. But after they moved in, they said everyone in the house started feeling ill.

“They were sick every week,” Jenny Nugent said. “They would wake up. Throw up. Have digestive issues and then by noon, 1 o’clock start to feel better.”

The Nugents said their daughters were missing school, the baby wasn't sleeping through the night, and even the family dog became ill and had to be put down. Jenny Nugent also said she noticed strange metallic smells around the house, especially in the kitchen.

“It smelled like a handful of change,” she said.

Jenny Nugent said a neighbor finally cracked the mystery, telling her she suspected the previous owner had cooked meth in the house. Nugent immediately got her home tested -- a simple procedure that costs $50.

“I am so grateful that we were fortunate enough to have really good neighbors," she said. "If it were not for them, we may have not known until one of our kids ended up in the hospital.”

After two tests, the results were horrifying. The Nugents said the downstairs floor had methamphetamine levels nearly 18 times higher than what’s considered legally safe, including the room where baby Mason had been sleeping for 10 months.

The family immediately moved out and eventually ending up in an apartment, but they said they felt forced to throw away most of their belongings for fear of contamination.

“Those test results came back, I remember that night we just pulled up in the driveway and were like, ‘we’re never going back in there other than to get our clothes,’ and we haven’t,” Chris Nugent said.

For Jenny, returning to the house is painful. She says she feels like she can’t even go inside without wearing protective gear.

“It feels like a death happened, to be honest,” she said. “That’s how it feels to my husband and I.”

When methamphetamine is smoked or cooked inside a home, invisible molecules of the drug sink into the carpet, walls and everywhere else, experts said. The meth residue is then inhaled or ingested, even absorbed through the skin. Exposure can cause symptoms like headaches, nausea and vomiting, according to the National Institute of Health.

To be able to re-sell the house and recoup their savings, the Nugents had to hire a professional cleaning team, Crisis Cleaning, who handle meth decontamination, something most home insurance doesn't cover.

“That’s something that’s happening even more than what I've ever seen before since I started doing this the last five years,” said Crisis Cleaning’s Donetta Held.

To decontaminate the Nugents house, the Crisis Cleaners cut out all the carpets, gave the house a professional vacuuming and then gassed it with a mix of potent chemicals that the cleaners say neutralize the meth particles. One pass-through is often not enough, sometimes they must de-contaminate a room several times. All in, the cost to clean the Nugents' home is expected to be about $10,000.

Crisis Cleaning says they offered to clean the Nugents' home pro-bono.