Homeowner, 75, suffers heart attack after finding squatters have taken over his house while he was in hospital

Sunday, June 16, 2024 - A 75-year-old man suffered a stress-induced heart attack after finding his Arkansas home had been invaded by two squatters who used Google for tips on how to get away with claiming somebody else’s home.

Kelly DeShields, 54, and Matthew Villagran, 46, had been squatting in Gary Brankel’s Maysville home for at least a month, claiming they believed it to be unoccupied for years.

Meanwhile, Brankel had been staying at a treatment facility, recovering from a medical issue, only to return on May 30 to find the couple illegally occupying his residence.

DeShields allegedly claimed ownership of the house after following instructions she found via Google, according to a probable cause affidavit.

“She found information on the internet that led her to believe she could obtain the property by paying the property taxes and maintaining the residence and land,” the document stated.

Deshields showed deputies at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office a receipt from the revenue office in Gravette demonstrating that she paid $162 in assessment fees on May 1 for Brankel’s home. She later admitted that no one at the revenue office told her she could occupy the land.

The couple is also accused of burning Brankel’s personal documents and home décor after they falsely laid claim to the home. Deputies said they found a “fresh” burn pile on the land with several destroyed items that belong to Brankel.

Officials said Brankel was hospitalized again after suffering a heart attack “due to the stress caused by the squatters.”

His current condition remains unclear, but he was able to confirm that he did not recognize DeShields and Villagran, nor did he ever give them permission to occupy his home.

DeShields and Villagran were eventually arrested on June 5 and charged with burglary.

The duo are in custody at the Benton County Detention Center, DeShields is being held on a $25,000 bond and Villagran on a $15,000 bond.

They are scheduled to appear in court on July 15.

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