Live Stream with Chat

Click Through to View

Man seals self inside foreclosed residence

Householder pleads for help from bank




STONY RIDGE, Ohio – Through a golf ball-sized hole drilled into a front window, Keith Sadler has a message for banks foreclosing on people like him who fall behind on their mortgage payments. He wants a little help, a little understanding, and a big demand: an end to foreclosures and evictions. In the meantime, the 53-year-old said he’s not leaving the house that he owned for 12 years and lived in for 20. “Even though on paper and legally it’s no longer my house, I still consider this my home and I refuse to be kicked out by a greedy bank that is only interested in its bottom line,” Mr. Sadler said in a phone interview. Through an agreement with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, he was to have been out of the house on U.S. 20 in Stony Ridge by midnight yesterday, but instead, members of the Toledo Foreclosure Defense League, an organization he co-founded, helped seal him inside. A cell phone – and the hole in the front window – are his only means of communication. “I hate touting the Obama plan, but it’s a plan based on a percentage of income you make and the bank has to work out an interest rate that allows you to make payments,” Mr. Sadler said. “I’m not looking for a free ride. I’m not looking for the bank to just let me have the house, but to work with me.” Members of like-minded organizations were camped out in the yard yesterday outside the yellow brick bungalow – some carrying signs that read, “Bail out people not banks,” along busy U.S. 20, others perched in a tree or lounging on the front porch.

Brian Siefke of Bowling Green, a member of both the Toledo Foreclosure Defense League and the Black Swamp Autonomists Collective, said he supports what Mr. Sadler is doing.

“I think this is an important issue not just for local but for national dialogue,” Mr. Siefke said. “It’s a symptom of an economic crisis I think people should pay attention to, and I support people taking things into their own hands.”

Lance Crandall of the Toledo Foreclosure Defense League speaks to the barricaded Keith Sadler through a porthole in his house.

Also at the scene was Max Rameau of Miami, Fla.-based Take Back the Land, an organization that advocates “community control of land and housing as a human right.” He said it’s ludicrous to live in a society filled with vacant houses and homeless persons. “What is the social good here? What is the economic good?” Mr. Rameau asked. “It doesn’t seem to make sense for anyone – not even for the banks.” Mr. Sadler, who mostly has worked in factories, said he made his mortgage payments for 12 years after buying the house from his father but fell behind last year after he was off work from Dana Corp. for medical reasons. He said his mortgage holder, State Bank and Trust Co. of Defiance, promised to work with him. “They said they were going to try to work out a plan for people like me,” he said. “The next thing I know, I get a registered letter” saying a foreclosure action had been filed. Neither the bank’s attorney nor its corporate spokeman returned phone calls seeking comment yesterday. Court records show State Bank bought Mr. Sadler’s house for $33,333 at a Wood County sheriff’s sale Jan. 21. On March 31, the bank obtained a writ of possession in Wood County Common Pleas Court compelling Mr. Sadler to leave. Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said it’s his job to enforce the court’s order, plain and simple. “When I have a court order to do something, I have to do it regardless of what my personal feelings are,” the sheriff said. “Where do you stop? What other contracts don’t I enforce?” Still, the sheriff said he personally met with Mr. Sadler about a month ago. “I asked him how much time he needed to move out of the house,” Sheriff Wasylyshyn said. “I told him I would give him all the time he needs if he leaves peacefully. … He is obviously still in the house, so we at some point will go there and take possession.” The sheriff declined to say when deputies would remove Mr. Sadler, but he said he did not intend to arrest him unless he gives them trouble. Mr. Sadler said he’s not going anywhere voluntarily, and he knows that may mean he’ll be arrested and lose the temporary job he has held since January with the U.S. Census Bureau. “I decided this had to be done and whatever sacrifices have to be made will be made,” he said. “I figured I’m leaving my house anyway. I might as well make it stand for something.” Mr. Sadler, who said he had no weapons in the house, was arrested in August after disrupting a Lucas County sheriff’s sale by blowing a whistle to stop the sale of foreclosed homes.