Florida Family Stunned to Learn They Bought Home Where Murders Occurred

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," May 22, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

JON SCOTT, GUEST HOST: The "Big Issue" now: If you knew that three people had been murdered in a home a broker was showing you, would you buy it? A family in Florida wouldn't, but they did.

The Johnsons thought they were moving into their dream house in Lake County, Florida, until they found out what happened to the previous tenants in that home. Three people and another person murdered there by a gunmen who killed himself. Brokers in Florida aren't required by law to inform buyers about crimes that have taken place in a home they're showing. So now, the family is stuck with a house they will not live in. Kathy Johnson and her husband John are with me now. Welcome to both of you.

Kathy, I got the math a little mixed up there. This was a house in which three people were murdered, and one, the shooter, then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide, right?


SCOTT: How did you find it? How did you find it was for sale?

K. JOHNSON: We actually were looking in the neighborhood to rent a house because my daughter wanted a home that she could have a horse in. So, it brought us to that neighborhood and we looked at rental homes to rent. And after that, we decided at that price range maybe we could possibly own one out there. So what we did was, we called the realtor who was actually on the front of the house and we called that number directly and the realtor took us around to look at three homes actually in that neighborhood, in the price range that we could afford. But the reason that we went to that area is primarily so that my daughter could have a horse in the house.

SCOTT: But, John, this was a huge crime. The man who did the shooting was a police corporal. He killed his estranged wife, plus a fellow police officer and that officer's wife. Big, big, big crime. Very well publicized. You didn't know that it happened in that house?

JOHN JOHNSON, BOUGHT "MURDER HOUSE": Well, see, we don't live in that area. We live over in Palm Coast. Living all the way over there you might have heard it, but even then that we got the news article on it, it never gave the address; it just said it happened in the area. There were no addresses or anything. They didn't tell you that that was the house that it happened in.

SCOTT: All right. So are you ticked off at the realtor?

J. JOHNSON: Well, I was at first. But when I found out it wasn't up to them, you know, they didn't have to disclose it. I can't be mad at the realtor. They were just doing their job. You know, they didn't have to tell you unless you asked the specific question and who is going to ask was there a murder in the house? You know, it's just not a question we think of ever asking when we went into a house.

SCOTT: Yeah, Kathy, I mean you ask about, I don't know, do the appliances work, are the schools good, you don't ask people that there's been a triple murder-suicide there.

K. JOHNSON: Exactly. When you're going into a home, your first thought is to be in a safe environment. You're thinking you're going into a home that's going to be safe. You never would have an idea in your mind to even consider thinking about asking, especially something so horrific. Maybe if somebody had died in the house who was older and of natural causes, that would have been different. But this was...

SCOTT: One of the arguments though that's being used against you is that you got a great deal. This thing was listed at originally $275,000. You got it for less than what, $220?

K. JOHNSON: No, that's incorrect. The appraisal that we got was for $245,000 and what we paid for it was $227,000. So that is very close to what the appraisal price is.

SCOTT: All right. And you're pushing for a change in Florida law?

K. JOHNSON: Absolutely, or some place that you can research. If that is the law, there should be a place that you could go on the Web and put the address on there and actually find out if there is any public record on that particular home.

SCOTT: You guys still own the house but you can't sell it, is that right?

K. JOHNSON: Well, luckily over the weekend we have had somebody approach us. But it's selling it for less than what we bought it for. But we just want to be out of it because we can't afford two mortgages.

SCOTT: Yeah. John and Katy Johnson, thank you both.

K. JOHNSON: Thank you.

SCOTT: Good luck unloading it.

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