For Linda Sue Hamilton the woman who once lived with convicted burgler-murderer Bernard Welch -- the home on Aron Chapel Road in Great Falls is a dream house turned nightmare.
The indoor swimming pool is empty and unfinished, boxes of imported tile stacked in the shallow end, debris dumped in the diving pit.
Gold-plated faucets glisten beneath the skylight in the master bath, but the bidet is missing, the Jacuzzi doesn't work and the floors are raw plywood.
There are gaping holes in the imported kitchen cabinets where the microwave oven and television sets were torn out and the special table for the dining nook has never been delivered.
The $17,000 sauna-steam room "environmental chamber" in the exercise room has never been used, brickwork on the basement fireplace has never been finished and the carpet never laid.
More than $1.2 million has been spent already, but estimates are it will cost another $80,000 to make the place livable.
Even in a good real estate market the house would be hard to sell for what the owner has in it, said William Cummings, the attorney in charge of disposing of the property.
In today's depressed market, Cummings added, "it's a steal."
Since the original owner allegedly stole the money that paid for the million-dollar mansion, the hand of justice is behind the distress sale.
U.S. District Court Judge Oren Lewis recently appointed lawyer Cummings to sell the house to satisfy leins filed against the property by McLean Bank, the building contractor and the Internal Revenue Service.
Elliot Jones, the widow of Dr. David Halberstam--whom Welch was convicted of murdering in December 1980--this week won a $5.7 million judgment in a lawsuit against Welch and Hamilton. Judge Aubrey E. Robinson ruled that Hamilton "knowingly and willingly assisted in Welch's burglary enterprise" and was liable for damages to the widow and orphans of the prominent Washington physician and author.
Jones acknowledged after the verdict that "no one is going to get any money out of it" because the banker, the remodeler and the tax collector have already claimed everything owned by Welch and Hamilton, including their dream house.
The Internal Revenue Service maintains that Welch's career as a master burglar specializing in silverware and family jewels netted him a multimillion-dollar income. Welch was sentenced to 143 years in the federal maximum security prison at Marion, Ohio, for Halberstam's murder and got another 30-year term for burglary and armed robbery.
Claiming Welch and Hamilton owe $24 million in unpaid taxes, the IRS has slapped liens on all their property.
After the bank and the builder sued in state court to collect about $200,000 due on the mortgage and home-improvement contract, the IRS went to federal court to assure that it gets a share of the proceeds from the sale.
Rather than auction off the house, as is usually done, Judge Lewis decided to appoint Cummings, the former U.S. Attorney for Northern Virginia as trustee to try to sell the property some other way in hopes of getting a better price. At auction the house might have been sold to anyone bidding more than the $200,000 owed to private creditors, but the trustee will have get at least two-thirds of the appraised value of the property.
Cummings, who has 60 days to find a buyer, expects to have the house appraised this week.
Though there is no "For Sale" sign out front, the house has been on the market since last July. With the approval of the IRS, Hamilton--in whose name Welch had recorded the deed to the property--turned the property over to a realtor with a $975,000 asking price.
Hamilton says the couple has records to prove they spent more than $1.3 million on the property, paying a little more than $200,000 for the house and two acres of land and putting more than $1 million into improvements.
Receipts or not, the place does not look like a million-dollar mansion.
When Welch and Hamilton--who lived as husband and wife and had three children but were never married--bought the house it was an ordinary four-bedroom rambling ranch, not as nice as many of those in the neighborhood. The front was unique "chipped" brick, but to save money the back had wood siding.
Restrictive covenents in the Great Falls development required the same kind of brick to be used for the addition. The original material was no longer available, so Welch had his contractor buy the closest brick he could find and hired teenagers to chip the face of 60,000 bricks by hand.
The massive remodeling began by tearing out the old kitchen and two-car garage and then building an L-shaped addition that more than doubled the size of the original house. A second wing on the new el houses the indoor pool and makes the whole structure into a U facing what was supposed to be a landscaped patio.
All the workmen but one walked off the job shortly after Welch was arrested for Halberstam's murder in December, 1980, said Hamilton. She said she and her three children--4, 2 1/2 and 1 1/2--moved into a rented house nearby last summer.
"I've been living in Catch 22," Hamilton complained. "I can't make enough working to pay a baby sitter, and I can't get welfare because I still have the Mercedes."
Things were different when Hamilton and Welch called in a contractor, described what they wanted to build and signed what amounted to a cost-plus contract to turn their dreams into, brick, stone and fake marble.
Welch apparently knew what he wanted, Cummings said, since "he broke into some of the finest houses" in the area.
The imported kitchen cabinets are topped with costly Corian artificial stone and the master bathing suite is swathed in the same material.
The master bedroom opens onto a 70,000 gallon indoor pool--so big it requires two complete filter and heating systems--housed in a cathederal ceiling wing lined with sliding glass doors, overlooking what was supposed to be a tennis court.
Someone with children involved in competitive swimming might be interested in the house, theorizes Cummings, who plans to advertise the property in several national publications.
The cost of completing the remodeling will make the place more difficult to sell, he said, and the property has suffered minor vandalism in the months it has set empty.
The house has an elaborate security system, but some one broke into the house recently and stole the burglar's burglar alarms, ripping off the video cameras and monitors designed by Welch himself.