Imagine arriving home from the grocery store one day and someone is blocking your mailbox with their car. It’s a process server. She hands you some paperwork and says, “You’ve been served.” You open up the envelope and someone is laying claim to your house and car. Even though your mortgage is fully paid, the car loan was paid for decades ago, property taxes are up to date and there are zero liens on your credit.
This is a true story about a woman named Deborah Kroll from Pasadena, Maryland. Deborah’s troubles began around the time her ex-husband passed away from cancer in 2007. She was still on good terms with her ex and even his girlfriend, Rosalie Bell, at the time of his death. Deborah attended his funeral, sat next to her ex’s girlfriend and consoled her through heavy tears. Every week afterwards she would call Rosalie (also known as Rosie) to check on her.
Three months after her husband’s death the process server was in Deborah’s front yard with envelope in hand. Rosie was suing her for the funeral expenses.
Deborah was shocked. According to her, after the funeral was over her former stepson and former sister-in-laws had asked Rosie if they could pay for the expenses. She told them no and that she had everything covered. Deborah’s stepson told her this, so she didn’t approach Rosie to offer to pay anything either. So, what a surprise when she received notice from the Dorchester County, Maryland court that Rosie was suing her for possession of her and her ex-husband’s 1974 Corvette Stingray. The Corvette was in mint condition with the exception of a major brake problem.
Rosie made no attempts to contact Robert Kroll Jr.’s son or sisters in regards to becoming his personal representative/special administrator for the estate, according to the Dorchester County Register of Wills records. The record on July 23, 2007 states that a notice of appointment was sent to “unknown heirs.” Rosie was well aware of who Robert’s heirs were.
At the court trial Rosie claimed that she wanted the Corvette to pay for the funeral expenses. The judge ordered the garage kept car to be sold, all proceeds to pay for the funeral expenses. Deborah didn’t appeal the case, because she assumed that this would be the last she’d hear from Rosie Bell. So one day an Eastern Shore towing company showed up and took the car from her property, as pictured below:
The funeral expenses were not paid that year, despite the car being sold to a man in Delaware. Deborah was in the negative with attorney’s fees and travel to Annapolis to fight the lawsuit. And the towing company? They wanted Debbie to cover their fees! She told them to go to hell and perhaps a few other things.
This was just the beginning. How did it all start? Rosie found a little loophole in estate law that allowed her to become the representative of Robert Kroll Jr.’s estate.
In Maryland, one must only announce in local newspapers when they file to become an estate representative. The legal term for this is a Notice of Judicial Probate. If no will is in place the next of kin is usually assigned that role, but Robert Kroll Jr.’s son chose to not fight Rosie’s claim after it was already approved by an Orphans’ Court judge and the Register of Wills in Dorchester County. Ironically, after the sale of the Corvette, he was no longer on speaking terms with Deborah. He had been offered the Corvette prior to her being served court papers. According to Deborah, all he had to do was send a tow truck over to pick it up from her property because of the brake problem. His actions and lack thereof set off a chain of legal shenanigans that this writer has never seen or heard of before.
What Rosie Bell maybe didn’t realize at the time was that by putting her name on her ex-boyfriend’s death certificate and becoming his personal representative/special estate administrator she became obligated to pay Robert Kroll Jr.’s medical bills before she could touch his assets. Approximately $55,000 was owed to various medical facilities. So, she went after Robert Kroll Jr.’s old house in Pasadena, Maryland that Deborah Kroll still lived in and owned.
Rosie Bell hired a lawyer by the name of James P. Nolan and attempted to seize Deborah’s home without a trial. Their motion for summary judgment was denied in May 2010. On September 15, 2010, the day of the trial, Deborah’s attorney, Leo P. Hylan, walked from the case. Deborah asked Judge Paul Garvey Goetzke for a postponement in order to find a new lawyer and it was granted. As they were standing in line for the Court Clerk’s office to get paperwork, James Nolan went to another judge and had Goetzke’s decision reversed.
