Bank Owned House Fire, Santee
“By the time you get this letter, (my wife) and I will be dead and our house will be burned down. …We have nothing to live for.”
So begins the letter sent out by Santeean Steve Schmidt on the eve his New Year’s Day death. The letter’s recipient, Cathryn Richman of La Mesa, received the typed letter Monday and quickly turned it over to, in the courtly parlance of objective journalism, the authorities. (it’s cool, colloquially, to call authorities, not authorities, but public servants)
The joint-prospect of entering the new year jobless and legally bankrupt were too much, psychologically, for the couple, and, on the verge of eviction, Cour, 60, and his wife, Janice Gervais, 70 appear to have instead taken their own lives. The suicide is the focus of the San Diego Union-Tribune. But, even if the couple destroyed bank-owned property in the process, is this really the crux of the matter? Or maybe, from a more sympathetic perspective, would their dire straits, despite relatively good jobs at area public schools and long lives, seem a more pressing issue?
The UT includes an endearing quote by a Wells Fargo bank employee, who laments, “…We simply could not find a workable option that would enable them to afford the home.” Wells Fargo was not the original bank on the loan, since they acquired the couple’s loan through a 2009 merger with Wachovia.
Like in the Monty Python-affiliated film Brazil, absurdity features regularly in this story. Firstly, Richman recalls an unexpected visit from Cour at the San Diego office where she works.
“He told me he was having a hard time and was maybe going to lose his house,” she recalled. She said his speech was disjointed and he told her he was going to appear on Oprah to play music.”
If her allegations are true, however, then Cour’s bizarre office visit—strange as it is—is still outdone in absurdity by his actual financial situation. While court filings place the value of the property at $486,000, the couple owed, after their 2006 refinancing, $592,000 on their new 30-year adjustable-rate loan.
The lawyer who represented the couple in bankruptcy proceedings last year, Christopher Heritage, considers them a “tragic casualty of this economy.” Hopefully, he proceeded against Wells Fargo, and not “the economy,” in the couple’s case.
I suggest that the intrigue in this story isn’t that the couple burned the home, but, rather, that the financial burden levied onto them by financial institutions, in the pursuit of overt and covert agendas to expand market share, was a main-driver of their desperate insanity.
Was it the pain of a shattered life that drove Cour to delusions of grandeur, which landed him a musical slot on the Oprah Winfrey show? All the more strange is the near impossibility of such a thing happening, given that OW usually has no musical guest.
Presumably, after looking forward to leisure after lifetimes of work, the two left the local schools where they worked. Whilst Cour, who taught at El Cajon Valley Adult School and was a longtime track and cross-country coach in the Grossmont Union High School District, retired in 2008, Gervais was laidoff from her adjunct post at Miramar, and stopped working at Grossmont College in 2009. She had been on unemployment.
Federal Guidelines state that, loan modifications are designed only for individuals who can devote 31 percent (!) of their monthly incomes towards paying off the loan and demonstrate “a reasonable ability” to make the new mortgage payments.
The transnational financial disease of unworkable mortgage packages and myriad derivatives schemes (termed “financial weapons of mass destruction,” by Warren Buffett) eats away at Main Street, and, it’s likely, that similar mental states to what Cour, and presumably Gervais suffered, do as well.
Few people qualify for modified loans. From January to September 2010, 7,036 borrowers in San Diego County received permanent modifications through the federally-run Home Affordable Mortgage Program, whilst 20,330 homeowners in the county fell into default on their loans and 9,543 were foreclosed upon.
As the economic crisis leaves more people increasingly destitute, desperate actions, like these, will become commonplace; that is, if they already aren’t. In attempts to escape victimization by their lenders, people will turn to extreme, and often violent, solutions.
Therefore, we ought to take the old proverb to heart, that “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave,” and do something about it by warning the younger generations and neutralizing the fulcrums upon which big business—like transnational banks and the military-industrial complex—depend.
Schmidt, Steve. “Santee Man’s letter foretells house burning, death with wife,” San Diego Union Tribune, 1.3.11
Last accessed 1.4.11
Continue reading on Examiner.com Bank-owned house fire in Santee – San Diego Civil Rights | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/civil-rights-in-san-diego/bank-owned-house-fire-santee#ixzz1qUMvQesa