06/08/17 3:00pm

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WHEN SCHOOLS GET IN THE WAY “I’m sick and tired of people always complaining about how such and such crime happened close to a school. Schools are peppered throughout the city, so pretty much anywhere is ‘near a school.’ Find me a school-free area where I can do my shootings.” [criminal guy, commenting on The Great Coltivare Kumquat Tree Heist] Illustration: Lulu

06/07/17 1:45pm

One of the hazards of having a street-facing 3,000-sq.-ft. garden adjacent to your restaurant’s back patio: plant theft. But Coltivare chef Ryan Pera tells Bloomberg reporter Kate Krader that the Heights restaurant has more to watch out for than your typical fruit-off-the-vine snatchings by grabby customers. Namely: 3 of the restaurant’s fruit trees have gone missing, including “a 6-ft.-tall kumquat tree, worth about $175.” Pera tells Krader he was “stunned and hurt, but more awed by the fact that it was obviously planned. I mean, someone had to come prepared with proper garden tools, a truck, and the know-how on how to steal a tree.

Photo of Coltivare, 3320 White Oak Dr.: Coltivare

Grand Theft Citrus Japonica
09/26/16 11:00am

WEST U SHELTER-IN-PLACE ORDER JUST LIFTED FOLLOWING THIS MORNING’S ‘SOUTHWEST HOUSTON’ SHOOTING Weslayan Plaza, Weslayan at Bissonnet St., Montclair, Houston, 77005The city has just cancelled stay-put orders for the folks in a zone straddling the borders of West University and the Montclair and College Court Place neighborhoods, as the crime scene investigation of this morning’s rush-hour shooting spree at the Weslayan Plaza strip center wraps up. The shelter-in-place request was active while the bomb squad was checking out the now-deceased suspect’s Porsche near his residence in The Oaks condominiums at Weslayan and Law St. Folks ranging from KPRC to the FBI reported the shooting as taking place in “Southwest Houston”; the shopping center is technically in the southwest quadrant of the city, though a good deal closer to Downtown than the area that usually gets that descriptor. [Houston OEM, KHOU; previously on Swamplot] Photo of Weslayan Plaza: Regency Centers

04/14/16 1:30pm

510 Gray St. Ste. D, Midtown, Houston, 77002

Southern-tinged Korean restaurant Anju closed suddenly last week in the Midtown Crossing strip center, following the latest in a chain of break-ins to its space. Owner An Vo tells Swamplot that the spot near the corner of Webster and Brazos streets, on the eastern end of the strip at 510 Gray St., was broken into “like 5 times” in Anju’s roughly 4 months of operation there; Vo says the last incident forced the shut down.

The now ex-Anju space previously held  beer bar Gray’s Public House, which opened there after the departure of The Good Life. Around the corner along Gray St., the strip center currently hosts Buffalo Wild Wings, perpetually probing sandwich shop Which Wich?, River Oaks Cleaners, and Gyu-Kaku:

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Webster at Brazos
03/10/16 11:45am

Signs in parking lot across from Rudyards, Waugh Dr. at Welch St., Hyde Park, 77006

Update, 2 pm: Another reader sends a shot from the scene; this story has been updated.

A reader sends some snapshots from Hyde Park, where some new anti-theft infrastructure has been installed in the parking lot across Waugh Dr. from Rudyard’s British Pub and nextdoor The Next Door. The banner wooden sign shown above augments previously-posted-though-significantly-smaller signage in the vicinity, which already disavows any responsibility on the part of the nearby bars for loss of property from break-ins to cars parked in the lot. Meanwhile, a second sign was captured hanging out a bit closer to the intersection with Welch St., looking nonchalant:

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Watch Out at Welch
06/19/15 10:15am

When an unidentified arsonist wearing a face mask last Thursday spread what appears to be gasoline onto the railroad-track-facing back porch of the Cross Track Ice House at 200 Magnolia St. in Old Town Spring — just 2 miles southeast of the new ExxonMobil campus — footage of the scene and the fire’s initial moments from a security camera aimed at the porch somehow survived the blaze.

