Tenant who trashed house loses appeal, owes homeowner nearly $100K

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By Nicole Pence

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Sept. 24, 2014)-- A former babysitter was entrusted to live in a family’s home while they were away for a year and care for their pet dog in exchange for paying $300 monthly rent. When the family returned, they say the place was trashed.

The ex-tenant appealed an $85,889 judgment against her but now has more bills to pay.

Jessica Kishpaugh also must pay the appellate legal fees of the couple from whom she rented the house, the Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday. FOX59 has learned the new fees will likely increase the total to $100,000.

One of the rooms was even painted.

"Why would she need to paint our room at all? She was here to look after the dog and the house and pay a little rent. It was supposed to be a great deal for everyone involved," explained homeowner Miriam Odegard.

It's been a frustrating and costly couple of years for Miriam Odegard.

Odegard has spent more than $40,000 fixing the damages.

"This cover--I had custom made, and it used to have a different cover on it. The reason it has this one on it is because someone had used it to put out cigarettes. Just bizarre," said Odegard.

Tuesday, an appellate court confirmed what a trial court found. Miriam's housesitter, Jessica Kishpaugh, was responsible for all the damage.

The Odegards found cigarette burns in their carpet, a burned fence, urine-soaked carpet and mattresses, a damaged garage door and a dinged minivan with an additional 7,000 miles on the odometer.

"Seven thousand (miles) later! The speakers were blown, factory carpet ruined. Someone was smoking in the van," said Odegard.

Odegard added, "I've never seen anything like it (the urine-stain mattresses).  More than what a child could do."

In 2009, Odegard asked Kishpaugh to live in the family's house while they were in Germany for a year. Kishpaugh had been babysitting for the family for the last two years. Odegard met Kishpaugh on Craigslist.

Kishpaugh and Odegard worked out a lease agreement where Kishpaugh would pay $300 a month to lease the home and take care of the dog and the property.

"I really believed we were friends," said Odegard.

Halfway into the lease, Odegard got suspicious after a fraudulent charge on a debit card in Indiana showed up to buy $2,700 worth of jewelry in Egypt.

"I had left that debit card in the bread box in my kitchen for emergencies," said Odegard.

The Odegards returned to the home in June 2010. Kishpaugh moved out of the house in May, telling the Odegards she could not afford the rent.

The Odegards discovered a rare coin collection was missing from the attic.

"Then I just started sobbing. Why did this person do this to us?"

Jessica Kishpaugh is not facing criminal charges.

Attorney Donald F. Foley, representing the Odegards, tells FOX59 Kishpaugh has been ordered to pay the Odegards nearly $100,000, once all the legal fees are added.

Odegard cautions others hiring housesitters.

"If you have to be away, have someone keep an eye on your home and your things. Someone you trust. Then, get a second person to keep an eye on it. I never thought in a million years this would happen to me," said Odegard.

Jessica Kishpaugh's attorney, Steve Kincaid, issued the following statement to FOX59:

 "This is a civil dispute in which Ms. Kishpaugh has adamantly maintained that she did not in any way steal or intentionally harm the property of Mr. and Mrs. Odegard.   Rather, after leasing and maintaining the property for several months, she left it in good condition. Unfortunately, neither Mr. nor Mrs. Odegard personally came back to the house until almost 2 weeks after Ms. Kishpaugh relinquished possession and control of the property back to them. "