MANSFIELD -- A teary-eyed widow got her house back from squatters Thursday morning without a fight.
"This has made a toll on me and my family right now," said Brenda J. Thornton, who appeared in eviction court. "This needs to be told. ... How they can come in and do this to us? It hurts."
The latest squatter case in Tarrant County was resolved in about five minutes in Justice of the Peace Matt Hayes court after attorney Robert Frisch said his clients, Andre and Selena Brown, were not disputing their rights to the house on Hillgrove Court under state adverse possession law.
State law allows persons to claim a right to abandoned property if they maintain it and pay taxes on it. Over time, if no owner claims the property, then the person may stake a claim. The Browns filed an affidavit of adverse possession months ago, claiming a right to the property on Hillgrove Court.
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Thornton owns the title on the property and raised her family there, she said.
"It's a little bit of an unusual situation there but it looks like everything was resolved amicably," Hayes said after the eviction hearing.
No testimony was heard and no arguments were presented. Frisch said his clients only wanted to make arrangements with Thornton and her attorney to get their belongings out of the house.
Frisch and the Browns declined comment to the Star-Telegram.
Thornton was represented at the hearing by Patricia La Rue, a Fort Worth attorney who specializes in business law. La Rue provided her services pro bono after a plea to area lawyers by County Clerk Mary Louise Garcia to help owners whose properties had been seized by adverse possession.
All told, about 55 affidavits have been filed in the last six months at Garcia's office by people claiming rights to abandoned property. On Nov. 7, Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon instructed Garcia's office to stop taking the affidavits because of alleged fraud. Shannon's office also has vowed to pursue criminal action against those who file fraudulent paperwork.
The Browns were arrested for burglary of a habitation almost two weeks ago. Family members Alicia and Andrew LaTour, who had filed affidavits on another Mansfield home, were arrested earlier on the same charges. Formal charges may be filed in upcoming days, officials said.
Frisch represented the LaTours and the Browns.
Andre Brown also placed a mechanic's lien on Thornton's Hillgrove Court property, asking for compensation for about $7,500 in construction and repairs he made to the house since moving in. La Rue said that claim would be discussed in the next few days, among other items, such as arranging for the Browns to retrieve their possessions from the house.
Thornton said she and her late husband, Roscoe, lived in the 3,800-square-foot home, valued at $175,100, for years.
"We raised our children in that house,'' she said.
After he passed away about three years ago, she moved to DeSoto.
She faced some financial troubles without her husband's support, and the house fell in foreclosure. She had been planning to sell the house when neighbors told her squatters had moved there.
Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705