Yes, you read that correctly. With “real property” in excess of $300,000 on the line Deborah was forced to represent herself in court. That’s like an average woman stepping into the octagon with UFC fighter Ronda Rousey. Deborah had also requested a jury trial some time in 2009 and that motion was never ruled on. How was this a fair trial? Aren’t fair trials a right as a United States citizen? Apparently not. Unsurprisingly, Deborah lost her case. The official record reads as follows:
September 29, 2010:
Judgment is entered in favor of the Plaintiff. The property 8755 Fort Smallwood Road, Pasadena, Maryland shall be sold. Rex Smith Caldwell,III Esq. is appointed Trustee to list for sale and sell the property. Trustee shall not be required to file an appraisal. Deborah Kroll shall cooperate with Trustee and continue to pay taxes, insurance and utility for the property. Net proceeds of the sale shall be equally divided. Reasonable attorneys fees and Trustees commissions shall be awarded at the conclusion of the case. All cost, fees and commissions resulting from the sale of the property shall be awarded at the conclusion of the case
After the trial Deborah sought another attorney to see if the decision could be appealed. That lawyer told her that it wasn’t possible. 2010 will go down as the worst year in Deborah’s life. Not only did she lose her home of 37 years but she was also seriously injured when she fell on ice earlier in the year. That injury required three surgeries and a lot of physical therapy. This was the payment she received for being nice to Rosie during her darkest days.
Deborah didn’t go down without a fight though. First, she erected an 8′ by 4′ sign in her front yard. Here’s a photo of it:
This drew the eye of a writer for the Maryland Gazette, a local Anne Arundel County newspaper . After seeing a photo of the sign in the Gazette, Rosie’s attorney James Nolan and the real estate trustee charged her with civil constructive contempt. They ordered her to take the sign down or she would have to pay a hefty fine or possibly go to jail. Not wanting to deal with any more trouble, despite viewing this as a clear violation of her first amendment rights, she took the sign indoors.
Deborah now had strangers coming in and out of her home to view it while she was present. She was also told to not smoke while people were touring the house. The “justice sign” (as it has become known) stood prominently in the master bedroom for all to see. During one winter viewing it was icy outdoors and Debbie threw salt in the driveway to melt the ice. The next day she received a call from the trustee to not throw “magic dust” on the property. Deborah had no idea what he was talking about and when the trustee explained further she laughed her head off about the misunderstanding. It gave her an idea though. On top of the sign making its presence felt indoors, why not make things a bit weird and uncomfortable for her newly uninvited guests?
Deborah already likens herself to ghoulish gals in film/television fiction. Elvira, Morticia Addams and the Bride of Frankenstein? Yep…that’s Deborah. But she played it up a bit for her new guests. Thick black lipstick, heavy eye shadow, black fingernail polish and eyeliner. Crazy jewelry. A black veil and dress. She did every weird thing you can think of to make the house look unappealing. It was rarely cleaned. Water was left to sit in the basement after a heavy rain so it stunk like mold. Deborah read tarot cards by herself. She performed a “psychic reading” over the phone with a friend one time. Her appearance began resembling that of a witch. There were burning candles. A deer skull. Goblets with different colored water. Several witchcraft books. A voodoo doll. Everything but a crystal ball!
Despite her best efforts, Deborah received an email about the property settlement on what would have been her and Robert’s wedding anniversary. Her house was sold on June 25, 2012 at a very undervalued price that Deborah had zero control over. Yes, despite being the co-owner of her home she had no say over what the house would sell for and there wasn’t an appraisal on the property. We’re talking a 26,506 square foot piece of land with a 1,092 square foot home plus a separate garage that was sold for $140,000! The Register of Wills record lists a 66 page petition to sell the property for less than its appraised value. That petition appeared on May 7, 2012. What is in that small book of documents?
As if she hadn’t been slapped in the face enough, she was given six days to vacate the premises. Notice was not given via a phone call but in an email! Six days is less time to move than a delinquent apartment tenant has! She ended up losing a lot of personal property because of this, including three bedroom sets, living room furniture, curtains, basement furniture and a lot more. Six days was not enough time to hire a moving company to carry the heavy loads and there wasn’t anywhere to store it so all that property was abandoned.
