Trenton judge clears courtroom after man's clothes drip bedbugs

The Trentonain
Monday, April 18, 2011

TRENTON - A visitor infested with bedbugs forced the evacuation of a city courtroom Monday and prompted officials to seal off the room and call in an exterminator.

"The guy literally had bedbugs falling off of his clothing," a court employee said after the victim was escorted out of Trenton's combination police and courts building.

"He sat in court for more than three hours, and a lot of people wanted court to shut down. Many others wanted the guy removed, but nothing happened. And they finally got the guy to leave at about 12 noon. But by then, there's no way of knowing how many bedbugs fell off of him. It's scary," the court worker said.

Shut down after the bug man was removed was Court Room B, the entrance to which is only steps from where people line up to pay parking tickets and the like.

Top city health officer Joseph Rubino said an inspection of the courtroom after the victim's removal "found no visible signs of bedbugs," but he added that with people removed, there isn't much for a bedbug to latch onto in the empty room.

Rubino said city court officials were told to have an exterminator check out the room to make sure it's bedbug free before holding court in it again.

A city cop told The Trentonian that "someone came in with a vacuum cleaner and sucked up some of the bugs" after the infested visitor was removed. "But I don't know what's going to happen next. I know that I don't want to be around bedbugs because they are hard to get rid of."

Courtroom employees said Health & Human Services Inspector Mike Ingram went to the bug man's house and discovered a serious infestation there. Rubino said Ingram gave the guy advise for dealing with his infested bed and furniture.

Eyewitnesses said two women court visitors observed bedbugs on the guy's clothing and alerted court officials.

"If this situation happened the way people are saying, it would be an extraordinary event," said Jeffrey White, a research entomologist at Lawrence-based Cooper Pest Solutions and BedBug Central. "We would have likely done the same thing regarding vacuuming and then followed up with a steam treatment of the area.

"And then it's best to continue to monitor the area where this guys was sitting. Applying pesticides would be tricky because people would be back in that area the next day. Unfortunately, with a major outbreak of bedbugs occurring, we're going to see more and more stories like this. It's going to get worse before it gets better."

The city's Hedgepeth/Williams Elementary School underwent an extermination in February after officials discovered a lone bedbug on the school's premises.

White confirmed that finding bedbugs in schools is no shocking event because of bugs' transportation via book bags and backpacks.

The blood-sucking insects are a quarter-inch in size and remain flat until they gorge on human blood, usually a nocturnal incident.

White said bedbug education will play a significant role in what he expects to be a major bedbug outbreak season.

"There's a lot of misinformation out there. It's going to be important that people know about prevention and also what steps to take if they have a bedbug problem," White remarked.

Acting City Inspections Director Cleveland Thompson said he had heard about the courtroom drama.

"But we didn't respond. It wasn't our (case) but if this gentleman had a bedbug problem at his residence, we would instruct him to hire a certified exterminator," Thompson said.

The bedbug incident came three day before Trenton's city council will try Thursday attempts an adoption of new guidelines regarding tenants, landlords, and pest extermination.