BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – For months now – for years really – Bakersfield has been plagued with fires in vacant homes. One of the latest victims is a double-amputee veteran who now has no place to go.
Johnnie O’Neal had enough problems already. A double amputee, because of diabetes, retired oilfield worker and 3-year U.S. Army veteran was hospitalized with COVID-19 in late September for five days.
Thieves took the opportunity to burglarize his 1,000-square-foot house on Virginia Avenue multiple times, stealing his handicap-accessible truck, a camper, a car trailer, his TV and all his appliances.
“They literally went in and they stole any and everything that they can,” said his daughter, Johnetta O’Neal.
Johnnie O’Neal has only been told what came up missing after the series of thefts.
“I found out that my house had been broke into – burglarized,” he said.
Then things got bad. While he was in a local convalescent hospital, still recovering from COVID, someone burned down his house – a modest place, uninsured – that has been in the family for 100 years.
“They burned my house down and set my truck on fire,” Johnnie O’Neal said. “I don’t know who did it.”
His daughter was stunned.
“I don’t know if it’s salvageable or not,” she said. “I don’t know.”
She grew up playing in the yard. Her grandmother raised hogs and chickens.
“It’s a lot of memories over here,” she said. “It’s a legacy in our family.”
Her great-grandmother was the home’s first owner. She passed it down to Johnetta’s grandmother, the current owner, who is 102 years old.
Johnnie O’Neal has survived the virus and he’s ready to go home but he has no home to go to. Friends of his daughter, who works for a local credit union, have established a GoFundMe account for his financial recovery.
They’re hoping construction workers or business owners might be willing to donate building materials and labor.
Click here to donate to the GoFundMe account.