Education

Elderly couple trying not to lose house to Wake County schools

North Raleigh home of William and Frances Brodie, who are in danger of losing their home after they put it up as collateral to bail their son Mark out of jail in 2008.
North Raleigh home of William and Frances Brodie, who are in danger of losing their home after they put it up as collateral to bail their son Mark out of jail in 2008. khui@newsobserver.com

An elderly North Raleigh couple are trying to avoid losing their home to the Wake County school system after they put it up as collateral in 2008 to bail their son out of jail on drug charges.

William Brodie and his wife, Frances, used their home to secure a $90,000 bond to get their son, Mark David Brodie, released from the Wake County jail while he awaited trial.

Though Mark Brodie failed to appear in court that year to answer the accusations, it was not until August 2015 that Wake court officials issued a notice declaring forfeiture of the bond proceeds – a seven-year delay described as an oversight.

Now the attorney for the Brodie family is trying to negotiate a settlement with Wake schools. Under state law, school systems get money from fines, penalties and bond forfeitures imposed after a defendant fails to show up for court.

This is so corrupt. This is morally outrageous.

Michelle Brodie, whose parents may lose their home

Michelle Brodie said her parents are living on Social Security and can’t afford to pay the $90,000. Frances is 84, and William is 86. Michelle Brodie says her father has Parkinson’s disease and can’t walk.

“This is so corrupt,” Michelle Brodie said. “This is morally outrageous.”

John Fanney, her parents’ attorney, declined to comment. But court documents offer a detailed narrative of a case that has raised questions about why the courts and schools, so long after the incident, are taking steps that could dislodge the elderly couple from their home.

Rod Malone, an attorney representing the school system, said he is following his duty by acting on the bond forfeiture notice filed by the Wake County Clerk of Court’s office.

“We didn’t go looking for the case,” Malone said.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, who was clerk of court in 2008, said she didn’t know why the Brodie forfeiture notice was not sent then. Jennifer Knox, who was elected as Wake County clerk of court in 2014, said it was a mistake not to have issued the forfeiture notice in 2008.

“It should have been done and wasn’t done, but we said we’ll issue the notice and let the chips fall where they may,” Knox said. “Once we do it, it’s out of our hands, and the school system can do with it what it wants.”

Drug charges

In June 2008, Mark Brodie was charged with trafficking heroin, possession with intent to sell/deliver heroin and maintaining a dwelling place to keep controlled substances. He was also indicted on a charge of being a habitual felon.

Michelle Brodie said her parents didn’t have $90,000 in cash, so they used their home to secure the bond to get Mark, then 55, out of jail. Mark Brodie didn’t appear for his September 2008 court date, resulting in orders for his arrest being issued.

In October 2008, the Wake County District Attorney’s Office voluntarily dismissed the charges with leave. This is a legal status that takes the charges off the active Superior Court calendar, but they do not go away. The district attorney can reactivate them any time Brodie is captured.

If Brodie returns to Wake County, the family could request that the court waive the bond forfeiture notice. Mark Brodie could not be reached for comment. Michelle Brodie said her brother is living in California and has refused a request from the family to turn himself in.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Howard Cummings said he will review Brodie’s case to determine whether the office would try to bring him back to North Carolina to face charges. Cummings said Malone told him Wednesday that he’s still working on a resolution to the case.

The case was dormant for nearly seven years until the bond forfeiture notice was entered in August 2015. Malone said the clerk of court’s office does a phenomenal job of getting bond forfeiture notices sent in a timely fashion, so the Brodie case is an anomaly.

“This is one that slipped through the cracks from eight years ago,” Malone said. “That we’re dealing with one speaks for itself. We’re not dealing with 20 of them.”

When we make a mistake, we try and correct it. It’s not up to us what happens to the case.

Jennifer Knox, Wake County clerk of court

Knox said that the clerk’s office decided to act after a report last year showed a few cases, including Brodie’s, where forfeiture notices had not been sent.

“When we make a mistake, we try and correct it,” Knox said. “It’s not up to us what happens to the case. It’s ultimately up to the judge, or, if they negotiate something, it takes it out of the hands of the judge.”

In court records, Brodie’s parents contend that under state law, the forfeiture notice should have been sent within 30 days after Brodie didn’t appear in court in 2008 for them to have to pay the $90,000.

It’s unclear whether school attorneys are considering a settlement that falls short of displacing the Brodies or puts a lien on the house. Malone said he could not discuss the details of the negotiations.

Michelle Brodie says her parents’ initial offer of $25,000 was rejected by the school system. County property tax records show that the home has an assessed valued at $271,951.

“The real reason behind this is the Wake County school system wants to get the home,” Michelle Brodie said. “It’s a nice home.”

Staff writers Anne Blythe and Ron Gallagher contributed.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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