After weeks of pain, frustration, and uncertainty, there's finally a small break for Buddy Wicker, the owner of a home that was demolished after a sinkhole formed underneath and killed a family friend.
Wicker got a phone call Monday night. It was his mortgage company. He said the man on the other end told him, "I have good news for you, Mr. Wicker."
"He said the mortgage has been paid in full. He said you no longer owe us anything," Wicker recalled. "I said, well thank you; praise the Lord."
Last week, we told you how Ocwen Financial sent Wicker a letter. In it, they told him, he still owed $4,455.84. That was in addition to the $130,189.00 they received from the insurance settlement after the home was condemned by the county.
The letter told Wicker they would not close out his account until they received the money. The letter also said Wicker had to restore the property back to the condition it was in prior to the sinkhole.
FOX 13 called and emailed Ocwen Financial. By Monday night, Wicker told us, he got a phone call.
On Tuesday, the company told FOX 13: "Ocwen Financial sincerely apologizes for the misunderstanding related to this account. The company has reached out to the borrower directly and the remaining balance on the loan has been written off. Our sympathy is with the family during this difficult time."
"I'm excited that it's paid off," continued Wicker.
The only question that now remains for him is what will happen to the land. The property was cleared and the sinkhole filled -- with the body of Jeff Bush still inside -- by order of Hillsborough County.
"Does it belong to me? When is it going to belong to me, or does it belong to the county? When are they taking responsibility for it?"
Now that the mortgage has been settled, Wicker plans to head back to North Carolina where he retired back in 2001.
"I'm still going to think about the home. Think about the good times I had here. The family I raised here. But it's gone now so we got to move on."
His family members who lived in the house at the time of the sinkhole will stay here. They are in the process of finding new places to live.
Wicker says, ever since the sinkhole opened up, he has come to the home on Faithway Drive just to look at what used to be. But he feels there's nothing more he can do here
"It's a hard thing to walk away from something like this," he added.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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