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, had opted not to press their claim to the house on Hillgrove Court under state adverse possession law.
State law allows people to claim abandoned property if they maintain and pay taxes on it. Over time, if no owner poses a challenge, people who have filed adverse possession affidavits may establish ownership.
The Browns filed an affidavit months ago for the property on Hillgrove Court.
Thornton owns the title to 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 Thursday. Frisch said his clients wanted only to make arrangements with Thornton and her attorney to remove their belongings from the house.
Frisch and the Browns declined to comment to the Star-Telegram.
Thornton was represented at the hearing by Patricia LaRue, a Fort Worth attorney who specializes in business law. LaRue provided her services pro bono after County Clerk Mary Louise Garcia made a plea to area lawyers 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 has also vowed to prosecute those who file fraudulent paperwork.
The Browns were arrested on suspicion of 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 allegations.
Frisch also represents the LaTours.
Andre Brown also placed a mechanic's lien on Thornton's Hillgrove Court property, seeking compensation for about $7,500 in work he did to the house after moving in. LaRue said that claim would be discussed among other issues, such as arranging for the Browns to retrieve their possessions.
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 died about three years ago, Thornton moved to DeSoto.
She faced financial trouble without her husband's support, and the house fell into foreclosure. She had been planning to sell it when neighbors told her that squatters had moved in.
Yamil Berard, 817-390-7705