Murder-suicide follows foreclosure
Army veteran Julie Fay and husband Wallis Fay reflect on moving to Colorado after failed talks with their mortgage company led to the foreclosure and sale of their home in Dumfries.
By Uriah Kiser
Published: August 21, 2009
Julie Fay served her country in Desert Shield in 1991, and remained a loyal government worker after her military service.
Last month, she was forced to leave her job in Fort Belvoir due to failing health. The 57-year-old packed boxes and prepared to move to Colorado with Wallis Fay, her husband of 26 years.
They were being forced to leave their Dumfries town house.
They never made it to the Rocky Mountain state. On the eve of their move, Julie and Wallis Fay were found dead inside their home at 3045 Sigel Court.
Police say it was a murder-suicide. Detectives on Friday said they are still investigating the circumstances, but both died of gunshot wounds.
Faced with losing their home of 13 years, the couple had reached out to their mortgage lender, politicians and the News & Messenger.
On Aug. 14, they called Executive Editor Susan Svihlik, saying their home had been sold out from under them. They were expecting the Sheriff’s Department to arrive any minute and make them leave.
Julie Fay sobbed on the phone.
A reporter and photographer went to their house in Williamstown and listened to their story. No sheriff’s deputy arrived to evict them. Editors at the paper decided their case needed more research, so no story about the couple was published.
In that interview, Julie Fay said she and her husband returned from his mother’s funeral in Colorado earlier this year to find their lives turned upside down.
“We came back … and a man was standing in front of the house” she said. “Our dogs were going ballistic. The man said ‘I bought your property.’ I said ‘What?’ "
The Fays said they had no idea it was even up for auction.
The couple’s foreclosure case is a complicated one. And after their deaths, there are still more questions than answers.
There is no record of eviction proceedings against the couple. But neighbors said the two believed they had to be out of their house by Friday, and they were packed up and planning to head west.
On Thursday, after not seeing the Fays for two days, neighbors realized something was wrong.
Neighbor Abigail Robertson said she’d been inside the home on Tuesday helping Julie Fay pack some kitchen items into boxes.
“When I was finished, I asked her if there was anything else that I could do for her, and she said that she would call me if she needed anything,” said Robertson. She went to the house around 8 p.m., after not having heard from her neighbors.
She knocked on the door, but got no answer. The next day it was the same story, as she heard only the family’s four dogs barking.
Another neighbor, Bernice R. Fortune, said the couple was having a hard time coping with the eviction.
“I was at Bible study on Tuesday night and Wallis called me and said ‘Please pray for me, I need your help so bad right now,’ “ said Fortune.
Behind on payments
In May, the Fays’ house was sold at auction -- they said without their knowledge -- for $51,000, according to court records. That price is $189,000 less than what the house appraised for two years ago.
The couple said during an interview with the News & Messenger that they had fallen four months behind on their $1,800 mortgage payments with J.P. Morgan. The two said they assumed the original loan in 1996 from the previous owner.
Before the foreclosure sale, Julie Fay said she offered to pay a portion of what was owed, but the mortgage company declined to accept anything less than the full amount owed.
They were told to be out of their home by Aug. 22, they said. Both said their mortgage company never notified them of the house going to action, as required by law.
“We ran into this problem one other time when we had other things going on, and we know that there are letters that come from mortgage companies, certified letters, even letters that come from lawyers, but they did not come this time,” said Wallis Fay, 52.
Wallis Fay was working at Costco in Fredericksburg and Julie split her time between her government job and part-time work at a Manassas pharmacy. But that still wasn’t enough to dig them out of their mortgage crisis, they said.
Then Wallis Fay’s mother, who lived in Colorado, died and the couple traveled to the state to bury her.
Two weeks later, when they returned home, the new owner of their house greeted them in their front yard and informed them of the sale, they said. He told them they had to vacate.
The couple claimed the new owner declined an offer to allow the Fays to pay him rent.
Calls to Washington-Mutual, the couple’s original mortgage holder, and to J.P. Morgan were not returned Friday.
The new owner of the house, Benham Shirvani, has purchased several homes in the same neighborhood, according to court records. Shirvani paid $51,000 for the town house. He could not be reached for comment Friday.
Seeking government help
During the foreclosure, the couple said they reached out to local and state offices hoping for some kind of government assistance.
A spokesman from Sen. Mark Warner’s office confirms they spoke with the couple, but declined to say what was discussed, citing confidentiality matters.
The couple also contacted Dumfries Mayor Fred E. Yohey Jr.
“When I spoke to them, I had to take my mayor’s hat off and acted more like a concerned citizen who could listen to their problems,” said Yohey.
The mayor said that the town has no money available to help those who may be behind on their rent or mortgage. He also added that a significant number of homes in Dumfries have been foreclosed. However, a recent town-sponsored seminar aimed at helping people avoid foreclosure only netted two attendees, he said.
The last time Yohey spoke with Wallis Fay was a week ago.
“I thought it was a happy ending, that they both had jobs in Colorado and were all set up to move,” he said.
Neighbors said that happy ending was crushed when Wallis Fay learned Costco would not transfer his job from Fredericksburg to Colorado.
Fortune said she got a panicked phone call from Wallis Fay.
“He called me on the phone and said, ‘Well Ms. Bernice, they turned me down. I am not going to get my transfer. Now I don’t know what I am going to do,’ “ Fortune said.
Uriah Kiser can be reached at 703-878-8065.