COLUMBIA, 8/12/10 (Beat Byte) -- Sounds like Gregg T. Morgan, (far left) the owner of Columbia's Tiger Car Wash chain, needs to clean out some criminal tenants -- again. Morgan and wife Amy own over 30 Columbia-area rental properties, including a Benton-Stephens 8-plex swamped with criminal arrests over the past few years.
Now, a rash of arrests at a North Central Columbia home Morgan has owned since 2007 under GTM Rental Properties, LLC has neighbors up in arms. It's an all-too common problem: landlords renting to violent repeat offenders, often on streets filled with children.
Morgan's tenant, Jerry Bernard Thorpe (right), spent most of this spring and summer getting arrested and charged for a string of offenses, including felony sexual abuse, trespassing, and assault. 2008 and 2009 saw a previous Morgan tenant busted for first degree trespassing and Morgan's rental -- a forlorn gray house at 811 N. 6th Street -- searched by Columbia police for stolen property after a string of purse snatchings.
Thorpe, who has a lengthy criminal rap sheet, has lived under Morgan's roof since 2007, according to court documents. If his behavior in custody is any guide, Thorpe wouldn't be on anyone's desirable neighbors list. "Thorpe caused damage to his Columbia police holding cell after his arrest for domestic assault, when he broke the locking mechanism and the slide bars," the Columbia Daily Tribune reported in May.
In June, after police repeatedly came and went from Morgan's 6th Street property, neighbors contemplated a meeting between Morgan, the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood Association, and the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association, which in recent years has helped crack down on landlords who rent to repeat offenders.
Residents want to ask landlords like Morgan -- who lives in ritzy Bluff Creek: Do you know what you're doing to our neighborhood?
"Many landlords don't realize -- or don't want to realize -- that these offenders create a hostile living space," said a Morgan-rental neighbor. "We have children on this block. Children shouldn't have to live around this, just so that some absentee property owner can live it up somewhere else."
Morgan has not returned telephone calls seeking comment on two previous stories about the same issue, so we did not contact him for this story.
THE RAP SHEET: 811 N. 6th Street, rental owned by Gregg T. Morgan
Oct. 2009 Daniel Ernest Ruszczyk, 33, of 811 Sixth St., first-degree trespassing, $500 bond
May 4, 2010: Jerry Bernard Thorpe, 38, of 811 Sixth St., third-degree domestic assault, no bond set; second-degree tampering, $500 bond
May 10: Jerry Bernard Thorpe, 38, of 811 Sixth St., first-degree sexual abuse, $100,000 bond
June 3: Jerry Bernard Thorpe, 38, of 811 Sixth St., third-degree assault, $500 bond
July 23: Brittany Nicole King, 18, of 811 Sixth St., misdemeanor warrant