Atlanta lawyer moves older man out of bug-ridden home, into her heart

Leon Sims, 87, trembles inside his tiny, gloomy apartment south of Atlanta. He’s scared. He’s desperate. He’s alone.

This is going to kill me, he thinks.

His apartment is infested. Bed bugs — tiny oval-shaped, rusty-red blood-sucking creatures – are everywhere. They crawl on his neck; others inch into his hairline; yet more circle his ears. And all are hungry. Deep-red, swollen bite marks cover his arms.

They invaded the widower’s apartment four years earlier and have only grown more numerous. He sleeps in his khakis and long-sleeve shirts, hoping to stave off the relentless feeders. It’s a futile effort: When they begin dotting his grits and eggs, the elderly man loses his appetite – and, in time, a healthy weight.

His fear – This is going to kill me – is no exaggeration.

One wintry afternoon in November 2012, Jane Warring, a 32-year-old corporate attorney, knocks on his door.

From the moment she steps inside the dimly lit apartment with low-ceilings, Mr. Sims is no longer alone in his fight to live, and to live with dignity.

We can do better, I know we can do better, she thinks to herself.

The apartment complex, located in East Point, looks like a run-down motel where young men and women come and go all hours of the night.

Stray cats and kittens wander the complex. One short evergreen tree juts out of a neglected patch of weeds and trash. The ceaseless sound of cars and trucks roar by on the nearby highway.

A striking woman with long wavy blonde hair and blue eyes, Jane isn’t sure what to do first. She feels her body stiffen as she surveys the space.

She notes the rusty stove, the refrigerator that leans to one side. It is uncomfortably warm.

"The bugs are bad…really … bad," he stammers.

She watches the bugs crawl on the skin of the man she continues to call to this day Mr. Sims.

Making a mental note to throw her clothes in the washer as she soon as she gets home, Jane finally sits down on a wooden chair.

Despite her horror at Mr. Sims’ situation, her demeanor is calm as she pulls out a legal pad and pen.

Tell me all of your problems, she says matter-of-factly.