Saturday, September 24, 2005
Seneca preacher pays for taking land with forged deed
SENECA, S.C. — A Seneca preacher has been ordered to pay $9,850 to a neighbor who said she was cheated of her land and the trees on it.
The Rev. Efford Haynes must pay Mary L. Walker the money plus court costs of $485, said 10th Judicial Circuit Master in Equity, Ellis Drew.
Mr. Drew ruled that a deed prepared by Mr. Haynes and his daughter, Saverne Haynes, is void and has no legal effect.
Therefore, Ms. Walker’s land has been returned to her. According to court records, Ms. Walker thought she was signing a deed to give a five-foot strip of her land to the Christ Community Church for parking. Ms. Walker was promised $400 for the strip of land.
However, the deed prepared by Saverne Haynes described the parcel of land as half of Ms. Walker’s lot.
Attorney Robert Whitney, who represented Ms. Walker, said the deed was forged, no money was paid Ms. Walker and the trees were cut off of Ms. Walker’s property. Mr. Haynes testified that he did not pay Ms. Walker for the land because one of his family members was owed a debt by a member of Ms. Walker’s family.
Mr. Haynes and a number of his family members are listed as trustees of Christ Community Church, an independent church also named in the order.
A chain link fence surrounds the brick church on the corner of Abbott and Poplar streets in the Abbott subdivision of Seneca. The Prayer House Revival Center is also inside the fence, next door to the church.
Mr. Haynes hired Clemson Engineering Services to prepare a survey for Christ Community Church, which showed an iron pin set 5 feet above Ms. Walker’s property line, according to court records. However, the survey was not used in the description of the property on the deed prepared by Mr. Haynes.
Mr. Drew also said that the signature of David Walker, Mary Walker’s brother, on the deed was not made by Mr. Walker.
Mr. Haynes made that signature, according to his own sworn testimony.
"I reported the forgery to the Secretary of State who allegedly oversees notaries public," Mr. Whitney said. "That agency said they have no authority to pull notary licenses."
Mr. Haynes also hired a crew to cut down trees on Ms. Walker’s land. According to an expert witness hired by Mr. Haynes, the value of the trees cut from Ms. Walker’s property was no less than $8,000.
Mr. Drew ruled that Ms. Walker not only lost the valuable trees, but the scenic beauty and the benefit of having the trees in her landscape.
The Court of Common Pleas complaint dated back to Oct. 8, 2001, but was not settled until Wednesday. Attempts to reach Mr. Haynes on Friday were unsuccessful.
See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.
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