A judge this week ruled against a former Alexandria resident who says he was cheated out of his home more than 20 years ago.
Judge Donald H. Kent said a 15-year statute of limitations provided in Virginia law had expired, and the man, Willie C. Wood, could no longer seek damages from Alexandria resident James M. Feddon. Kent granted Feddon's motion for summary judgment, thus dismissing the charges.
Willie C. Wood, who now lives in Florida, alleged in a lawsuit filed last summer that Feddon and another Northern Virginia man conspired to "defraud and trick" him out of his home. Wood said his signature was forged on a deed transferring his home on North Henry Street in Alexandria to James F. Feddon on Aug. 4, 1962, while Wood was serving in the Air Force in the Panama Canal Zone.
Kent made a similar ruling nearly a month ago on a motion for summary judgment requested by E. Neil Rogers. Also named in Wood's suit, Rogers was one of the settlement attorneys in the sale of the Henry Street house and, acting as a notary public, certified the deed, according to court documents.
Wood's attorney, Bobby Stafford of Alexandria, said the statute of limitations should not apply in the case "because my client didn't find out about the alleged fraud, and could not have found out" until years after it took place. Stafford argued that Feddon and Rogers "took steps to conceal the fraud." The lawyer said he did not know whether his client would be able to afford an appeal of the decisions.
Wood said, however, that he hopes to appeal the decision. Now a minister in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Wood said in a telephone interview that he is "quite disappointed. . . . I don't think justice was done. A lot of times I only had $5 a month left to spend" after paying his bills.
Willie Wood lost an earlier court battle last summer when another Alexandria judge, the late Albert H. Grenadier, dismissed Wood's lawsuit against Norman J. and Irma K. Groman, who bought the house nearly 15 years ago from a savings and loan. In the suit, Wood asked for the return of the house. Grenadier also based his decision on his opinion that the 15-year statute of limitation had expired. William F. Wall, Wood's attorney in that case, argued that the Alexandria property was not subject to the statute, but if it were, the statute should not start running until the time the Gromans bought the house.
The decision in the Groman suit is being appealed, according to Gwen Wood, the wife of Wood's brother, Ullysee.
Willie Wood said that while he was serving in the Canal Zone he received a letter saying Ullysee had borrowed $900, using the Alexandria house as collateral, and failed to repay it. The house was sold to cover the debt, the letter said. Ullysee Wood was living in the house while Willie Wood was away. Ullysee said he was told Willie had borrowed $900 and had not repaid it. The brothers said they were bitterly angry, each believing the other was responsible for losing the house. They barely spoke for 20 years and, until a reconciliation, did not know that each had been deceived, they said.
Gwen Wood said she is "very concerned, because there hasn't been much justice in this case. I think the rulings were unfair. I'd like to do something else, but I've exhausted my finances." She has headed the family's efforts to reclaim the Henry Street house. She added that the attempt has not been wasted because the two brothers "are back together. They no longer blame each other."