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Texas woman shares squatter eviction nightmare: “I’m trying to live the American dream”

By Andrea Lucia, Kelsy Mittauer

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    MESQUITE, Texas (KTVT) — A Mesquite woman’s dramatic fight to evict a squatter took center stage in Austin Wednesday, where the senate committee on local governments took up the issue.

“I’m trying to live the American dream,” said Terri Boyette, “and somebody can walk in and destroy everything I have.”

She testified in front of the committee, telling members it took seven months for her to get the man out of her home.

According to Boyette, it started when she went to Florida to care for her sick mother. A man she had previously hired as a handyman, who knew she was leaving town, moved in.

“The police only told me that they weren’t sure this was a crime, that it seemed like a civil matter and I should sue for recovery,” said Boyette. “The person in my home is a homeless crackhead. What am I supposed to sue them for?”

Boyette added, “He’s out walking on the street and I’m $150,000 in debt to replace everything in my home and repair it.”

During the hearing, senators seemed shocked at Boyette’s account of the response from police. According to Boyette, police told her even though the man had broken into her home, it was not a burglary if she was not currently living there. Boyette said she had been in Florida for about two weeks when she learned the man was staying at her home.

At one point during the hearing, Sen. Royce West told Sen. Bob Hall the men needed to get Mesquite city leadership on the phone. Minutes later, the senators pulled Boyette out of the hearing and walked her upstairs to join them in a call with Mesquite’s city manager and police chief.

During the 15-minute call, the police chief said the department had no records of Boyette’s original call last summer. Boyette said she had called the non-emergency line from Florida and was told the situation she described was a civil matter.

Both the police department and Boyette agree there were several 911 calls this spring regarding the man, who was arrested for trespassing after Boyette said he tried to re-enter the home.

By the end of the conversation, the city manager and chief said they planned to review the case and the communication with Boyette to see what, if anything, went wrong.

Boyette told the I-Team she left the room feeling like someone was listening.

“Homeowners are the lifeblood of the state. We pay property taxes, we fund the schools, we pay for the city parks. If you start taking away that, it destabilizes everything for everyone,” said Boyette. “It is an issue that is much bigger than just those of us who are here today.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has put homeowner protection from squatters on his list of priorities for the next legislative session.

A spokesman for Mesquite PD later sent CBS News Texas this statement:

“The Mesquite Police Department is looking into Boyette’s concerns. These incidents are unique, and we want to review each interaction before providing additional details. Once we have conducted a review, we will provide a more thorough account of the events.”

Thursday, May 15, Mesquite Police released the following statement in a press release:

“The Mesquite Police Department has reviewed the incident regarding Terri Boyette’s residence being brought to light during a Texas State Committee hearing. After review, it has been determined that Mesquite Police responded to four calls for service at this residence prior to having any knowledge that there was a potential burglary or “squatter” situation. The initial three calls were not in any way related to a burglary or squatting call.

On March 1, 2024, Mesquite Police received the first call that there was a potential squatter at the location. This was called in by an anonymous person, who believed the homeowner was deceased, and did not wish to be contacted by officers. Officers arrived on scene and contacted Shane Chambers. It was determined through a search of our police database that Chambers had been contacted previously at the residence six months prior.

In response to Ms. Boyette’s claims that she contacted Mesquite Police in 2023, the Mesquite Police Department conducted a thorough search of phone records and reports and could not locate records of Boyette contacting the Mesquite Police Department regarding a squatting issue or someone living in her house illegally. The first call reported by Ms. Boyette occurred on March 20, 2024.

According to the paperwork filed with the Justice of the Peace office, Texas Eviction (Boyette’s agent filing the eviction) stated she and Chambers had a landlord / tenant relationship based on an oral agreement. The listed grounds for the eviction was holding over. According to the paperwork, Chambers did not appear for court, and Boyette was granted possession of the property.

On March 20, 2024, Mesquite Police responded to the residence and learned that Chambers was evicted from the residence by the Dallas County Constables and his belongings had been placed outside the residence. Boyette, at this time told officers items of hers were stolen from the location and a report was taken. Chambers was contacted this date and instructed to stay away from the house.

On April 4, 2024, in the early morning hours, Mesquite Police responded to Boyette’s residence after a neighbor called in advising they heard banging at the vacant house. Officers contacted Shane Chambers at the residence and arrested him for Criminal Trespass.

On May 3, 2024, after an investigation, Mesquite Police detectives issued a warrant for Chambers for Burglary of a Habitation for the initial offense reported on 03/20/2024. The detective also contacted Boyette notifying her of the update.

The Mesquite Police Department and other law enforcement agencies constantly exercise caution when investigating property claims because many disputes fall under civil law, especially those related to evictions. In such cases, the police role is to primarily maintain peace and order, rather than to arbitrate property disputes. It is the stance of the Mesquite Police Department that all calls regarding Boyette’s residence have been handled appropriately and professionally, with due regard for existing state law. The Mesquite Police department is committed to protecting our citizens and their property. We look forward to partnering with state legislators to recommend and provide input on ways legislation could enhance and protect citizen’s property rights.”

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