In the end, a contractor who found $182,000 in Depression-era currency hidden in bathroom walls received just a few thousand dollars and, he feels, some vindication.
The discovery amounted to little more than grief for the contractor, Bob Kitts, who could not agree on how to divide the money with the homeâ€™s owner, Amanda Reece.
It did not help Ms. Reeceâ€™s financial situation either. She testified in a deposition that she was considering bankruptcy, and a bank recently foreclosed on one of her properties.
As for the 21 descendants of Patrick Dunne â€” a wealthy businessman who stashed money that was minted in a time of bank collapses and joblessness, only to have it divvied up decades later in a somewhat similar economic climate â€” they will each get a small fraction of the find.
â€œI called it the greed case,â€ said Gid Marcinkevicius, a lawyer who represents the Dunne estate.
â€œIf these two individuals had sat down and resolved their disputes and divided the money, the heirs would have had no knowledge of it,â€ Mr. Marcinkevicius said. â€œBecause they were not able to sit down and divide it in a rational way, they both lost.â€
Mr. Kitts, who called his discovery â€œthe ultimate contractor fantasy,â€ was tearing out the bathroom walls of an 83-year-old home near Lake Erie on a spring day in 2006 when he discovered two green lockboxes suspended by a wire below the medicine chest. Inside were envelopes with the return address for the P. Dunne News Agency.
â€œI ripped the corner off of one,â€ Mr. Kitts said in a deposition in a lawsuit filed by Mr. Dunneâ€™s estate. â€œI saw a 50 and got a little dizzy.â€
Inside the envelopes was $157,000. And a cardboard box in another wall held about $25,000.
Mr. Kitts called Ms. Reece, who had hired him for a remodeling project, at work. She got there within 45 minutes.
They counted the cash, piled it on the dining room table and posed for photographs. Both grinned like lottery jackpot winners holding an oversize check.
But how to share? She offered 10 percent. He wanted 40 percent. From there things went sour.
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