Mary Smith worked in mill, saved what she earned and retired. Now, the 77 year old woman with serious health problems takes care of her autistic older brother while searching for a new home after, she said, she trusted the wrong person.
Smith bought her home in Greenville in 1988. It was a single wide trailer with a second attached trailer that her brother used.
Smith said the problem started when she opened her home to an old co-worker who needed a place to stay while her own home was repaired.
“We never got scared of her until maybe a month or so afterwards and she just changed,” Smith said.
Smith said her new roommate, Norma Jean Miller, eventually took control of the household bills and the bank account, managed Mary’s healthcare, and took charge of her brother Melvin’s discipline.
At first, Smith said she was grateful for the help, especially after her health failed and she was hospitalized. By way of thanks, in May of 2014, Smith agreed to sign her home over to Miller. Selling both trailers and the property on which they sat for $10.
“She wasn’t supposed to throw us out. She was supposed to let us stay there until we died and we told her she could have it then,” Smith said.
Over the next year, Smith said things got worse. Eventually, she said Miller kicked her and her brother out of the home they no longer owned.
“The policeman come out there and, the reason why I left, he said we can’t leave you here we can see it on your face you’re scared to death of that woman.”
Smith’s old home, now owned by Norma Jean Miller, is now empty. It’s on the marked for rent.
Miller has since moved back into her old trailer.
“I would rather not talk,” Miller said when contacted at home.
The Appalachian Council of Governments, which administers programs for the elderly in the Upstate with state and federal funding, said there was little Smith could do about her situation. They said the sale of the house was probably legal but that situations like what Smith described were common.
After two weeks living in motels, Mary got lucky. Her church helped her and Melvin find a new home. She’s still working to move her belongings in.
She said she has a new perspective on who to trust.
“Call the doctor and let him get somebody to take care of you. Don’t let a stranger do it. Somebody you think you know,” Smith said.
UPDATE 7/29/15 10:20pm
After the 7 On Your Side story about Smith’s house first aired, Miller contacted the station.
Speaking by phone, Miller said she only moved into the house after Smith fell ill and was hospitalized. Miller said Smith fell into financial trouble and “got mixed up with finance companies”. Miller said it was Smith’s idea to sell the house and that the $10 price was Smith’s idea.
Miller said she did nothing wrong, said she did not steal anything, and said she did not trick anyone.
According to documents filed with the Greenville County Register of Deeds, Norma Jean Miller sold the property on Dixie Circle for $5,000 earlier this month.