Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dirty Deeds?

Original scribbled "contract." 

The story of the dirty deeds begins, in my opinion, in 1952 when the parents of Karol Craft bought a parcel of land at what later became 1555 Dogwood Ridge Rd., in Wheelersburg. The property was located next to the Sacred Mission Church. Karol Craft’s father, a carpenter, built a home on the property, with the assistance of his wife, who was handy with tools. In the decades that followed, according to Karol Craft, the Sacred Mission Church showed an interest in acquiring her land.
As long as she was not in financial difficulties, Mrs. Craft was not interested in selling any part of her property. But on one occasion, when she needed money to help pay taxes, she sold part of her land, in the rear, to the Sacred Mission Church. But she rejected subsequent offers from the church because she thought the church wanted too much land for too little money. But a serious financial crisis occurred in 2006. Mrs. Craft’s son Timothy Lyons had fallen way behind in support payments for his two teen-aged children. Facing possible jail time, he appeared in court, along with his mother, on Feb. 9, 2006. As a result of her son’s appearance in court on that date, Mrs. Craft would lose her home. She lost it, she and her son claim, through trickery and deceit on the part of Mike Mearan. Mrs. Craft and her son do admit to signing, in the court hallway, the hastily drawn up hand-written "contract" on Feb. 9, 2006, which is shown above. But they deny vehemently signing any"deed" that day.
The "contract" was not enough, apparently, to transfer the title from Mrs. Craft to Joe Lester or his assignee. Mearan needed to get Mrs. Craft and her son to sign a deed, which he had apparently failed to do on Feb. 9. But Mrs. Craft and her son refused to sign anything after that date. They concluded they had been hornswoggled and stampeded in the court hallway on February 9, being pressured by Mearan, to take one example, to accept a $3,000 six-month loan from Joe Lester for which they had to pay $1,000 or 33% interest. Because he could not get Mrs. Craft to sign on the dotted line, Mearan or someone else resorted to forging their signatures on the deed to make the transfer appear legal, or so Mrs. Craft and her son now believe. In a letter to the Disciplinary Counsel, Timothy Lyons wrote, "On the 22nd of December, 2006, [Michael Mearan] did wrongfully file with the Scioto County Recorder a forged deed that conveyed our home to Attorney Michael Mearan’s assistant, Terri Chandler. Neither I nor my mother signed this deed.” Lyons offered no proof of forgery, other than his and his mother’s certainty that they had not signed a deed transferring ownership of their property to Mearan’s assistant on February 9, 2006. The Counsel of the Disciplinary Committee of the Ohio Supreme Court was requested by Timothy Lyons to investigate. The counsel did an investigation, though how thoroughly he did it remains an open question. Mrs. Craft claims the counsel never spoke to her or her son. As far as I know, no analysis of the signatures of Mrs. Craft and her son on the original deed was ever done.

That Mearan served as one of the two witnesses on this deed seems poor judgment on his part. If Terri Chandler was holding the property in her name for Mearan or for Mearan's former "business associate" Joe Lester, Mearan's serving as one of the two witnesses of the signing of the property over to her by Mrs. Craft and her son seems questionable. The other witness, whose name is hard to decipher, is yet to be confirmed.
The original copy of this deed is not at the office of the Scioto County Recorder. A clerk there told me earlier this week that, at Mearan’s request, the original had been sent to him. Any determination of forgery would presumably require an examination of that original copy, as it would also require the testimony of the second witness, who claimed to have seen Mrs. Craft and her son sign over their property to Terri Chandler. The Disciplinary Committee Counsel concluded Mearan had not violated a disciplinary rule but that “it was a disastrous decision for Attorney Mearan to encourage Mr. Lester to contract with you,” that is with Timothy and his mother (emphasis added). Mrs. Craft agrees that Mearan's decision was disastrous.

Like her parents, Mrs. Craft worked hard her whole life, including at Williams Manufacturing, while living in the family home in Wheelersburg. But today she does not have a home or bed to call her own. Occasionally, she has had to sleep in her 1990 Chevy pick-up. She told me she had applied to the Portsmouth Municipal Housing Authority, where Mearan is one of the directors, but she was told the PMHA has a long waiting list. The suffering Karol Craft is experiencing is evident in a photo (shown below ) that I took of her recently in Tracy Park. She appears to be still in a state of shock and disbelief. As she approaches her 70th birthday, she tries to bear up and find some solace in her religious faith. She has not returned to the site of her former home on Dogwood Ridge Rd. since she was forced out of it. If she did go back, she would find the house her parents had built with their own hands about fifty years ago is no longer there. The Sacred Mission Church eventually acquired the property and bulldozed the house.

Mrs. Karol Craft at Tracy Park, trying to make sense of it all.