The meager possessions of Wayne and Scott Fleming - two moth-eaten mattresses and box springs, a portable television set, some old furniture - sat in the rain yesterday in front of the ramshackle frame house from which the teen-agers were evicted last weekend.
The house where their family lived for 16 years was turned over to a lawyer by their father, Eugene, last year to defray a $15,000 legal bill the accumulated after he was charged with murdering their mother.
Eugene Fleming was convicted and sent to jail last October. When the sons failed to pay $125 in monthly rent to their father's attorney over the next five months, the attorney went to court and on Saturday had 15-year-old Scott and his 19-year-old brother, Wayne, evicted.
"I just want what I'm owed," said the lawyer, C. B. Neblett Jr. of Richmond. "I'm not the Social Security Administration. I've got a family to feed and I don't extend credit."
But a number of people in this small rural community about 100 miles southwest of Washington are uncomfortable with the spectacle of two teen-agers, whose mother is dead and whose father is serving a 40-year jail term, being thrown out of their home.
Some friends and relatives of the teen-agers have asked whether Fleming - whom lawyer Neblett described in court as a "borderline moron" - was mentally competent to sign over his homestead, which was valued at $15,100.
In addition, Fleming has claimed that Neblett assured him that the teen-agers would be able to live in the house rent-free until they reached the age of 21. Neblett, however, disputes this claim, saying that the agreed to let the youths stay only if they paid rent.
Thomas Smith, brother of Wayne and Scott's mother, said he felt the case was clear no matter how the law reads. "The way I look at it, Mr. Neblett took advantage of a crazy man," said Smith.
Officials at the Powhatan Correctional Center, where Fleming is imprisoned, would not allow a reporter to speak to him yesterday. But a Richmond newspaper quoted him as saying last Friday, "I wish I could see him (Neblett) now. I'd run by may [jail] time even more."
According to testimony at his trial, Fleming's troubles began on a warm April day in 1977 when he became enraged because he couldn't find some nude photos of his wife which he had discovered previously.
Fleming got into his car and headed to Richmond. On the way, he spotted his wife driving another car, forced her to pull over, and shot her six times with a pistol in front of several eye-witnesses.
Before he was captured the next day, he shot himself in the head. Although he lost an eye, he recovered. He then was confined to a state mental hospital where doctors first said he was too emotionally disturbed to aid his defense attorney. Later, they held he had recovered sufficiently to stand trial.
Neblett says he told his client from the start that the case would be difficult because of the eye-witnesses and that he would charge a flat fee of $15,000
"We are a cash-on-the barrelhead firm, especially in criminal cases," he said. "We don't give it away. I told Eugene I would not take his case for credit, or for fun, or for publicity. I wanted cash."
Instead, Neblett settled for property - the house and a half-acre of land assessed at $15,000 - which Fleming deeded to him last summer before the trial.
Neblett says he and three fellow attorneys spent hundreds of hours preparing Fleming's defense. But Goochland County prosecutor Edward Carpenter said that the trial lasted less than a day and the defense called no witnesses. Fleming was convicted of first-degree murder.
At the sentencing last October, Neblett argued his client was brain-damaged and had an IQ of 67. IQs between 90 and 110 are considered average. Neblett repeated those assertions earlier this year in an unsuccessful appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court.
"As a lawyer, you put forward every argument you can lay your hands on," he said. "We never argued Eugene wasn't legally competent."
Wayne and Scott Fleming say they haven't seen or talked to their father since the day he shot their mother, and had no idea he had signed over their house to Neblett.
Wayne says he began receiving rent notices from the lawyer last fall, but couldn't afford to pay. He says he has been trying unsuccessfully to revive his father's trash collection business and has no regular income.
"I didn't have the money," Wayne said, "and I didn't see why we should pay to live in our own house."
The brothers took temporary refuge Saturday in an uncle's house on property adjoining their old home. They don't know where they'll eventually end up. As for their possessions, they say they have no place to store them and have simply left them where the sheriff's men dropped them.
Some Goochland lawyers are upset with the weekend's events, though none want to be identified. "It just makes all lawyers look bad when this kind of thing happens," one complained.
Michael Rigsby, counsel for the Virginia State Bar, which enforces the state's code of legal ethics, says that, to his knowledge, no one has filed a complaint about Neblett's conduct. While he would not comment on the case, Rigsby said nothing prohibits lawyers from charging flat fees for their services or from accepting property as payment.
"Clients turn over a number of things when they don't have ready cash and there's nothing wrong with that," said Rigsby. CAPTION: Picture, Wayne Fleming, foreground, and his brother, Scott, after eviction in Goochland.