Great Falls House -- 7 BR, 6 1/2 ba, 4 fpl, 50-ft. indr pool, sauna, 14 skylights, cntmp. style, New, but with a fabled history. Reduced to sell at $975,000. Was $1.3 million.
If Fairfax County real estate saleswoman Faye S. Drennen were placing a want ad for one of her latest listings, that's how she might describe the 7-bedroom, 6 1/2-bath home in the fashionable Great Falls neighborhood.
But the house at 411 Chesapeake Drive needs little advertising to be known to most Washingtonians. For several years it was the residence of Bernard C. Welch, who was convicted this year of murdering Washington cardiologist Michael J. Halberstam and who, according to police, burglarized hundreds of homes in the Washington area.
"It's a beautiful house," said Mrs. Drennen. "The swimming pool room is fantastic. It's got 14 skylights and the most gorgeous beams."
There are some problems -- almost $8 million in liens against the house, unpaid utility bills, an incomplete addition and an oven that doesn't work. But Mrs. Drennen says she'll see that the buyer will get "free and clear title. There's no question about that."
The addition, which includes the swimming pool room, will take from $75,000 to $100,000 to complete, she says. But the price has been slashed, making it a bargain, she says. "I think it's a tremendous amount of house for the money."
Linda Hamilton, Welch's commonlaw wife in whose name the house is listed, said in an interview yesterday that it had become too much for her and her three young children to manage. "I would prefer to get out," she said.
"There is no place for the kids to play," said Hamilton, who said she plans to move into a rental house elsewhere in the county. "It's not livable. pHalf the kitchen is incomplete. There is debrtis all over from the construction."
Hamilton said her certified public accountant -- a former IRS agent, according to Drennen -- suggested she sell the house. The IRS, Hamilton added, told her she could do it.
"I don't get anything," Hamilton said, noting tht all the liens add up to more than 10 times the sale price.
The Internal Revenue Service, claiming that Welch bought and expanded the house with ill-gained profits, has slapped a $7.6 million lien against the contemporary-styled residence. Two contractors, whose work ended when Welch was arrested, have filed mechanic's liens totaling more than $89,000 and a McLean bank says it's still owed $147,000 on the $300,000 loan it gave to Hamilton.
Police have said that they recovered $4 million worth of silver, jewelry, and other stolen valuables from the house shortly after the Halberstam shooting. Included were two smelters in which Welch allegedly melted stolen silver and other metals into bars that he later sold to metal dealers.
Hamilton said yesterday she has survived by borrowing from friends and family. "I don't have any type of budget," she said. I haven't paid the utility bills for two or three months. My oven doesn't work. I don't have medical insurance, and one of my children needs another operation."
"I've been really down lately. I've been threatened with foreclosures, and that's had me really scared. That's one reason I decided to get out."
Hamilton said she would like to work, but can't afford to pay daycare for her children. "It's $50 to $70 for each child. I don't know how people do it."
As for Welch: she said she considers her relationship with him as finished since "He said he's planning to marry my niece." She says the only communication she has with Welch, who is serving a 143 year-sentence in a maximum-security prison in Marion, Ill., concerned their three children.
Mrs. Drennen, who said she got the listing because she knew Hamilton's accountant, said she does not volunteer information about the place's history.