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Man fights to rid himself of squatters

Judson Randall, left, is in a dispute with Elizabeth Sewall, right, and her daughter Jessica Sewall. The two women have been staying at Randall’s house since the middle of June without paying rent. Randall wants them to vacate.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Judson Randall, left, is in a dispute with Elizabeth Sewall, right, and her daughter Jessica Sewall. The two women have been staying at Randall’s house since the middle of June without paying rent. Randall wants them to vacate.

SAFETY HARBOR

Last summer, Judson Randall was introduced to two down-on-their-luck women who needed a place to stay.

Wanting to help, he offered to let them stay for a month in his house, which he also uses as an art studio.

He has regretted the good deed ever since.

As it turns out, several landlords also rue the day they rented to Elizabeth Sewall and her daughter, Jessica Sewall.

For Randall, the story began June 15 when the women moved in.

Nearly eight months later, Elizabeth Sewall, 50, and Jessica Sewall, 20, are still at his house.

The two are squatters, and public records show they have done it before. Documents obtained by the St. Petersburg Times reveal Elizabeth Sewall was evicted multiple times from apartments in Orange County.

After living for six months separate from the women in what could be described as a mother-in-law suite in the rundown 61-year-old house, Randall, 47, finally moved to his office in Tampa to get away from them.

"They were sucking the life out of me,'' he said.

He's still living there.

"It's frustrating,'' he said. "They are self-righteous, indignant and have a sense of entitlement.''

Elizabeth Sewall said it was Randall who insisted she and her daughter move to his house because "he said he was suicidal after a breakup and wanted a welcome distraction.''

She said she doesn't pay rent because "it was never agreed we were supposed to pay rent.''

"We were supposed to paint the interior of the house, but he never supplied the materials,'' she said.

Although Sewall said both she and her daughter have retail experience, neither has been employed since moving to Safety Harbor.

Sewall said she cannot look for jobs because she is not allowed to drive her car. Her license has been suspended because she can't afford auto insurance.

And there aren't any jobs in the city anyway, she said.

Randall's friend and fellow artist, Kumpa Tawornprom, disputes that claim.

"We all tried to help them find jobs,'' he said. "They did not try hard enough to find jobs. We tried above and beyond. I offered to let them help me with a sculpture (I was creating). I gave them $50. Then Elizabeth said Jessica got a rash from the materials. She tried to get me in trouble.''

After three months, Randall demanded that the women leave his property.

"I said pay or get out,'' he said.

Sewall gave Randall $200.

He said he offered to let them sign a contract with the stipulation that they pay $600 a month in rent, but "they didn't sign it.''

But Sewall promised she would soon have money coming in, he said. One of her two dogs was pregnant, and she planned to sell the puppies for hundreds of dollars each.

When the pups were born, Tawornprom said Sewall fed them solids too soon "so the puppies could grow faster and they could sell them at 3 or 4 weeks old.''

Of the litter of four, three survived and were sold.

Randall said he consulted a lawyer who said he could legally throw the Sewalls' belongings on the porch and kick them out.

When the mother and daughter left for a few hours, he did just that.

When Sewall arrived back at the house, she called the Sheriff's Office, and a deputy told Randall to put the things back or risk arrest.

Later, Sewall accused Randall of stealing $500 in cash she had stashed in one of the purses he tossed outside. She said she contacted the Sheriff's Office and was told she cannot prove he took the cash. Randall denies he took any money.

Sewall made multiple accusations against Randall and tried to get a restraining order.

She called sheriff's deputies to the house at least three times complaining that he trespassed and entered the house without permission. Those complaints were resolved. She also called 911 after getting into a tussle with Randall's sister. Sewall declined to prosecute.

In any case, the restraining order was never granted because the Sewalls never attended the hearing.

"I didn't show up because I wanted to move,'' she said. "I don't care about a restraining order anyway because we are leaving.''

She said she will leave as soon as Randall returns "the $500 he stole from me.''

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said an ejection order was served to the Sewalls on Dec. 18, but they did not comply. They were still in the home Friday.

"We are on standby to get a new order from the judge,'' she said. "Once we receive the order, we will put it on the (Randall's) door. They will have 24 hours to vacate.''

If they don't leave, deputies will physically remove them, Barreda said.

When asked why it takes so long for a squatter to be ejected, she said there is "a process'' law enforcement must follow.

Randall will be relieved. He has been paying water and electric bills, plus the mortgage on a house he hasn't lived in for months.

Will he ever do a good deed again?

"I'm going to be nice for the rest of my life,'' he said. "But I'm going to be more careful about it.''

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Man fights to rid himself of squatters 01/21/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 23, 2009 4:19pm]
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