Share story

Tathena Tubbs, 11, told her sixth-grade teacher she wouldn’t be able to complete a recent homework assignment because her family “lives in a meth house.” Her father, Travis, remembers the police arriving that evening at the home in Jefferson, Oregon the Tubbs family once thought of as their dream home.

“Her teacher did the right thing, of course. That comment triggered all the right alarms,” Travis told McClatchy.

But Tathena isn’t living a real-life episode of “Breaking Bad.” It’s not like that at all.

Travis, who is in the Air Force, and his wife Denay, knew going into the purchase that they had a fixer-upper on their hands. What they didn’t know was that the six buildings on two acres that they bought in July 2017 — so they and their seven children could have some breathing room — was a former meth lab.

One of the former owners fessed up and told Travis and Denay, whose children range from 2 to 13, just days after the sale was completed, according to KATU. The property’s co-owner was the Keller Williams realtor who sold the home to them.

Brad Demilieu and Jody Draper are those former co-owners, and they’re two of the defendants named in a lawsuit the couple filed in January in Marion County, which was followed by two rounds of “failed” mediation between the family and Keller Williams, Travis told McClatchy.

“They don’t want to pay for anything,” Travis said. “We tried to work with them for a year before taking our story public.”

Neither representatives from Keller Williams nor Draper responded to various media outlets requesting comment.

After Demilieu told the family about the meth coating on all the home’s walls and surfaces, 29 tests confirmed elevated levels of methamphetamine residue in every structure, the Salem Statesman Journal reported. The lowest levels of meth contamination on the property were three times more than the level requiring clean-up in Oregon, while the highest levels, over 150 times the allowable limit, were found throughout the home’s ventilation system, according to the newspaper.

The Tubbses ordered a home inspection before buying the home, like most homebuyers do. However, meth contamination level inspections are not a part of any standard home inspector’s checklist, according to KEZI.

Families who unknowingly buy meth houses and live in them for a time can experience symptoms ranging from migraines to respiratory problems to skin burns and irritation, according to Scientific American.

Today, the family feels like they’ve been squatting on their own land for over a year, while the fight with Keller Williams moves to the courtroom. They were in hotels for a few days after getting the meth inspection, Travis said. Then they lived in trailers parked outside their home.

Then Travis and the older children converted a garage on the property to their current living space, but only after it became the first of the six buildings to get the meth dust cleaned out. They covered the roof in asphalt shingles and plunked in a window air conditioning unit to get at least a little summertime air-flow going.

“It’s hot,” Travis told McClatchy. “That garage wasn’t made to be lived in. That and managing everyone’s need for space is probably the hardest part.”

Oh, and he’s writing a doctoral thesis on managing crops. He’s studying at Oregon State University in nearby Corvallis.

He says he’s spent $50,000 on electrical work alone already, and that their lawyer’s fees currently sit at about $60,000, but will continue to climb. Cleaning the meth residue out of the main house will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000, then building back the guts of the home — because “cleaning” in this sense of the word really means tearing everything out of the home — could cost as much as $600,000 more.

Then there’s the storage fees, which are about $20,000 and climbing, because most everything the Tubbs family owned before the move still cannot be unpacked. All in all, KATU reported that the family is suing Keller Williams, et. al, for $900,000. Travis told McClatchy, however, that mediation, which might start in January, could ultimately determine the final settlement price, if such a settlement can be arranged.

But that means the family will have to continue living in their makeshift garage-home for at least six more months, he said. According to a GoFundMe campaign Denay started, the family expects to spend its second winter in the garage-home this year.

The Tubbses — all nine of them — picketed the Eugene Keller Williams Realty offices Thursday, KEZI reported.

The family’s GoFundMe Campaign had raised just $4,700 of its $60,000 goal as of Saturday afternoon, “but we’re soldiering on,” Travis said, mainly thanks to his wife.

“It takes an amazing woman to be able to even make this situation survivable with seven kids,” Travis said. “It’s a trial for her, and for our kids, more than for anyone else.”