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PUBLIC RECORD
April 20, 2019

3/25/2019 11:58:00 AM
Judge orders home torn down
Judge Gary Smith has ruled that despite homeowner Deborah Freeman’s objections and work over the past eight months, her home at 275 East Brown Street remains uninhabitable. He ordered it torn down.—Staff Photo by Barbara King
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Judge Gary Smith has ruled that despite homeowner Deborah Freeman’s objections and work over the past eight months, her home at 275 East Brown Street remains uninhabitable. He ordered it torn down.—Staff Photo by Barbara King
A Vernon resident is now homeless after Superior Court Judge Gary Smith ruled her residence should be torn down at a hearing Friday morning.

The home, at 275 East Brown Street, has been the target of a suit brought by the Area Plan Commission in June 2018 after an infestation of rats was observed at the property.

In an emergency hearing July 2, APC Director Marie Shepherd told the court the condition of the home "is the worst I've seen." Both Shepherd and the JC Health Department manager Peggy Roe testified as to the home's "horrific" condition.

As the rats have been exterminated over the course of months, concerns continued as to the wiring, the sagging floors and roof and the possibility of dead rats and excrement inside the walls. Both agencies argued the home was beyond repair and should be razed.

Homeowner Deborah Freeman appeared at the final hearing Friday accompanied by Vernon's first lady Linda Wright and resident and neighbor Stacie Burns, both of whom have been supporting Freeman in her efforts to save her home.

"I have to live in the real world," the judge noted at the conclusion of the hearing. Over the course of 9 months, there has not been "really measurable success," he said, although the vermin have been exterminated and "a considerable amount of debris removed."

Even so, the judge concluded the condition of the home "poses a risk to residences and to visitors to Vernon and to you and any other occupants. It cannot be called a residence. It is not fit for habitation."

Apparently, the homeowner had mentioned she could get a loan for $5000 to help fund repairs at the home. Judge Smith said such a loan would only result in her going into debt for an uninhabitable property.

As such, he ordered the home torn down, adding that he was sorry and that it was not a decision he likes to make; however, it was one based on the law and facts.

Understandably, Freeman was upset, telling the judge "I have put in a lot of work...I have worked and worked on days and on weekends. I don't see where it is fair."

She later said she will have to live in her car and that she might as well give up her job at the school system where she is a custodian.

Burns and Wright were upset as well and noted there were people who wanted to help Freeman stay in her home. Vernon Baptist Church members have been helping her, too.

Burns summed up the situation. "They wanted it torn down and they got what they wanted. She's poor."

The cost of tearing down the home - estimated at $8000 due to the presence of asbestos shingles - will be put on Freeman's taxes . In the end, she'll probably lose the property, Burns said, and a neighbor will buy it.



Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Article comment by: Tony McRae

Eminent domain, Indiana Code 32-24-1
Eminent domain procedure is governed by the Indiana Code. This means that when a condemner is taking your property they must follow the rules set out in the statute.

The county is taking away an owner's house. Eventually, they will take the land. Sounds like eminent domain to me.


Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Article comment by: Tony McRae

Dear Readers,
Regarding 275 E. Brown Street story...
According to Jennings County records, the assessed value on the house (not the land) for 2018/pay 2019 is $25,300. Tax payments are current and the owner has pursued remedial activities on limited income.In a just society, if it costs $8,000 to tear down, then the county SHOULD OWE the difference of $17,300 to the owner. It sure sounds like she could use it.




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