92-Year-Old World War II Vet Faces Eviction After Offer to Buy Back His Home Rejected

John Potter's offers to buy back his home from his daughter were rejected.

June 20, 2013, 8:01 AM

June 20, 2013 — -- After raising money from Internet donors, a 92-year-old man's attempts to buy back from his daughter the house 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 they had terminated his "existing lease."

Potter and his granddaughter, Jaclyn Fraley, raised $139,603 on the website GoFundMe.com in the hopes of making an offer on the home he 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 she cried when her grandfather's attorney told her the recent offer for the home was rejected.

Potter said 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, together which was much lower than the value 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 he is reluctant to offer more than what the market appraisal for the home indicated.

After discussing 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. His daughter Janice Cottrill eventually used that power to allegedly convey the deed to the one-story home to herself, Fraley said. In 2010, Potter said 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 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."

Fraley said she has considered alternative housing options for her grandfather, including building an addition to his caretaker's home, or buying a new home. She said the money raised by GoFundMe.com has stayed untouched and she says she is willing to be completely transparent with how the money is used by her grandfather.

Potter, who mostly relies on his pension for income, is not paying rent to his daughter

"Everyone who sent us money said they didn't want to give a dime of to [Cottrill]. People told my grandfather to take the money and buy a different house," Fraley said.

Fraley, who said she moved from San Diego for a nursing job in Columbus, Ohio, to be closer to her grandfather, said it is not possible for her to move to rural Zaleski due to her commute, which is about an hour and a half south of Columbus.

Potter wants to stay near his friends and his son, so Fraley said she would hope for him to stay in the same community. But she is concerned about the impact that a move will have on her grandfather, who turned 92 on May 23.

"For me, the hardest part in all this is what it's going to do to him: taking a 92-year old man and forcing him to leave his home. I was trying to keep it so he could have a calm, quiet end of life. His health is weaker," she said. "Right now I don't think he truly believes this is happening, because he never thought this would happen."

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