When a TCU-area rental house was gutted last week, just before it was to be sold, the owners had lots of questions.
Thinking burglars had destroyed the house and taken all the fixtures, they called Fort Worth police to report the crime. Their plight — remarkable in part because of the thoroughness of the burglars, who took appliances, toilets, furniture, cabinets, shutters, doors, molding and even the doorbell — made the news in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Worse still, owners Lee and Lelia Beckelman, of the Houston area, had a contract to sell the house at 2736 Forest Park Blvd. Their son had lived there with roommates while he attended TCU, but he moved out in August and the last roommate left in October.
Their real estate agent found the place gutted Feb. 9. Essentially all that remained were walls, bathtubs and some of the flooring.
But as it turns out, the whole episode was an honest mistake.
As Fort Worth police were beginning the investigation, they got a phone call from a contractor who explained what happened, said Fort Worth Police Department Sgt. W.D. Paine.
The contractor told police that the man who owned a house at 2700 Forest Park Blvd. hired him to gut it, Paine said. When the contractor and crew arrived at the street, they saw what appeared to be an address on the curb, “2700 Forest Park Boulevard,” directly in front of a house.
The crew didn’t notice that the numbers on the house said 2736, not 2700.
“It was a huge misunderstanding,” Paine said.
The owner of 2700 Forest Park didn’t give the contractor any keys, and instructed him to just kick the door in to get inside, Paine said. The contractor did just that, and he and his crew removed almost everything inside over three days, during which they told neighbors they had been hired for the work.
Paine said police don’t intend to charge the contractor for the “big goof-up.”
“We can’t really file a criminal mischief charge because his intent wasn’t to deprive them of the property,” Paine said. “We’re leaving it up to the contractor and victim to settle it.”
Lelia Beckelman said Friday that they have spoken to the contractor. Neither the police nor the Beckelmans released the contractor’s name.
“He feels really bad and is willing to make us whole and restore things,” she said. “He’s an honest guy.”
Paine said the contractor had offered to restore the house or even buy it for the selling price. Beckelman said it was listed for $369,000, but didn’t want to disclose the contract price.
She said the current plan is for the contractor to return everything that had been taken and restore the house, at the least.
“He is bending over backwards for us,” Beckelman said. “We are grateful that he was honest and admitted the mistake and wants to reconcile.”