A Sarasota woman's fight to die at home - WNCN: News, Weather

A Sarasota woman's fight to die at home

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SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Breast cancer was quickly advancing on 55-year-old Julia Seyffert.

But as she fought her terminal illness, at the end of March, from her death bed, she was also forced to orchestrate an eviction of her so-called good friends Matthew and Marilyn Burgess from her Sarasota home, because the Burgesses just wouldn't move.

"I'm incredibly shocked that people who were my friends could be so inconsiderate," Seyffert said.

Julia offered the Burgesses a room in her home in early October.

"I couldn't imagine them being homeless, my heart went out to them," she said.

She asked them to help keep her house clean and tidy. According to court records, the Burgesses helped pay a portion of Julia's utility bill for a couple of months, then stopped.

By December, Julia was becoming desperately ill. She needed a caretaker.

She couldn't move a caretaker in, until the Burgesses moved out, and according to court records, she'd been asking them to leave since the beginning of February.

Instead of moving out, Julia and her friends contend the Burgesses moved more of their belongings into her home.

In early March, Julia went to hospice to stabilize some serious health issues. Hospice decided she was too weak to go home without a caretaker in place. Julia was transferred to a skilled nursing facility in Sarasota, where she stayed at taxpayers' expense.

Her friends the Burgesses hadn't budged.

"I don't want to die in a nursing home," Julia said. "I want to be home."

In late March, a friend, former federal prosecutor Mikal Frey, filed an eviction complaint on Julia's behalf against the Burgesses.

"Julia's rights and her needs trump theirs, absolutely.  It's her house, she wants to go home and live and die in her own home," Frey stated.

The Burgesses stayed put.

"We don't have any comment at this time, there's a bunch of misunderstanding," Matthew Burgess said.

On Julia's front door, the Burgesses had taped up hand written notes explaining their side of the dispute and their rights according to Florida law.  One letter stated in part, "It is unlawful for you to attempt to remove us or our property from this house. You must follow Florida eviction law procedures."

According to Tampa attorney Mark Aubin, Florida law says house guests become tenants if they stay for a prolonged period of time, or pay any part of the mortgage or utilities.  The law protects tenants, and to remove them requires an eviction and that can take up to two months.

"Sadly you know, just based on the way things are these days, you've got to be very hesitant to try to extend that olive branch to try to help people out, because it can come right back and bite you," Aubin said.

Matthew Burgess contacted 8 On Your Side, and said he and his wife Marilyn provided Julia with a wonderful Christmas, helped around the house, and created a family atmosphere.  He said they would be moving as soon as possible.  He also filed court papers asking the judge in the case for more time so he could hire a lawyer.

On April 12th, the Burgesses claimed to have found a new place and said they would move out that weekend.

Julia didn't make it through the weekend. She died in the nursing home early in the morning of April 14th, her own home still occupied by so-called friends who wouldn't leave.

"I'm just so sad and disgusted by it and I'm really hoping that this story alerts people within the community of the possibilities of what can go wrong when you take somebody in your home," Frey said.

The Burgesses did leave Julia's house April 22nd, a week later than they said they'd be out.  Later that day a judge granted Julia's estate an eviction.

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