Charlotte, NC — In the land of the free, even if you fully pay off your home loan to the bank, your property is never truly yours. Through property tax, states from coast to coast continue to charge you for land that you own. As the following case illustrates, even if you pay these taxes to the state — but they lose track of the payment — they can and will steal your home right out from under you. Paraplegic blind women in wheelchairs are no exception when it comes to the cruel and inhumane nature of the state.
Barbara Ryan, 57, did everything she was supposed to do. She paid off her $650,000 home in a cul-de-sac in South Charlotte and paid the state their share so they wouldn't steal her home. But thanks to an "error" in the Mecklenburg County accounting system, armed agents of the state showed up to her home on Feb. 4, 2019, and threw this paraplegic, legally blind woman out on the street.
On that dark day, Mecklenburg County sheriff’s deputies, armed with a court order, showed up to Ryan's home to tell her that she no longer owned it. Because she wasn't fully dressed, was in a wheelchair, and is also legally blind, Ryan took longer than the deputies were willing to wait to open her door — so they started breaking windows and broke into her home.
After detaining her for several hours, these "hero" deputies then forcibly removed the woman from her home.
As deputies wheeled her from the home, half-dressed, another deputy threw a pair of pants that were several sizes too small at her, saying, "those or nothing."
Deputies refused to allow her to grab anything else. As she rolled into the front yard, Ryan called multiple taxis in an attempt to go to the courthouse and straighten out this misunderstanding, and each time, the deputies would wave them on.
“You won’t need that where you’re going,” a deputy told Ryan before attempting to have her involuntarily committed to a state mental institution.
As she was not mentally ill, her commitment was unsuccessful and because the state stole her home, she had nowhere to go when she was released from the hold 2 days later. This legally blind paraplegic woman was left out on the street in the middle of the winter, forced to sleep in a parking garage to avoid freezing to death.
Since deputies had refused to allow her to grab clothes, a phone, money, credit cards, even socks and shoes before kicking her out — she had nothing. She would roll herself into an elevator in a parking garage to sleep for nearly two weeks as she tried every day to talk to someone to fix this mess.
She couldn't go back home because the couple who bought the house from the county had already moved in.
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When Ryan was finally able to talk to one of the thieves who stole her home, she was told she no longer owned it and it now belonged to a developer. The court had made a massive blunder and claimed that Ryan owed back taxes to Mecklenburg County. But she did not.
As the Charlotte Observer reports:
Two different courts have since ruled that Ryan paid what the county said she owed days before her house went on the auction block in September 2018, a payment that, under North Carolina law, should have kept the house in her hands.
Instead, the foreclosure sale — and Ryan’s removal from her home five months later — capped off a period in which every legal safeguard designed to protect homeowners’ rights in such cases quietly collapsed around her, putting her out on the streets in her wheelchair for two weeks, leaving her to roll herself through the frigid and darkened city each night to an elevator car in which she feared she might die.
Ryan's attorney told the Observer that he didn't believe Ryan's story when he first heard it, thinking that this could never happen. Now, he tells them that this is one of the worst injustices he's ever seen.
“I’ve been practicing law for a very long time. I’m not one for hyperbole,” he said. “But this is the most atrocious and horrible case I’ve ever been a part of.”
Thinking they'd just bought a house from a crazy woman who was locked in a psychiatric hospital, the developer who purchased Ryan's home from the county then disposed of all her belongings, including her parents' ashes.
Ryan now had nothing.
For years Ryan fought to get back her home and despite a court finding that she did own the home and that the county's sale of her home was made in error, she was not given back her house and the new owner tore it down a year later.
Ryan is now renting a place and saving money to pay legal fees that are totaling well into six figures so she can sue the county for restitution — all the while knowing that all of her possessions, including her parents' ashes will never be returned.
“It was my family home,” she told the Observer. “It was the absolutely last connection to my parents, and that land means something to me. ... Now the home is gone. The only fight is about restitution, and that’s wrong.”