Defiant evicted family moves back amid complex legal fight

Defiant evicted family moves back amid complex legal fight

PORTLAND, Ore. – A family evicted from their southeast Portland home last month moved back in Friday, defying police and city government and claiming their home was taken by the bank illegally.

Meanwhile, the couple's lawyer painted a nightmarish picture of a family trying to fight mysterious companies in an effort to keep their home.

With the front door screwed shut and signs on the home warning them against burglary and criminal trespass, Darren Johnson and his wife, Patricia Williams, went in through the garage with the help of protesters supporting them.

"We feel this is a theft," Johnson said about being foreclosed on. "And no one wants anything stolen from them."

They're camping inside, and the power's been shut off. So they made a fire in the living room fireplace.

The couple fell behind on their mortgage after bills for Williams' heart condition stacked up.

"This is not an issue of lack of payment and not wanting to fulfill our obligation on paying the mortgage," Johnson said.

Police and sheriff's deputies evicted the couple last month. The couple says the banks were more anxious to kick them out of their home of eight years rather than work out a way to reschedule payments. So they stood up to the eviction along with the group We Are Oregon.

Johnson said his main fear is not the police showing up again.

"My fear is my family being homeless," he said. "My fear is my community being disrupted by another vacant house left open."

A couple neighbors have signs in their yards showing support for the family. But one of those neighbors was very frustrated by the chaos from the clash between protesters and police last month and worried about the attention this latest action will draw.  The other neighbor just hopes it all ends soon.

Two officers did show up Friday along with a moving truck sent by the property owner. But no action was taken.

Police said they can't force the family out of the home unless that property owner complains that they are trespassing.

Fight with mysterious companies?

Johnson and Williams lost their battle in court to halt the eviction, and they are trying to go to state appeals court to get their house back.

Their lawyer, Geordie Duckler, says their loan was transferred between banks and mortgage companies so many times that the couple couldn't figure out which company to work with to save their home.

Duckler says they face an uphill battle now because they didn't fight the original notice of foreclosure last spring.

It wasn't until their house was already foreclosed on that they began to fight against a corporation called TD Service Company and a company out of Arizona called Steel Capital Steel.

Their case went all the way to trial, which is rare. They lost in August.

Duckler said the couple's trial turned bizarre when TD Service Company was suddenly removed from the lawsuit and substituted for Steel Capital Steel, which had bought the house at auction.

"There seems to be some information from a private investigator that they're defunct, that they don't exist anymore," he said by phone Friday. "The little information I'm able to find is they are incorporated in one state."

Steel Capital Steel is a Delaware corporation based in Arizona. County property records list their local address in Beaverton. But a plaque on the wall said the office is home to Timberline Servicing.

"We're the servicer, so we represent Steel Capital Steel," said Brent Behrons with Timberline Servicing.

He referred a KATU News reporter to another company in California that, he said, handles media questions.

But a representative of that company had never heard of Steel Capital Steel and doesn't work in Oregon.

KATU News traced Steel Capital Steel to a company called Conix in Arizona. Its slogan is "Helping the real estate markets heal."

KATU News left a message for the company's chairman, asking what its next move will be. It is waiting to hear back.

Johnson and Williams have tried to get the judge to reconsider their case, and that's what they were waiting for when they were evicted the day before Halloween.

But several days after their eviction, the county judge ruled against them again. Duckler said he hopes the Court of Appeals will say the couple was wronged.

"(If) no one says or does anything about it because the paperwork is just too complicated or the transactions are too hidden, then they can get away with it," he said by phone Friday. "I think the one thing that I find very admirable about the Williams is they're not letting these companies get away with it."

But the lawyer, Tom Davis, representing TD Service Company and Steel Capital Steel, said in a statement it's clear "the judge found they did not own the property, had no right to be in the property and the new owners have the legal right to have sole access to the property."