DAVIDSON, N.C. — Two people who claim allegiance to the Moorish Nation, a sovereign citizen group, were found squatting in a multimillion-dollar home for sale once owned by the parents of the mayor of Davidson.
Attorney Mark Gott said he and his colleagues have dealt with several similar cases.
“One of the issues is, there's not a great legal remedy,” Gott said.
Police said Turmaine Thorne, 30, and Taqiyah Barber, 35, used a hide-a-key to get into the home on Jan. 4.
The home belonged to Russell and Patricia Knox, who are now deceased. They were the parents of Mayor Rusty Knox.
Within a few hours, police said Thorne and Barber unloaded a 26-foot U-Haul truck containing personal property and furniture into the vacant home.
The couple parked their vehicle in the garage, as well.
A member of the Knox family found the couple inside the home and called the Davidson Police Department.
Barber and Thorne did not allow officers into the home when they arrived.
Officers received permission from the Knox family, got a house key, went inside the home and arrested both suspects without incident.
The Moorish Nation has beliefs similar to those of traditional sovereign citizens. Common practices include the use of various documents and filings to claim property belonging to another. Channel 9 has reported on such methods over the years.
In 2015, a member of the Moorish Nation was accused of squatting in a home worth nearly $1 million in the Piper Glen neighborhood.
In the Knox incident, the suspects filled a quit claim deed with the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds claiming they have legal cause and ownership of the property at 1150 Concord Road.
The courts are usually looking for a contract between a landlord and a tenant in these types of cases, Gott said.
However, the courts will not have that.
“Most squatters know the law better than the homeowners that own the property that they're squatting and maybe better than some lawyers I know,” Gott said.
The Knox family owns the property and provided information proving there has been no legal transfer of the property.
The squatters used the law to their advantage. County officials said if someone meets all the requirements, the Register of Deeds has to record it.
Barber and Thorne were booked at the Mecklenburg County jail, and both posted bond.
The suspects’ property was returned to the U-Haul. Representatives from the company towed and recovered the truck.
A Charlotte property manager told Channel 9 he is familiar with Thorne and Barber.
Michael Moorings, of Dynasty Property Management, said the pair falsified documents to lease a west Charlotte home he manages through a different management company.
Moorings inherited the property after the company went defunct.
Moorings said he was told by Thorne and Barber that they are members of the Moorish Nation and he has no authority over them.
He said the two never paid rent and their lease has since expired.
According to Moorings, the two sloppily painted the garage and front door, violating Homeowners’ Association rules.
He said the two also installed no trespassing signs.
After seeing Channel 9’s report about Thorne and Barber taking over the Davidson home, Moorings sent a maintenance man to change the locks on the west Charlotte home on Thursday. Once the worker arrived, he said he saw people inside the house -- Thorne and Barber.
Channel 9 arrived at the house a short time later for a previously scheduled interview and the police were also called.
Once officers arrived on scene, they told Moorings they couldn’t do anything.
Real estate attorney Zac Moretz says officers’ hands are tied in these situations.
“If the squatters dummy up a lease or were there legally at some point then that is going to have to go through the eviction process,” Moretz said.
Moretz said the case has been tied up in the legal system.
He said with appeals, it is possible for squatters to remain in their improper home for up to six months.
The investigation is ongoing.
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