The house may or may not have been a place to hide slaves, before sending them on their way toward freedom.
The dozens of cars, trucks, tree spades and other vehicles and equipment strewn about the yard may or may not run.
And all of the property — together — may or may not fetch anywhere from $80,000 to $180,000, as expected, at auction Saturday at the eastern edge of Lawrence.
There is one certainty, though: The family of suspected methamphetamine dealer Donald Steele is moving on.
“We’re trying to get everything straightened out,” said Chaz Steele, who plans to auction his mother’s home and his parents’ personal property and business equipment Saturday at 1706 N. 1500 Road. “It’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever had to do. It’s not something we wanted to do.”
The six-bedroom home on nearly two acres east of Lawrence, along the back way to the East Hills Business Park, has been a source of frustration for Douglas County zoning officials for more than two decades. Three years ago they succeeded in getting a state-ordered cleanup of the site, but since then the property has attracted another 100 vehicles and assorted pieces of equipment.
Last month, a law-enforcement team that included federal agents raided the site and spent two days searching for evidence.
Donald Steele, 50, owner of All Seasons Tree Service, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine. He remains held by federal marshals, while a co-defendant, Anthony Sims, has been released pending trial. A second co-defendant, Randy Dyke, is scheduled to be in court today to see whether he, too, could be released pending trial.
Auctioneer Dan Hiatt expects Saturday’s 9 a.m. auction to generate up to $180,000 for Chaz Steele, who plans to use the money to relocate his mother and sister. During the raid, county officials had posted the property as unsafe for anyone to occupy.
Chaz Steele described the property as having a colorful history, one that included hiding slaves in a ceiling back in the 1800s and scurrying them toward freedom through a tunnel to the Kansas River.
Recent history, of course, is something he’d rather forget.
“They don’t have a place to live now,” Chaz Steele said, of his mother and sister. “We’re hoping to sell everything in the yard, and get enough for a down payment on another house — one outside Douglas County.”