Cleaning up at scene of the crime

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 15, 2011 - 9:52 PM

Kenneth Abosi removes horrifying ugliness after crimes, suicides or even natural deaths.

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There are few businesses like Kenneth Abosi’s. He left nurse’s training several years ago to start Kaldecon Services after realizing that families hit by bloody tragedy usually are on their own when it comes to cleaning up the aftermath.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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The trail of blood that remained congealed on a driveway in St. Paul's Payne-Phalen neighborhood was a grim reminder that a gunshot victim had fled for his life before he died. Another blood smear marred the side of a nearby apartment building.

It was a mess, like those at many crime scenes, that needed to be cleaned up.

It can come as a surprise to victims' families that the city doesn't take care of such cleaning. It's universally left to citizens. Sometimes, outdoor crime remnants remain until the elements take care of them. On rare occasions, families undertake the gruesome task.

It was a realization that struck Kenneth Abosi as absurd as he watched a Discovery Channel program on crime several years ago.

"When I watched the program, it really fascinated me," Abosi said. "How can a family deal with cleaning up blood and brain and body tissue? The more I kept thinking about it, I thought, 'No, it's not good for the family to do that.' A majority of them don't know how to find help."

Abosi switched gears from nursing school and founded Kaldecon Services Inc. about six years ago. It's one of a few independently owned companies that clean up after murders, suicides and even natural deaths that go undiscovered for extended periods.

Abosi runs a small shop on W. University Avenue in St. Paul, where he has four full-time and two part-time employees who perform most of the business' jobs, which include janitorial work and cleanup of homes where hoarders live. He's the only one certified to work on biohazardous jobs involving crime and trauma scenes -- about a quarter of Kaldecon's business. It didn't come easy at first.

"It really took a year for me to adjust to it," he said. "Now, I can't eat any meat that is rare or medium-rare. It brings back the flashbacks."

Clients are referred to Kaldecon and other cleanup services by police and victim advocates. Margaret McAbee, executive director of Survivor Resources, a nonprofit organization for crime victims and survivors, has a list of crime scene cleanup services at the ready. It's fluctuated from three to a half-dozen companies, with large, national outfits dominating.

"It is an expensive service to perform," McAbee said.

She said homeowners' insurance will cover cleanup services, but Abosi said that often insurance covers only structural damage, and that most of his clients pay out-of-pocket. A job can run from $500 to $2,500 and take one to two days.

McAbee said she's known families that had to undertake the task themselves.

"They might not want someone else to come into their homes," she said. "They may decide it's not worth it. They may be a renter, rather than a homeowner."

Abosi takes those concerns seriously, going to special lengths to protect his clients. His crews arrive at homes in unmarked vehicles; it could be an electrician or a plumber for all neighbors know. He enters homes in plain clothes before changing into a biohazard suit. He works quickly, he said, so families can move back in as soon as possible.

"Most people don't feel comfortable when a stranger comes into their house and goes through it, and then there's a tragedy like that," he said. "You have to make them very comfortable that this can be done discreetly."

Abosi's longest job of the 100 or so crime and trauma scenes he's worked was the monthlong cleanup of a house where an elderly man had died but his body went undiscovered for six weeks. The stench and scene were so bad that family members didn't want to salvage anything from the house, he said.

The work is not lucrative, Abosi said, and the key reason he does it is to help people. Unexpectedly, having his hands so close to death has strengthened him, too.

"It makes me less anxious about anything," Abosi said. "I know that every day you should be grateful for what you have, whether you have eaten or not. The lightbulb can just go out."

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708

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