Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Santa Ana Hoarder Was My High School Teacher!

Retired La Quinta High School teacher was a hoarder; found
 dead on the porch of her home. (image via OC Register)
A few weeks ago I read about a Santa Ana animal hoarder who was found dead on the front porch of her home. She was sitting in a chair (although another report said it was a wheelchair) with a pet carrier on her lap. Inside the pet carrier was a live kitten.

While news of animal hoarders in Orange County isn't unusual, what did surprise me was the fact that this woman owned three homes in Santa Ana, and was a retired school teacher with a considerable pension of $120,806.52.

Could a school teacher earn that much? A little more digging and I learned the woman had been a high school history teacher for 48 years with the Garden Grove Unified School District, and for the last three decades of her career, taught at La Quinta High School.

Whaaaaa? That was my high school! And while I won't say what year I graduated (for the vain purposes of not revealing my age), I will say that I was in fact a student when she taught there. So I dug some more, which wasn't difficult, since the news of her passing was covered in the OC Register, OC Weekly, and even the LA Times.

The Register reported that the debris was so extensive, it took paramedics
several hours to get to the woman (image via Register)
It turns out the woman in question was Rita Corpin, and I did in fact have her as a teacher for world history. And the really sad part is when I found out it was her, it was not too much of a stretch to see her as a hoarder. Even then I thought of her as being a little eccentric, with a puff of curly hair and shapeless dresses, she always hugged a big stack of papers and folders to her when she walked to her classroom. She was nice, but I definitely always thought she was a character.

Ms. Corpin was believed to have been living out of a truck because her homes
were overflowing with garbage and overgrown vegetation (image via Register)
What did surprise me was that she was so well off, as in she owned three homes in Santa Ana in addition to having that considerable pension. But she spent her last days living in a pick-up truck, presumably because the mountains of garbage in all three homes made them inhabitable. Reports said that at the home where she was found, two pitbulls and approximately 50 feral cats were also discovered living among the debris. The other two houses didn't contain animals, although it was noted she fed stray cats at those residences as well.

The Register added that Santa Ana officials had issued warning notices and fines, and over the years had as many as 26 instances of contact with her. Ms. Corpin denied access to her property and made the minimal changes necessary to keep officials from forcing an inspection with a warrant.

Poor Ms. Corpin. Since her death, students, neighbors and her brother have all made comments on how she was loved and will be missed. It's a sad end for her and those animals she thought she was helping.

A note left behind at the residence of Rita Corpin (image via Register)

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