Found: $182,000 and a Lot of Grief
Sunday, November 9, 2008
CLEVELAND -- A contractor who found $182,000 in Depression-era currency hidden in a bathroom wall has ended up with only a few thousand dollars, but he feels some vindication.
The windfall discovery amounted to little more than grief for contractor Bob Kitts, who couldn't agree on how to split the money with homeowner Amanda Reece.
It didn't help Reece much, either. She testified in a deposition that she was considering bankruptcy and that a bank recently foreclosed on one of her properties.
And 21 descendants of Patrick Dunne -- the wealthy businessman who stashed the money that was minted in a time of bank collapses and joblessness -- will each get a mere fraction of the find.
"If these two individuals had sat down and resolved their disputes and divided the money, the heirs would have had no knowledge of it," said attorney Gid Marcinkevicius, who represents the Dunne estate. "Because they were not able to sit down and divide it in a rational way, they both lost."
Kitts was tearing the bathroom walls out of an 83-year-old house near Lake Erie in 2006 when he discovered two green metal lockboxes hanging from a wire behind a wall. Inside were white envelopes with the return address for "P. Dunne News Agency."
"I ripped the corner off of one," Kitts said during a deposition in a lawsuit filed by Dunne's estate. "I saw a 50 and got a little dizzy."
He called Reece, a former high school classmate who had hired him for the remodeling project.
They counted the cash and posed for photographs, both grinning like lottery jackpot winners.
But how to share? She offered 10 percent. He wanted 40 percent. From there things went sour.
A month after the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on the case in December, Dunne's estate got involved, suing for the right to the money.
By then there was little left to claim.