Unfortunately this sad tale isn’t over yet. A month before Deborah’s home was stolen she was diagnosed with an incurable liver disease. Her stomach has ballooned up and a pool of liver fluid is slowly collecting inside her ankles. Debbie ended up moving into a friend’s basement apartment, because she has no relatives living in Maryland. The sad tale also does not end here either.
Remember Rosie’s lawyer, James Nolan? He sued Deborah for $30,000.00 a couple months after the June 2012 eviction. And the same judge that heard her house sale case presided over this one. Fortunately, Deborah did have legal representation this time around but Nolan still received $8,900. He collected a total of nearly $50,000 from the house sale.
Remember the Corvette and the funeral expenses? The expenses were finally paid in 2012 after the house sale. So what happened to the Corvette money? This is a question that Rosalie doesn’t want to answer. She did not return our phone call.
So, why does the headline say that the government took a woman’s home to pay lawyers? Because after all this, the very reason the house sale lawsuit started to begin with, the medical expenses were written off. The only real winner in all of this was James P. Nolan. Debbie’s house and classic sports car were sold to cut Nolan a check for close to $50,000 and one can assume to pay $10,000 of funeral expenses. To add insult to injury, despite the house being sold on June 25, 2012 Deborah was not able to receive payment until September. That was after the case with James Nolan was ruled on.
And the first lawyer who helped Rosie become the personal estate representative? His name is E. Thomas Merryweather and he received $3,275.00 from the home sale. Reasonable attorney’s fees indeed! Merryweather is currently the County Attorney in Cambridge, Maryland.
One last thing. Rosalie Bell also took between $2,000-3,000 from Robert Kroll Jr.’s credit union account. Even though Robert’s sister was named as the beneficiary on the account. Why did this happen? According to Deborah, “Because Rose is a greedy bitch.” There was also the matter of “stolen” guns and rifles that Robert owned. But there was no police report of the theft. Debbie says Rose probably sold them.
Deborah lived with her friend for two years between 2012 and 2014. Rent was paid on time every month but according to Deborah her friend became very bossy, got on her about petty things and she eventually was evicted for personal reasons.
The first week of September 2014 she moved in with a man who used to know her ex-husband. She was offered a cheap place to stay because at this point Deborah’s life savings were gone. After legal fees, fees to the trustee, and $8,900 to James Nolan she was broke and living off Social Security checks since she turned 62. In February 2015 her new landlord tried to have her evicted but a judge granted her an extra 30 days to find a new residence. According to Deborah, that was the nicest judge she has ever met. And she feels that if that judge would have presided over her house case that she would still be living at her house today and this news article would have never been written.
What’s the real reason that her landlord wants her out, according to Debbie? She turned down his sexual advances one night when he came home drunk in October 2014. Her landlord threatened to put her possessions out on the lawn a few days after the rejection. He brought a dolly up from the basement, to show that he wasn’t messing around. So she called the police. He was screaming at her while she was on the phone with the 9-1-1 dispatcher and three cop cars showed up. They told him that if he touches her possessions or goes into her bedroom that he would be arrested. To get back at her, the landlord cut off Internet access and Cable TV, so nearly everyday Deborah goes to the public library or McDonald’s to use her computer.
After all of this, Deborah’s hope is that estate laws are changed so a horrible injustice like this never happens to anyone ever again. To prevent this from happening after your own death, make sure you have a legal will drawn up. She would love to see Judge Paul Goetzke removed from the bench and she has some other not so kind words for James Nolan that won’t be printed here. She is very close to being homeless. A Gofundme account has been setup for her at http://gofundme.com/o4rkkg. If any Punk Rock Libertarian readers can help Debbie out in any little way, please donate. The goal is set to $30,000 to help pay for two years of living expenses. If you live in Baltimore or Anne Arundel County, Maryland she could really use a free or low cost place to stay.
Rosalie Bell, Judge Goetzke, James Nolan, and E. Thomas Merryweather were asked to tell their side of the story but chose not to at press time. Their actions already speak volumes.