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Whodunit?
05/07/15 12:00pm

Remember that incident last July when real estate investor and renowned neighbor-dismemberer Robert Durst — the Rice Village’s best-known resident — decided to spread his own bodily fluids in the CVS at 6011 Kirby Dr.? Thanks to the enterprising and patient reporting team at KPRC, surveillance video of the episode is now available for all to see. Together with the shocking scene included at the end of the HBO documentary The Jinx — in which Durst, retreating to the bathroom from an interview while wearing a still-live mic, appears to confess to multiple murders — the footage paints a portrait of a man prone to urination surprises. Durst pleaded no contest to charges of criminal mischief for the CVS episode, after he allegedly exposed himself to a cashier and then peed on a display of candy.

The newly released footage isn’t the clearest (and mercifully, any potentially offending images are blurred out) but it does reveal a few things, including where Durst stood when he began urinating — in case that matters to future customers of that CVS Pharmacy.

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Where It All Went Down
11/20/14 12:45pm

Damaged Oak Trees, 2803 Yale St., Houston Heights

Damaged Oak Trees, 2803 Yale St., Houston HeightsFresh off receiving a $300,000 settlement for the unauthorized removal of 6 oak trees in the city right-of-way from Ali Dhanani and Haza Foods, owner of the Wendy’s franchise at the corner of Kirby Dr. and North Blvd., the city of Houston’s legal staff has turned its attention to 2 other oak-tree-hacking incidents at neighboring Burger Kings — one a couple blocks to the south at 5115 Kirby Dr. at the corner of South Blvd., and the other at 2116 W. Holcombe Blvd. at Main St., next to the Medical Center. At each location, according to a report from the Chronicle‘s Mike Morris, landscapers pruned an oak tree on surrounding public property excessively, making it “likely to die.”

Both Burger Kings, it turns out, are owned by Dhanani’s brother, Shoukat Dhanani, whose company, Houston Foods, happens to be the second-largest Burger King franchisee in the country. (And with a just-announced purchase, his Dhanani Group is about to double the number of U.S. Burger Kings it owns, to more than 450.) But this latest scuffle with the city is not Shoukat Dhanani’s first experience with aggressive limb-cutting of city-owned oaks. Two and a half years ago, Swamplot readers reported on the mysterious beheadings of oak trees surrounding 2 other Burger Kings, both of which also happen to be owned by Houston Foods.

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Fast-Food Landscaping
11/10/14 11:30am

Scott-Day Paint & Supply Co., 216 Westheimer Rd., Avondale, Montrose, Houston

Scott-Day Paint & Supply Co., 216 Westheimer Rd., Avondale, Montrose, Houston

The hexagonal clock mounted above the front door of the former Cra-Bell Vacuum and Appliance Co. building at 216 Westheimer Rd. was stolen over the weekend. Derek Brotherton of Scott-Day Paint & Supply, the company that’s inhabited the building since 1963, tells Swamplot that he and coworkers noticed the disappearance this morning, and that they are “deeply upset over losing part of the character of the store.” Photos above show the clock in place (above, in an older image) and gone missing (at top, taken this morning). Brotherton says he believes the clock had been in its current position since the building was constructed in 1935 — or shortly thereafter. Back then, the street was named Hathaway; it now sits on the north side of Westheimer between Helena and Mason.

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Did You See Time Fly?
10/31/14 3:30pm

Tree Stumps Along North Blvd., Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The owner of the property at the southeast corner of Kirby Dr. and North Blvd. has indicated he might attempt to evict the Wendy’s franchise whose operator appears to have ordered the nighttime removal of 6 oak trees on public property surrounding the fast-food outlet earlier this week. Lias J. “Jeff” Steen, the property’s landlord, says he sent an email saying “I am extremely disappointed he took down the trees under cover of darkness . . . And I am looking at terminating our lease,” according to a report by abc13’s Deborah Wrigley.

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Removed ‘in Good Faith’
10/31/14 12:15pm

Headed to that spooky Halloween “party” at 3015 Fuqua St. tonight all the kool kids are daring each other about today on Twitter? Here are a few things you should know about what might rank as one of Houston’s eeriest properties still standing, one complete with both its very own murder and a ghost video.

