APACHE JUNCTION, AZ - An Apache Junction woman is fighting for the right to stay on her own property.
The 72-year-old woman says her legal troubles started after she opened up her heart and her home to a struggling couple who said they needed a place to stay to start rebuilding their lives for their young children.
"I only have a very small social security [stipend], I kept trying to make all the bills myself which I couldn't do," said Virginia Kelley.
"I thought maybe they were honest. Gave me the story about two children, wanting to start over in the country. I fell for it -- hook, line and sinker," she added.
After three months, Kelley said she started to regret her decision, mainly due to all the fighting and the violence she witnessed among the family.
"They're violent people, they fight violently. I've never lived around that kind of violence," said the soft-spoken former nurse.
Even then, Kelley said she tried to talk to them and support them as they worked things out. Kelley recalled instances of the couple using frying pans and bats to try to assault each other.
When Kelley asked the couple to leave her property, she was met with resistance.
"She said she owned the house, that she was going to take it," said Kelley. She was also informed by the couple that their lawyer had told them as long as they kept all their belongings in the home, it was their residence.
As the court battle between the two sides began, Kelley said she was stunned when a Constable showed up at her property last Friday with an Injunction of Harassment filed against her by her tenants, claiming she had threatened to assault them. The court order stated Kelley needed to leave her own property immediately.
"It's been my home and where I took care of my mother when she was dying for so long. It's my only home and they tell you to get out. Where do you go? I said where do you want me to go? This is the only home I got," said Kelley, tears streaming down her face. She said it was hard for her to talk about it.
Kelley has a disability and has trouble walking. Her closest family members live in Florida. Friends immediately came to her aid and reached out to ABC15 for help when they heard about her ordeal.
Several contractors who worked on her property and were familiar with her story were there to help Kelley move.
"It's just not right. I didn't think it was real when she told me. It thought she was telling me a lie. This woman can't hurt no one. You've seen her. She does not know how to speak well in court, her thoughts are all over the place. She has no lawyer defending her, we're trying to get community legal aid but the wait list is so long," said Brian Schmidt, a friend who was advocating on Kelley's behalf.
ABC15 dug up property records for the home in Apache Junction. Records indicated the home was in Virginia Kelley's name. We also reached out to court staff to find out how something like this could happen. A staff member said it was not uncommon in order of protection cases, to have a homeowner ordered off the property. Judges do not have to hear from both parties when issuing orders of protection.
Kelley has requested a hearing, which is set to take place at the Apache Junction Municipal courthouse on Thursday at 4 p.m.
"She needs justice, she needs someone to take care of her," said Schmidt.
ABC15 also reached out to Kelley's former tenants to find out why they had filed an injunction of harassment against her, and why they were claiming her property as their residence. No one returned our calls for a comment. Kelley said she had not seen them in a few days and did not know where they were.
As Kelley awaits her day in court, she continues to worry about where she will go if she cannot get back onto her own property.
ABC15 will continue to closely follow this case and Kelley's fight to get back onto her own property.