A Middletown, New York man was arrested Monday on a charge of felony criminal mischief because he bulldozed his house, police say.
WNBC News reports police were called to the Middletown home Monday afternoon as 48-year-old James Rhein was knocking it down with a rented excavator and placing debris in dumpsters.
Police said Rhein hadn’t filed for any demolition permits and hadn’t even notified the utility companies of his intention to destroy the house. Emergency crews had to be called out Monday to shut off electric, water and gas to the property.
The one other party Rhein failed to notify was his wife, Diane Andryshak, who is the only legal owner of the house, according to records.
“He bulldozed all her clothes in there. Washer, dryer, furnace, hot water heater, everything was still in there. In fact, her medication was still in there,” neighbor Steve Belfiglio told CBS-New York.
The couple was reportedly living elsewhere, but many of their belongings were still inside.
Rhein said the foundation of the house had been crumbling for years and needed costly repairs.
“So I took it down, that's it,” Rhein said.
When CBS-New York reporter Tony Aiello confronted Rhein about demolishing a house that wasn’t legally his, Rhein seemed unconcerned.
“We’re married. It’s a community asset,” he said.
“Well, apparently, she told police you weren’t supposed to tear down the house,” Aiello told him.
“Well, apparently, they’re wrong,” Rhein shot back.
He said he tried to call his wife, who was out running errands on Monday, but she didn't answer her phone. He also said he tried to get a permit, but the office was closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Neighbors said Andryshak was visibly upset when she showed up and saw the house destroyed. Rhein couldn’t deny that.
“But now she's over it,” he said. “We're good. I'm a good husband, what can I tell you?”
Andryshak told Westchester News 12 the couple wasn’t having any marital problems and had no idea why her husband chose Monday to destroy the house.
Rhein was released on $300 bail. Police said he may eventually face more charges.
Photo Credit: Police photo via Colorado News Day, NBC New York