February 13, 2009
Wayne "Mike" Anderson knew what the knock at the door of his Stratmoor Valley home meant: He was being evicted.
He wasn't ready to leave.
Unemployed, awash in debt and hiding an October foreclosure from loved ones, the 55-year-old shot himself Wednesday morning as a sheriff's deputy stood outside. His live-in girlfriend was at work. She never knew they were being forced out, friends said.
"He felt like he was in a corner, and that's what he had to do to free himself," said Bennie Walker, a family friend who said she thought of Anderson as an uncle.
Friends believe Anderson, who they say used to work as a surgical nurse, began sliding into depression after losing his job about two years ago.
Unable to find work in his field, Anderson turned to the same risky borrowing that helped plunge the country into a foreclosure crisis, borrowing against the modest split-level home at 1720 Ascot Road his parents bought in 1969 and left him in their will.
In May 2007, Anderson took out a $116,000 mortgage from Accredited Home Lenders Inc., one of the nation's largest subprime lenders.
It carried a nearly 12 percent interest rate, described by El Paso County Public Trustee Tom Mowle as "shockingly high." The average that month was 6.26 percent, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac.
The loan appears to be what mortgage lenders call "Ninja" loans - given to borrowers with no assets, no job and no income. Such loans were common earlier this decade but are now outlawed in Colorado.
"All the borrower had to do was provide a Social Security number and an address where they lived. We would get an appraisal and a credit report then close the loan," said Robert "Hutch" Hutchison, president of Adams Mortgage LLC and a member of the Colorado Mortgage Lenders Association advisory board.
Anderson borrowed about 90 percent of the $129,396 value of the property, according to the El Paso County Assessor's Office. The loans were usually kept to 70 percent to 80 percent of the value of the property, Hutchison said.
"That way, the borrower had enough equity they would go out and get a second job if they needed to so they could make the payments and not lose their equity," he said.
"Lenders eventually pushed the loan amounts to 90 percent of the value of the property, and that is where the game stopped working because people with that little equity would walk away from the loan and the property."
About two months after Anderson got his loan, the nation's mortgage market began collapsing and lenders were no longer making such risky loans, he said.
Accredited later sold the loan into a pool of mortgages set up by SG Mortgage Finance Corp., which then sold securities backed by the pool to investors. HSBC Bank is trustee for the pool.
HSBC filed for foreclosure about a year after the loan was made, after Anderson defaulted on the payments. At the time, Anderson owed about $2,000 more than the home's market value. The British-owned bank, one of the world's largest financial institutions, was the only bidder at the El Paso County Public Trustee's Oct. 1 foreclosure auction with a $131,073.39 bid and got the deed to the property on Oct. 24.
Evictions after foreclosures typically take about two months, Mowle said. Anderson ended up staying in the home an extra two months because mortgage giant Fannie Mae put a two-month moratorium on foreclosures and evictions involving its loans, including Anderson's, that ended Jan. 31.
Anderson's neighborhood, Stratmoor Valley, and the surrounding area are no strangers to foreclosures.
Lenders sought foreclosure on 29 homes last year in Stratmoor Valley, including three others on Ascot Road, and 110 in the area surrounded by Nevada Avenue, U.S. 85-87, Las Vegas Street and the northern boundary of Fort Carson.
The area has one of the highest concentrations of foreclosures in the county, Mowle said.
Anderson told friends he was depressed, but never let on that he was struggling to keep his home. They believe he kept the news from his live-in girlfriend of many years, who told them she could have helped pay down the debt.
Anderson's girlfriend declined to be interviewed.
As a boy, Anderson was a fixture at the home of Ethel Mae Adams on nearby Maxwell Street. Adams - whom he called Momma Mae - had moved into the neighborhood a few months after Anderson's parents in 1969. They were military families attached to Fort Carson.
Before Anderson's mother died of cancer in 2004, she told Ethel Adams to watch over him.
"We weren't related, but in some ways, we were closer than blood," said Walker, Adams' granddaughter, who was raised in the home.
Anderson was more likely to offer help than ask for it, the Adamses said. He let people stay in his home if they were put out, and he could always be counted on for a ride across town. He liked sports, barbecuing and playing video games with his close childhood friend, Fred Adams Jr.
"He didn't let anybody know what was happening," said Shani Ross, one of Adams' daughters.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office, which under state law assists in evictions, serves two to 10 evictions a day, Lt. Lari Sevene said. The office posted warning of Anderson's eviction several days earlier and had no reason to fear trouble when they went to Anderson's house Wednesday morning, she said.
The deputy knocked on his door just before 8 a.m. Wednesday, accompanied by a real estate agent working with the bank that foreclosed on his home.
Anderson didn't open the door. Deputies heard him ask, "What?" and the deputy repeated himself.
Anderson went upstairs into the living room, sat on the couch and shot himself with a pistol, Sevene said.
Sheriff's SWAT officers found his body when they forced their way into the home.
"We do evictions almost every day," Sevene said. "We usually post the writ a few days prior so that people know we're coming, and to give them the opportunity to get their things out. So I'm pretty sure he knew that they were coming."