COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) — A man living in a home built for his daughter after she survived one of the region’s most horrific crimes is facing eviction proceedings.
The Spokesman-Review reports Shasta Groene is now 21 and has moved near Boise, but her father, Steve Groene, still lives in the home built with donations from community members more than a decade ago. A judge is expected to decide soon whether he has a right to stay in the home.
Shasta Groene and her family were victimized by child molester and serial killer Joseph Duncan III in 2005. Two of her brothers, her mother and her mother’s boyfriend were killed, and Shasta was held captive by Duncan for several weeks.
Midge Smock, a trustee for the charity that built the house, says it must be sold so the trust can continue supporting the young woman. Her father says the house was built for both of them, and says she wants him to continue living there.
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Steve Groene, 60, was a blues-rock singer until throat cancer brought multiple rounds of radiation, chemotherapy and surgeries and left him without vocal cords. He says he now lives on disability payments of less than $1,000 a month.
His was served with an eviction notice last summer.
The trust managers say their obligation is to Shasta, not her father. She is supposed to assume ownership of the house when the trust expires on her 25th birthday, unless the house is sold before then.
Smock says the trust has cashed out all of its other investments and must sell the house, assessed at about $240,000. “She hasn’t lived there for years,” Smock said. “In order to provide for her, we have to cash in her only asset. It doesn’t matter what her dad wants her to do.”
In court filings, the trust managers said it has covered property taxes, maintenance, utility and insurance costs for the house. Steve Groene has countered he’s done his own landscaping and tended to some house repairs.
Trustees say they also covered his daughter’s rent and nursing school tuition.
They laid out three options for Steve Groene: The trust could sell the house, lease it to someone else at an estimated market rate of $1,200 a month, or let him continue living there at a discounted rate of $600 a month. Groene rejected that offer.
Shasta Groene has declined to comment. In a notarized letter, she asked that the house be turned over to him, and said she is willing to release the trust from any further obligations toward her.
“I have always considered it to be our home, not just mine or the trust’s, and it is my wish that my father continue to reside there as long as he wishes,” the letter states. “I am very grateful for the support the community, through the trust, has given me, but I am at a point in my life where I no longer need that support and would rather my father have a place to live.”
Smock dismissed that letter as “hearsay,” adding that she has been in touch with Shasta Groene and understands her wishes. Shasta Groene lived with Smock and her husband, Don “Pepper” Smock, at various points during her childhood, and at one point the Smocks became licensed foster parents in anticipation of caring for her long term.
During an Aug. 16 hearing in Kootenai County District Court, Judge Rich Christensen ordered Steve Groene and the trust to submit closing arguments in writing. Groene, whose submission is due Aug. 31, said he’s not optimistic about how the judge will rule. He is representing himself in the case.
“I could be homeless in three weeks,” he said.
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com