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Cumberland Couple Forced To Move From Home They Never Owned

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GRAY'S CREEK, N.C. — For months, a Cumberland County couple has lived on a piece of land they thought was theirs, but it turns out the property has never belonged to them. Now, they are being forced to move.

Kathy Chambers' home is colored by afghan blankets and wads of yarn. She plans to sell her blankets because she and her boyfriend, Harry Lee, do not have the cash to relocate their mobile home.

Neither one of them can work. Lee is recovering from pneumonia and gets around in a wheelchair, and Chambers takes care of him.

"It's been really hard for me because I have a heart condition, and I don't sleep at night worrying about all this stuff," Lee said.

Last August, the couple paid Rufus Johnson $15,000 for a half-acre lot on Canadian Avenue. Now, however, the couple has discovered Johnson never got the lot in his name.

Instead, the lot remained in another person's name: Susan Elmore. Elmore had fallen behind in paying property taxes since she bought the lot from Johnson's family in 2001. Complicating matters even more, Johnson dies in a car wreck the day after Lee and Chambers moved in.

"He told me he was doing a title search on it, and he was getting it taken care of," Lee said.

"He did everything he said he was going to do, and I really believe if he hadn't died, it wouldn't be like this," Chambers said.

The couple paid $128 a month to Johnson's family business until early this year, when they realized the title was still in Elmore's name. Now, the county is prepared to put the land up for auction because of Elmore's failure to pay taxes.

"I've got 26 days to figure out and find out if I'm going to lose everything I worked all my life to have," Chambers said.

The couple has a new lot, but they said they need $2,500 to move the mobile home. Johnson's family, who runs his companies, could not be reached for comment.

In 2003, the state attorney general's office sued Johnson, accusing his businesses of selling land that did not have clear titles. Johnson filed for bankruptcy in 2004.


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