Kevin and I are currently located outside of California as we continue to build our case and work to get back on our feet. On May 11, 2016 we lost thousands of dollars worth of personal property and our home, and we had our organization sabotaged by an unprovoked forcible entry and detainer by five Kern County Sheriff’s Deputies who were accompanied by an unidentified county building inspector. We had lived at 2232 Commercial Ave in Lake Isabella, CA for approximately 7 months, and Kevin had recently received his first property tax bill in the mail. We were in the process of claiming the property using a legal process recognized in all 50 states called adverse possession; although due process and 2 CCP § 318 requires an action for the recovery of real property to be filed by a record owner who “was seized or possessed of the property in question,” no such action was ever filed. Instead, officers violated 14 Pen (CA) § 602(i) and (k) via opening the front gate and trespassing onto the property without a warrant or lawful authority. Our testimony and evidence are presented throughout the following timeline:
Summer 2015 – After listening to us sing and play guitar near a shopping center in Lake Isabella, CA, a man, noticing we were homeless and living out of our backpacks, approached and told us about the legal process called adverse possession, explaining it is “a legal process by which a person can gain legal title to an abandoned property.”
I began researching this process, and Kevin and I started asking friends if they were aware of any neglected, unoccupied properties in the area. Several friends said they were familiar with adverse possession, and some informed us they knew people who acquired their homes via this process. Soon, it was brought to our attention by local acquaintances Rudy and Liz Hemminger, that the house across the street from them (2232 Commercial Ave.) had been abandoned for about 7 years, and that it might be a perfect candidate.
By late 2015 we were on our last legs. Street performing to earn enough to survive was proving to be too difficult to uphold, and years of doing so had noticeably taken its toll on our health. Kevin had already been hospitalized more than once simply due to lack of food, and carrying our backpacks around in the hot desert sun day in and day out was unbearable. To make matters worse, Kern County’s poverty level very high (the rate of childhood poverty in Kern has increased every year since the Great Recession ) but also the couple was being threatened with arrest by local law enforcement if they continued street performing. They were running out of options.
Note: This in-the-making article has been delayed and is currently scheduled for release by Oct. 1, 2018.
August 31, 2015 –
couple filmed the following two videos to document the conditions of the two dilapidated buildings on the property, and moved onto the property using their right of entry; a new chapter in their lives was about to emerge:
Video #2 Filmed Immediately Afterward:
Following their trespassing onto our property at 2232 Commercial Ave. (Lake Isabella, CA) via opening the front gate which had a NO TRESPASSING sign attached to it, into the curtilage, and approaching us without an arrest warrant, Kevin and myself were both falsely arrested on fabricated charges of trespassing, we were made to sign
and a subsequent abuse of process by the District Attorney’s Office caused us to be served an unjust warrant. Due to the fact that returning to California would likely cause our vehicle to be impounded (due to the warrant), we’re working to get our warrant quashed and move our case forward from our current location. My testimony, signed by both Kevin and myself, along with the evidence, is presented below.
Following the loss of our home an the majority of our property, we made several attempts to reason with the Sheriffs at the Lake Isabella office to let us back into our home, to no avail. We called every attorney we could find who might help us with our case. We contacted the California Attorney General’s Office and the ACLU. Each redirected us to the same place: Greater Bakersfield Legal Aid, whose answering machine said that they “only do intake at the beginning of each month.” It was apparent we were not going to get any help. Feeling unsafe, we fled Kern County late May 2016, heading north to stay with friends, who gave us respite as I gathered together our evidence and wrote our testimony.
Below is my personal testimony, which explains exactly how my partner and I were robbed by five Kern County Sheriff’s Deputies, and a building inspector who did not identify himself. After years of researching and working to get back on our feet following a series of traumatic experience, I have finally had time to write — so first off, thank you for reading this — it really means a lot. We’ve felt very alone throughout this recovery process, however we believe that the more people who learn what happened, the better the chances our case won’t simply get shoved under while remaining unreported by news outlets. To explain the situation, and before presenting evidence, first we need to begin with a little bit of backstory:
In 2010, I began documenting alongside former U.S. Armed Forces wilderness survival instructor Richard “Lonewolf” Legan, who informed me that he hadn’t been receiving his due military benefits for many years and was owed backpay. It was apparent from the lack of food in the cabinets and living conditions that his family was suffering as a result, so I did some research and found him an attorney who opened up and began working is case.
Meanwhile, I began documenting his skills, and designing business essentials (e.g. cards, fliers, posters) to help him get back on his feet. His dream was to open a sort of west coast equivalent to Tom Brown’s renown Tracker School. Together, we created a unique textbook called More Valuable Than Gold, and a website to showcase his skills and help find students to attend his classes. Distance financed her efforts by street performing with her guitar, which she’d been doing since 2002, when she left her home state of Iowa to walk the country and write protest songs. In 2013 she met her current partner, Kevin Byrd, who joined the effort. The two then street performed together while continuing to develop the publications and websites in coffee shops, truck stops, in friends’ and cause supporters’ homes, and everywhere in between.
Their work did not go unchallenged however: Kern County is not an easy place to live. With significantly higher crime rates than Los Angeles County for all violent and property crimes, the highest number of arsons in state, and the second-highest number of rapes, Kern County also has the third-highest number of murders and non-negligent manslaughter crimes, and is considered the “meth capital of the U.S.”   “Living on the street” exacerbates one’s susceptibility to various dangers: Kevin and Distance were robbed on several occasions — so they just kept moving forward.
abuse of process – improper, intentional, tortious use of civil or criminal process to obtain a result that is either unlawful or beyond the purpose for which such process was designed. — aka abuse of legal process; malicious abuse of process; malicious abuse of legal process; wrongful process; wrongful process of law.
adverse possession – continuous, exclusive, hostile, open, notorious enjoyment of real property with a claim of right when that enjoyment is opposed to another person’s claim; the doctrine by which title or easement may be obtained by doing so for a specified period of time. —aka adverse dominion, though not considered an unlawful form of adverse dominion.
occupancy – the act of taking possession of something that has no owner (such as abandoned property) so as to acquire legal ownership.
Links to Each Section of the Case:
: Bakersfield.com, “Kern County child poverty hasn’t slowed since end of Great Recession, report shows” BY HAROLD PIERCE (6-7-2017): http://www.bakersfield.com/news/kern-county-child-poverty-hasn-t-slowed-since-end-of/article_896aa556-0b90-5f39-9844-c46745dafa2f.html
: California Political Review, “Education Called Last Hope for Crime-Riddled Kern County (More Crime Than LA County!)” by Stephon Frank (10-3-2016): http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/education-called-last-hope-for-crime-riddled-kern-county-more-crime-than-la-county/
: ABC Chennel 23, “Murder No Surprise In Meth Capital Of US” by TRACIE CONE and GOSIA WOZNIACKA Associated Press (1-23-2012): https://www.turnto23.com/news/murder-no-surprise-in-meth-capital-of-us