First a little background info: My wife and I are the caregivers for three elderly people over 80 years old but this situation involves her 88 year old dad, Hoyt, and 81 year old aunt. Aunt Ona is in the nursing home and suffers from dementia. She still knows all of us but is still living with her mom and dad in her mind. She has lost all touch with reality. When her husband died I was made her Attorney-in-Fact (Power of attorney) to handle any business / transaction for Aunt Ona while she lived. She owns 40 acres in the Bankhead forest of North Alabama and her nearest neighbor, Hoyt, is her brother-in-law, my 88 year old father-in-law, 2 miles away.
My father-in-law was asked by his nearest neighbor, Oneal who lives another 2 miles away, if he could have an abandoned car on Aunt Ona's property. The car belonged to my late uncle and has been sitting in that spot for over 50 years. It was a late 40's chevy with only the frame and body remaining. The motor and drive train long gone. My father-in-law told him "it's not mine to give, call Wayne, he's in charge of Ona's business. I can't tell you that you can have it. Call Wayne." And then he wrote down my phone number and gave it to him. I never got a call.
This past Thursday I was out there checking on my father-in-law and stopped by Aunt Ona's house to make sure everything was all right. The hunting season for deer just opened and an acquaintance of the family, Rod, someone I know and trust, stopped by and asked me if I had given anyone permission to get the old car. I said I had not. He said he had been scouting for sign and going back home he saw 3 men, Oneal was one of them, in two trucks going into the pasture thru a gap they had cut in the fence. He drove on by, wondering just what was going on / what should he do. There is a locked gate not ten feet away from the gap they cut in the fence. He decided since they cut the fence instead of having a key from me to open the gate that they were up to no good, turned around, parked in the driveway and walked up to them to see what was going on. He recognized Oneal and asked him what business he had on private land and Oneal said, "Mr. Hoyt said we could get this old car."
Rod said when he left them they had the car about half way on the trailer. The other two guys never would give him their names. He said they didn't threaten him at all. Rod told me he would back me up and tell his story to anyone I needed to tell about what happened. I went up there to investigate the scene for myself and took several pictures of their tire tracks and etc. I called Aunt Ona's attorney and he said he would write Oneal a threatening letter detailing the laws they broke and demanding a copy of the receipt from the junk yard / recycling center and a certified check made out to Aunt Ona for the amount they received for the car.
He advised me to think about it and posed these thoughts for me to consider:
1. Is it worth it? Will they retaliate against Hoyt? Against Aunt Ona's house, outbuildings etc by burning them down?
2. Or would they think, since we got away with this, let's see what else we can get?
Oneal is a known heavy drinker, but not known to be mean, and I don't know the identity or background of the other two. My father-in-law and Aunt's property is at least a 30 minute drive away from me with no neighbors we could depend on closer than 4 or 5 miles. It's in a remote area without cell phone service.
So what do I do? I'm not afraid to confront him but would fear the retaliation that might cause against others. My dad and uncle think the lawyer's letter is the way to go and that would keep me out of it directly. I plan on moving my uncle's tractor and equipment to my house starting today, just for safe keeping until I can sell it and use the money for my Aunt's care.
What do you think? The old car probably brought $200 to $300 in scrap prices. But it's the principle of the thing that keeps gnawing at me. They entered private land without permission with 'No Trespassing" signs posted, drove through a fence, right pass a "No Trespassing" sign, stole a piece of property that belonged to my aunt, and lied in the process. They did half way patch the fence up.
Thinking the worse, I'm afraid they'll be back to scout out something else easy for the taking. I know what I ought to do but don't know if it's the best thing to do with the situation my Father-in-law / aunt's property could face.