5 On Your Side

Contractor to pay nearly $125K in restitution to elderly couple

Posted December 8, 2008 2:17 p.m. EST
Updated December 8, 2008 7:37 p.m. EST

— A judge on Monday gave the maximum jail sentence to a contractor and ordered him to pay a Wake Forest couple nearly $125,000 in restitution for a botched remodeling job – fixed by a massive volunteer effort after 5 on Your Side revealed it.

John Shearer pleaded guilty to four felony charges, including fraud and theft, and a misdemeanor for not having a contractor's license.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens rebuffed Shearer's request for mercy and sentenced him to 16 to 20 months in jail, followed by probation. He will be released in about two months with credit for time served.

The judge also ordered Shearer to pay back the $124,463 that a disabled, elderly couple had given him for the uncompleted job.

"Your lawyer said that your reputation was impeccable before this, but I assure you your conduct in this case was absolutely despicable," Stephens said.

In March 2007, Carol and George McPhaul hired Shearer's company, Home Remodeling Solutions, to make their home handicapped accessible. Carol is legally blind, and George is on oxygen therapy and in wheelchair after a stroke.

Shearer left the couple with exposed electrical outlets, dangling lights and holes in the floor and ceiling – rendering much of their 1,100-square-foot house uninhabitable.

In court Monday, Shearer apologized for his behavior.

"I first want to apologize to the McPhauls and thank them for forgiving me. And I want to ask the state of North Carolina to forgive me," he said. "I made some horrible, moral and ethical, poor choices, and for that, I apologize."

Stephens responded, "The state of North Carolina does not forgive you."

The judge extended little sympathy to Shearer, who still faces a civil lawsuit from the McPhauls and criminal charges in Durham alleging that he pawned tools belonging to them.

"There is nothing I can conceive of that would help me understand how you would commit this crime on these people," Stephens said.

Carol McPhaul, though, expressed compassion for her one-time contractor.

"I felt bad that somebody has to go to jail because of something they did to you, but I feel better about the whole case now," she said. "I feel I can go forward again."

After 5 on Your Side's story about the McPhauls aired in July 2007, more than 100 volunteers donated $90,000 in supplies and labor to fix the remodeling job and add a 600-square-foot bedroom, with a handicapped-accessible closet and bathroom, to the McPhauls' home.

In late August, the couple moved into a redone house, which they said finally felt like home again.