Grandparents sued for keeping girl
Their 55-plus community forbids permanent residents under age 18.
By EILEEN SCHULTE
Published April 1, 2007
LARGO - Kimberly Broffman is a vivacious red-haired thrill seeker who loves to watch NASCAR on TV.
But at 3-1/2 years old, the only vehicle Kimberly operates is her Big Wheel.
Her grandparents don't dare let her cruise it down the quiet streets of the Lakes subdivision, off 49th Street near U.S. 19.
That's because the neighborhood association is aware that Kimberly is living in the 55-plus community and has filed a lawsuit to force the child out.
Kimberly lives with her grandparents, Judie and Jimmy Stottler, on Great Lakes Drive N. Jimmy Stottler is disabled and receives no disability pay. Judie Stottler, 59, is the family's sole wage earner.
A dishwasher at an assisted living facility, her annual income is about $18,000, she said.
She and her husband understand the Lakes has rules prohibiting permanent residents younger than 18. The child, her daughter's daughter, has lived with them for three years.
Soon after they took in Kimberly, the association objected. In April 2005, Judie Stottler signed a mediation agreement saying her family would comply with the Lakes' rules by Oct. 1, 2006.
The Stottlers' plan was to give Kimberly back to her mother, but her mother took off, said Judie Stottler. They decided to try to move and take Kimberly with them.
They initially priced their two-bedroom home at $189,000 but had no serious interest. Six months ago, they dropped the price by $10,000. Still no takers.
"We just want a chance to sell our house for a decent price, so we can afford to move," Judie Stottler said.
But a month ago, the Lakes sued her.
The Stottlers took custody of Kimberly when she was 6 months old. Her mother, Melanie Broffman, was a doting single mom during the first few months of Kimberly's life.
But then Broffman, who has an arrest record for drug offenses and fighting with boyfriends, slipped.
Broffman, 30, told the St. Petersburg Times she has a drug problem and "personal issues." She has two older children who live with other relatives.
Now that the Stottlers have cared for Kimberly for three years, they no longer allow Broffman into their home, Judie Stottler said.
Despite that, Broffman is rooting for her parents in their fight with the Lakes. "I think it's crap that they are kicking them out," said Broffman. "Kimberly doesn't cause any problems. They have no respect for my parents."
Stottler said she and her husband adore Kimberly and enjoy taking her to the park.
She is a happy child, Stottler said, who loves playing with dolls she calls her "babies."
On work days, Stottler drops off Kimberly at day care at 8:30 a.m., then goes to her job, where she makes $8.80 an hour. She picks up Kimberly at 6 p.m.
Her husband has liver disease and heart problems, among other health conditions, and cannot work.
Stottler said she inherited her house at the Lakes four years ago from her parents.
Stottler refuses to put the girl in foster care just to get the homeowners association off her back. She wants to keep her.
"I am not going to get rid of Kimberly to stay in this house," she said.
The homeowners association has hired lawyer Bennett L. Rabin to fight the Stottlers. Rabin declined to comment.
So did homeowners association president Everett Conger, who lives near the Stottlers on Superior Lane.
"I'm not going to discuss this with you," he said.
"This is going to be decided by the courts," he said before hanging up.
Judie Stottler's friends are worried.
"It is so ridiculous that this has gone so far," said Keith Tinsley, a cook at the Freedom Inn at Bay Pines, where both work. "She's trying her best to sell her house. It's like they are trying to force her to put Kimberly in foster care.
"These people keep batting her down and batting her down. They're just mean."
Stottler said she can't afford an attorney and doesn't know how a judge would rule.
She said she is terrified of losing her house before she can sell it.
"We don't have any family to take us in," she said.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Eileen Schulte can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or firstname.lastname@example.org.