Our chilling tale begins in early February 2008, when the property was last on the market. Back then vandals held sway at the decrepit 11,640-sq.-ft. mansion in Minnetex Place. Was it Swamplot’s showcasing of the home’s skanky indoor pool, 5-acre lot, decorative graffiti, and grand, red-carpeted staircase that made it move? It had languished on the market for 7 months, but just 2 weeks later, the property sold — to an entity controlled by a pair of Houston investors. They snagged the 1950 mansion for just $265,000 — greatly reduced from its original $451,900 listing.

Since then, visiting vandals have been joined by a new, possibly otherworldly tenant.

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Fuqua’s Ghost?
10/30/14 10:45am

Chopping Down of Trees along North Blvd. at Wendy's Restaurant, 5003 Kirby Dr., Upper Kirby, Houston

The City of Houston intends to proceed with legal action in connection with the overnight disappearance of half a dozen oak trees from the public right-of-way surrounding the Wendy’s drive-thru at 5003 Kirby Dr., according to 2 separate sources. The trees were chopped down and ground up on site under cover of darkness Tuesday night as part of a renovation of the fast-food spot, which sits at the corner of Kirby and North Blvd. The removals took place on city property, but had not been permitted by the city.

“I have already been assured by the City of Houston’s enforcement officer that the city intends to proceed with a civil case,” writes Trees for Houston executive director Barry Ward in an email sent to members of the canopy-enhancement organization this morning. He calls plans to pursue legal action “a continuation of the recent, positive trend by the current administration to put an end to illegal tree removal in the City right-of-way or on city property.”

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$150K for More Sunlight
10/24/14 11:15am

4601 Roseneath Dr., Riverside Terrace, Houston

4601 Roseneath Dr., Riverside Terrace, HoustonThis yellow 2-story at 4601 N. Roseneath Dr., which has been on the market since April, popped up in a new listing earlier this month sporting the same $850,000 asking price. It sits on a 1.2-acre lot below Brays Bayou, just south of the University of Houston campus. Since 1994, the 1937 property has been the home of Earnest Gibson III, the longtime president of Riverside Hospital. Earlier this week, a federal jury convicted Gibson, his son, and 2 others of various conspiracy charges in connection with a $158 million Medicare fraud scheme centered around patients at the hospital. All are scheduled to be sentenced next February.

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09/29/14 2:00pm

8402 Glenscott St., Meadowbrook Freeway, Houston

If you’re wondering why there are no photos of the foyer in this listing for the ranch home at 8402 Glenscott St. in the southeast Houston neighborhood of Meadowbrook Freeway, it’s likely out of respect. Because that’s the room where Sybil Berndt, the previous owner of this 3-bedroom, 2-bath home, fell, lay still face down on the floor for 3 days, passed away, and then slowly decomposed over the course of 3 months, all while her twin 48-year-old sons Edwin and Edward carried on with their lives, staying inside and watching TV and eating popcorn, potato chips, and candy.

There was a brief period after their mother fell, 2 days before her 89th birthday, when the twins considered getting her to a hospital, but they worried they might not be able to pay for her medical bills, according to investigators. Later, they worried how they might pay for her funeral. (It appears their mother had more than enough money to cover both.) Their mother, according to the twins’ account, never asked for help.

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Paint and Carpet Magic
07/30/14 1:15pm

Gardens at Bissonnet Condominiums, 7400 Bissonnet St., Sharpstown, Houston

Gardens at Bissonnet Condominiums, 7400 Bissonnet St., Sharpstown, HoustonInvestor Steve Moore, who’s made a name for himself by buying up, moving into, establishing unusual rules in, cleaning up, and lowering crime rates at some of the roughest apartment complexes in Houston neighborhoods such as Greenspoint and Westwood, has a new investment (and new address) — in Sharpstown. Working with an investment group, the owner of more than 5,000 apartment units has purchased a majority interest in the Gardens at Bissonnet condos at 7400 Bissonnet St., the 200-unit complex near Fondren Rd. known as the Le Promenade condos when it was home to the La Primera gang. Moore was sought out for the purchase by the Greater Sharpstown Management District after the condo complex was put into receivership last year; a series of security measures, which included changing the property’s name, were instituted as part of a legal settlement between the county and the property’s previous owners.

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Moving into the Gardens at Bissonnet