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She sells his stuff by the garage door

She kicked him out, she says. Then someone broke in and stole some of her stuff. She says it was him - and she's getting even.

By CAMILLE C. SPENCER
Published February 26, 2007


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photo
[Times photo: Julia Kumari Drapkin]
Kathy Werner, left, watches Jim and Pauline Chafin look through the items she's selling at her Port Richey home.

PORT RICHEY - Sometimes, when the weather permits, a peculiar sign emerges at Embassy Boulevard and Gray Fox Lane:

"My Boyfriend Stole All My Stuff So I'm Selling His."

Halfway down the street in Kathy Werner's garage hangs evidence of a woman scorned.

A plum Hugo Boss suit worth $900. A shot glass collection. Playboy magazines. There are no price tags on anything. Werner is willing to haggle.

The handwritten signs for Werner's garage sales often change. Another favorite:

"My Boyfriend's In Jail Sale."

"I have so much fun talking to people who come by," said the 42-year-old Werner, who's between jobs. "I enjoy that."

At one time, the garage's contents belonged to Werner's boyfriend. The two began dating four years ago.

The boyfriend was no saint. He has a criminal record, and the two had their share of problems. Their rocky courtship is detailed in reports from the Pasco Sheriff's Office.

But when he got out of jail, he always had a place to stay.

Until that one weekend in November.

Werner said she was tired of supporting her boyfriend, and the two weren't getting along. So she kicked him out the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Werner and her 16-year-old daughter feared retaliation from the boyfriend, who Werner said was verbally abusive. So the two spent a few nights with a friend.

According to sheriff's reports, someone went to Werner's house on Nov. 26 or 27 and pried open a sliding glass door. The thief made off with about $1,500 worth of Werner's stuff: A $700 computer. A $65 DVD player. A $350 leather jacket. About $100 in CDs.

On the way out, the thief left the water running and threw clothes on the floor.

Werner came home and found her house in disarray. She suspected her boyfriend and called the Sheriff's Office.

But authorities never found enough evidence to charge Werner's boyfriend - or anyone else - with the burglary.

Even so, the ex has been in jail since November for violating conditions of his release on another charge.

Back at the house on Gray Fox Lane, Werner figured she would make a few bucks by selling her ex's stuff. She lost her job last year and needed the money.

So last December, she got a piece of white cardboard and a black marker, and her unconventional yard sale came to life. She said she has made about $300 so far. The biggest-ticket item has been a leather jacket that went for $50.

On Friday, the sign read "Roses are red, violets are blue, my boyfriend stole my stuff, I'm selling his, too. Boo hoo."

But if Werner's boyfriend wants his stuff back once he's released from jail, the situation could turn into a game of "he said, she said," according to Cynthia G. Hawkins-Leon, a family law professor at Stetson University.

When married couples split up, their assets are divided in court. But when unmarried couples part ways, it's up to them to decide who gets what.

"The fact that they're not married doesn't give either of them any real civil protection through the courts," Hawkins-Leon said. "As far as a couple living together, we don't have common law marriage in our state ... it's really difficult when you commingle assets to say whose CDs are whose."

And what about things that clearly aren't Werner's, like that Hugo Boss suit?

"She is setting herself up for potential criminal prosecution," Hawkins-Leon said.

In theory, authorities say, Werner could face criminal charges of petty or grand theft for selling things that don't belong to her. And the ex could file a civil suit to get his stuff back.

But proving the items were his could be difficult, said Kevin Doll, Sheriff's Office spokesman.

"There would have to be proof that it was only his," he said. "I can buy something and give it to my girlfriend as a gift. Or, we bought it together. He may have the receipt, but she may have chipped in."

Werner says she'll fight for herself in court if she has to. In the meantime, she has gotten used to men who see her garage sale signs, think she's available and stop to ask her out.

She doesn't mind. Especially if they buy something.

Camille C. Spencer can be reached at 727 869-6229 or cspencer@sptimes.com.

[Last modified February 25, 2007, 21:51:15]


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