After raising money from Internet donors, a 92-year-old man’s attempts to buy back from his daughter the house that he built have been rejected as he awaits his eviction hearing next week. John Potter of Zaleski, Ohio, received an eviction notice from his daughter, Janice Cotrill, and son-in-law earlier this year, saying that they had terminated his “existing lease.” Potter and his granddaughter, Jaclyn Fraley, raised $139,603 on the website GoFundMe.com in the hope of making an offer on the home that Potter had built about 56 years ago.
“To me the situation is just so heartbreaking,” said Fraley, who believes the judge will have no choice but to evict her grandfather, a World War II veteran. Fraley said that she cried when her grandfather’s attorney told her that the recent offer for the home was rejected. Potter (pictured above) said that he’s fought some battles and won some, and this is not one he expected to lose. But he said, “We are going to walk away with our heads held high.”
An eviction hearing is scheduled for June 26 at the Vinton County Courthouse after it was originally set for June 12. “He knows that we tried everything,” said Fraley, 35.
Potter had a market appraisal conducted on the home which showed that its value was $47,000, plus a tract of land worth $2,830 — which together was much lower than the value that he and his granddaughter had expected. They made an offer to Cottrill through their attorney for the market value of the home, and received a counter-offer that was about $85,000, plus about $4,000 — and $11,500 for the eviction process and attorney fees. Potter said that he is reluctant to offer more than what the market appraisal for the home indicated.
After discussing it with his granddaughter and attorney, Potter made a second offer of $60,005.23 on June 13, but Cottrill, they said, declined that as well, without a counter-offer. In a document shown to ABC News, a rejection letter from the attorney of Cottrill and her husband, dated June 14, states, “They find the offer unacceptable and decline the same.” Cottrill declined to comment to ABC News.
The story goes back to 2004, when Potter and his wife, who has since died, gave the general power of attorney to his daughter for future matters if they declined in health, including to take care of her autistic adult brother, now 64. Potter’s daughter, Janice Cottrill, eventually used that power to allegedly convey the deed of the one-story home to herself, Fraley said. In 2010, Potter said that he learned of the deed transfer and switched power of attorney to his granddaughter, Fraley.
A second action is pending in probate court over what kind of contact Potter can have with his son, who is living with Cottrill. Her husband is the guardian of her brother. On a temporary order issued about six months ago, Potter has visitation rights to see his son. Tim Gleeson, Potter’s attorney, said, “We think it makes a lot of sense to try to resolve both cases.”
Gleeson said the independent market appraisal is derived from recent sales of similar homes in the area. Gleeson said that if Cottrill or her attorney had an issue with the appraisal, they might be open to Cottrill conducting another one. But without a counter-offer from the other party, Gleeson said the next alternative is to look for other housing for Potter.
“It’s just one of the saddest cases I’ve been involved in,” said Gleeson. “Mr. Potter is a delightful gentleman and his granddaughter is so loving. I’m discouraged that it may not end in a good result. But we’ll keep trying.”