New Port Richey soldier surprised with renovated home taken over - WNCN: News, Weather

New Port Richey soldier surprised with renovated home taken over by squatters

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NEW PORT RICHEY, FL (WFLA) - Today marks a special homecoming for New Port Richey soldier Michael Sharkey and his family who returned home this afternoon to a big surprise.

Volunteers with a group called Veteran's Warriors have spent weeks transforming Specialist Michael Sharkey's home after squatters tore it apart. They group planned a huge unveiling of the transformed home Wednesday at noon. About 200 contractors, volunteers and supporters were expected to attend.

"They did an outstanding job fixing it up and restoring it. More than I could ever imagined," Sharkey told News Channel 8.

"I've lived in this community for 30 years and I've never seen the community come together so much for one person," Sharkey's wife Danielle Sharkey said. "I don't even know most of these people, and they were there. They just came and helped."

Sharkey first left his home for deployment in Afghanistan, and then his family lived with him while he was stationed in Hawaii. While away, squatters took over their Pasco County home and refused to leave.

Their friend called 8 On Your Side when she had no luck getting rid of the unwanted house guests. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office couldn't help either because the squatters claimed to have a verbal agreement with another Sharkey family friend to stay at the home.

Sharkey insisted he knew nothing of this and said these squatters broke into his home. He wanted them out.

"It was so frustrating, being all the way over there. It was so frustrating not being able to do anything," he said. "I knew he wasn't going to get out so I knew it was going to be a long and expensive process to probably drag him into court and get him out." Sharkey says he believes the publicity of the incident helped force him out.

Public support for the Sharkeys and outrage at the squatters ended up forcing Julio Ortiz and his girlfriend out of the home in the middle of the night. They were both arrested for stealing electricity at the house. Ortiz posted bond and then was arrested a few days later for robbing a bank.

The Sharkeys were thrilled the squatters left, but the the house was left a mess.

Veteran Warriors volunteers say the community and area businesses donated thousands of dollars to fix up the house.

"We couldn't let them come home to a mess," said Lauren Price, who organized the cleanup for Veteran Warriors.

Timeline on the soldier's home taken over by squatters:

May 6, 2014: New Port Richey 'squatters' arrested in bank robbery

May 2, 2014: Squatter posted bond, returned to New Port Richey soldier's home

April 29, 2014: Soldier home squatters face Pasco judge

April 28, 2014: Suspected New Port Richey squatter arrested

April 26, 2014:
Cleanup begins at soldier's damaged home in New Port Richey

April 25, 2014: How to help New Port Richey soldier after squatters damaged home

April 25, 2014: New Port Richey soldier grateful for help at home with squatters

April 24, 2014: Squatters left dogs at New Port Richey soldier's home

April 23, 2014: Squatters moving out of New Port Richey soldier's home

April 21, 2014:
New Port Richey soldier says squatters won't leave his home

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