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Stephen J. Lee, Published September 19 2013

Man found guilty in dirty home case

GRAND FORKS – A Grand Forks jury convicted James Hume on Wednesday night of felony charges that he neglected and abused his two young daughters, 3 and 4, by living in a garage attached to the rural house northwest of Reynolds where his parents, whom he called “hoarders,” lived in squalor with dozens of animals and birds.

At the same time, the jury acquitted him of a similar charge involving a 7-year-old boy in his care at the time, who is not his biological son but has lived with him most of his life.

Hume, 32, faces up to five years in prison on each of the two felony convictions.

Looking strained after the verdict was read, Hume declined to comment on the advice of his attorney, David Ogren, who said it’s an ongoing case and no decision about an appeal is appropriate until after sentencing.

State District Judge Debbie Kleven set his sentencing for Nov. 4 and continued Hume’s release on a surety bond of $2,500 until then.

Saying he was pleased with the split verdict and praising the jury for working hard on a difficult case, prosecutor Jason McCarthy said, “This is a community standards case and who better to decide it than a jury?”

Dane Jackson, foreman of the jury of nine women and three men, said jury members took the complicated and strange case seriously and were concerned about the children’s fate and also Hume’s.

The verdict does raise questions about where the children now will live. For the past year, they have lived with Hume in a house in Thompson.

The boy, now 8, lives with his biological father in Grand Forks, said Henderson, who testified for the prosecution and waited late into the night to witness the verdict.

Prosecutors say Grand Forks sheriff’s deputies found Hume living in a garage northwest of Reynolds on Aug. 3, 2012, with his children, with no running water and hundreds of flies and hazardous conditions.

The garage is attached to the home of Hume’s parents, which was full of “40 to 50 cats,” several chickens, two geese, four dogs, numerous rabbits, a Cornish game hen and a large snake, testified Steve Hamre, a Grand Forks police investigator. The smell of feces and urine in the house was so powerful that deputies searching it had to wear masks, and the garage appeared unfit and unsafe for small children, Hamre said.

Hume testified in his own defense Wednesday that while the garage “wasn’t ideal,” as a home, it was a short-term arrangement that didn’t involve neglect or abuse of his children, who he said were rarely there.

He had to move into his parents’ garage in March 2012 because he had come back from Oregon on probation and needed to establish a residence and find a job so he could once again care for his three children, Hume testified.

He said deputies who testified he had told them his children slept in the garage and bathed in the house got his account wrong and that he never would have allowed his children to set foot in his parents’ house, because “it wasn’t fit for children.”

“My parents collect things, they are hoarders,” Hume said. “They have been like that my whole life.”

Hume testified that his children didn’t sleep in the garage, that his daughters had been there only three times and the boy only the one time, and they had never been inside his parents’ house.