The Tale of the Nightmare Neighbor: Final Chapter of a 15 year Larry Barker Investigation

Larry Barker

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a news story we’ve been following for 15 years: The tale of the ‘Nightmare Neighbor.’ When it comes to zoning violations, John Gallegos is public enemy number one, hands down. 


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“He is a Zoning Enforcement officials’ worst nightmare,” Assistant City Attorney John Dubois told News 13 in 2006. “He is a major offender, he is a repeat offender, and he is an offender that uses every advantage to play the system against effective zoning enforcement,” DuBois said. 

Drive along Mesilla Street NE in Albuquerque’s La Mesa neighborhood, and you’ll notice 318 right away. It’s home sweet home for John Gallegos, and it functions as his personal garbage dump. Throughout the property, Gallegos has stockpiled a houseful of rubble and debris. For almost 30 years, he has defied the law and thumbed his nose at his neighbors, City Inspectors, and the courts.


Larry Barker’s 2005 investigation on the infamous ‘pig house’


Gallegos and his mother, Diane, have been hauled into court so many times, prosecutors stopped counting. In 2005 Albuquerque Inspectors decided ‘enough is enough.’ Because of persistent health and safety dangers, teams of police, zoning inspectors, and animal control officers got a search warrant to enter the property, and what they discovered was unbelievable. “You can’t describe what’s in that house,” then Albuquerque Code Enforcement Chief Steve Chavez told KRQE News 13 in 2005. 

Officers found the entire 318 Mesilla, NE dwelling, from floor to ceiling, stuffed with trash. Every room in the house, every square foot was crammed with discarded appliances, 55-gallon drums, garbage heaped upon garbage. In a backroom, officers found three pigs, yes pigs, wallowing in a pile of hay and animal waste. 

John Gallegos is a compulsive hoarder. He stuffs his property with truck-loads of junk and refuses to clean it up.

And it’s not only the Mesilla house. In 2015 we told viewers about Tara, NE, a quiet residential street with well-groomed homes. But the property on a corner lot was an exception. Scattered throughout the sprawling residence were a half dozen derelict cars, worn-out tires, bar-b-que grills, neglected landscaping, and a jumbled mess of trash and debris. Who lived there? You guessed it: John and Diane Gallegos. The mother and son duo have since moved out, and the property is no longer trashed. 


Interactive Photo Slider: Left – 2015 photo of Tara House. Right – 2021 photo of Tara House.


John and Diane Gallego’s zoning infractions didn’t stop at the Albuquerque city limits. In 2006 KRQE News 13 found a parcel of rolling grassland in Torrance County owned by the Gallegos family. That property was also in violation of zoning regulations. 

The 8 acres were unlike any you’ve seen outside a landfill. Welcome to John and Diane Gallegos’s private dump. A partial inventory included seven railroad cars, more than a hundred autos, trucks, vans, nineteen semi-tractor trailer rigs, hundreds of 55-gallon drums, cinder blocks, tires and wires, blocks and barrels, aluminum, concrete, toilets, and even a kitchen sink or two. 

In 2006, John Gallegos had no comment on the Torrance County property except to say, “You can ask my attorney.”

KRQE News 13 investigation has tracked the illegal activities of Diane and John Gallegos over the past 15 years. There have been countless criminal complaints, inspections, violation notices, investigations, court orders, jail time, and fines. However, the city has been unable to get mother and son to stop their compulsive hoarding and comply with the law. 

In 2005, KRQE News 13 caught up with John Gallegos at Metro Court following another court hearing. “I just want to say no comment, but I saved a ton on my car insurance. Good day fellas,” Gallegos said. 


Larry Barker’s 2015 investigation on the infamous “pig house”


Albuquerque Code Enforcement Inspectors have been trying to bring the Mesilla property into compliance since 1994. The water was shut off in 2013 for nonpayment of water bills. There is no gas or electricity in the house. Today, neighbors say it appears John Gallegos is living in an abandoned car on the debris-strewn property. 

Albuquerque Planning Director Brennon Williams says over the past 25 years, Code Inspectors have visited the Mesilla property thousands of times. “It’s the worst property in the city,” said Williams. “Because of those conditions, the Code Enforcement Division asked City Council to review the matter and make a determination that the property be condemned because it was a public nuisance,” Williams said. 


Photos of 318 Mesilla in northeast Albuquerque as of May 17, 2021.

In August, City Councilors approved the condemnation of 318 Mesilla, NE. Over the next few weeks, the junked cars will be towed. The tons of debris and rubbish will be hauled to the landfill, and then 318 Mesilla, NE will be torn down. “The owner filed an appeal of the Council’s determination. But that appeal was not upheld. It was denied. And consequently, we’re now gearing up to demolish the structure,” said Planning Director Williams. 

According to Brennon Williams, the cleanup and demolition will not be at the taxpayer’s expense. “The work that will be performed on the property obviously comes with a cost, but those costs will result in a lien that is filed against the property,” said Williams. “Right now, there are about $15,000 in liens for a cleanup that was done a couple of years ago on the property. It’s estimated that the work that will be performed associated with the demolition will run about $35,000,” Williams said.

KRQE News 13 asked Brennon Williams if, after 25 years of enforcement actions, John Gallegos ‘gets it’? “I don’t think so,” said Williams. 

Last week, we came across John Gallegos while preparing this report. He asked, “What is so special about this property that’s always on the news every six months.” 

And so, after 15 years, we come to an end of our tale. Goodbye ‘Nightmare Neighbor’.

Approved Search Warrant Below

Application of Search Warrant Below

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