It was the story that made every parent wince. Ralph and Marcella Bracamonte hired Diane Stretton as a live-in nanny to watch their children, ages 11, 4 and 16 months. When things didn’t work out, they let her go. But, according to the Bracamontes, the 64-year-old nanny refused to leave their home in Upland, California.
Since the story became national news on Friday, Stretton, who has refused to speak to media, hasn’t returned to the house. She has been spotted driving past the house by the assembled media and her belongings remain in her room.
But now, the Bracamontes say that Stretton has agreed to move out by July 4, under certain conditions. “She wrote a [email] stating what she wants to do,” Marcella Bracamonte tells PEOPLE. “She would like to move out but because of the hot weather that’s going to happen soon.” The only hitch: the Bracamontes were scheduled to go out of town for a family wedding on July 2. “I feel like it’s a trap,” says Bracamonte, adding that the couple will have other family members house-sitting while they’re out of town. “I feel like she knows that I’m going to be gone and that she wants to lock me out of my home.”
While Stretton and the Bracamontes come up with a solution, the case raises some burning questions. Speaking to PEOPLE inside their home, the Bracamontes answered some of them.
Did the Bracamontes perform a background check?
The family had posted an ad on Craigslist, and Stretton seemed like a promising candidate. But did they do a criminal background check before hiring her? “Of course I did,” Marcella Bracamonte tells PEOPLE. “I’m a mom. My family is the most important thing, so of course I did. I called references. I didn’t do a credit check, because I wasn’t accepting money from her. I just didn’t think it was necessary. I was too trusting.”
When did things start to go wrong?
According to the Bracamontes, they were initially pleased with Stretton’s work – until the third week. “She began slowing down,” says Bracamonte. “I thought maybe it was because she was a little older, but then things got worse the next week. And the next week.” Adds Ralph Bracamonte: “She didn’t want to pick up anything anymore. She didn’t want to help out.”
Why can’t the police remove Stretton from the home?
Because the employment agreement included a place to live, the family must go through the proper legal channels to evict her. “The eviction process is a civil action and, in some cases, can take months to complete,” says Cindy Bachman, a spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Sheriff. “Once the process is complete, a deputy will remove the tenant and lock them out. If the tenant refuses to leave, they could face arrest for trespassing and/or violation of a court order.”
Can the family cut off her utilities or lock her out?
If they interfere with the nanny’s room, the Bracamontes could face legal repercussions. “She came in as a nanny in exchange for services,” says the Bracamontes’ attorney, Marc Cohen. (The laws regarding the housing agreement are different than those governing the employment arrangement.) “She was given a room. She has a legal right to that room. I don’t think there is a legal obligation to feed her. There would be a legal obligation to ensure that she has lights, running water, things like that.”
Maybe the Bracamontes could just make life miserable for her?
Under landlord/tenant laws, the Bracamontes cannot become the roommates from hell. When Stretton felt that the Bracamontes had their television up too loud, she called police. “We could be fined up to $1,000 for disrupting our tenant,” says Marcella. Adds Ralph, “My TV doesn’t even have surround sound. It wasn’t too loud.”
Has Stratton done this before?
Although there is no record of a similar case involving employment as a nanny, PEOPLE has found Stretton’s name attached to more than a dozen cases in three Southern California counties ranging from nonpayment to property damage to negligence. Of the 13 cases found by PEOPLE dating back to 2002, she is a plaintiff in 7 cases and a defendant in 6 more. ABC News reports that she is listed by California Courts as a vexatious litigant for abusing the legal system.
• Reporting by REAGAN ALEXANDER and JOHNNY DODD