Eviction not due to theft of shoes

Jason Garner

Coty Vernon

There’s more to a story about a local family being evicted because their 13-year-old boy stole a pair of shoes, according to an official whose organization manages Grand Junction’s Garden Village Apartments.

KJCT-TV reported last week that Tanya Abbey and her three children were facing eviction and would end up in the homeless shelter at Christmas as a result of her son recently shoplifting from Kmart.

Dan Whalen, executive director of Housing Resources of Western Colorado, said his organization cannot disclose the details of the matter because of confidentiality issues of residents who live in the government-subsidized housing complex at 2601 Belford Ave. But the agency said in a news release that neither the Abbey family, nor anybody else, would be evicted prior to or during the holiday. And Whalen disputed Abbey’s claim about why her family is being evicted.

“There’s no way we would evict someone based on a minor shoplifting charge,” Whalen said. “There are other circumstances involved with this.”

In a phone interview Tuesday, Abbey said management told her she would be evicted within a month as she paid her rent Nov. 28. Abbey said that news came after she told management that her son had shoplifted a pair of shoes from Kmart, 2809 North Ave. Abbey said her eviction notice says only that she violated terms of her lease, that tenants cannot be involved with criminal activity on or around the premises.

“It’s become a big pull on my son,” she said. “He feels like he’s responsible.”

Abbey said she wasn’t aware her son, Oran, needed new shoes, but he did tell her “he was going to save me some money.”

“He had a hole in the bottom of his sole,” she said. “He didn’t tell me that.”

Several news agencies across the nation, including the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report, picked up the story after it aired over the weekend.

Multiple people called The Daily Sentinel on Tuesday asking how they could donate money to the family or stop the eviction.

Abbey’s mother, Yvonne Shields, said some folks in Denver have planned to raise money for the Abbey family, with $500 of a $5,000 goal already raised.

Abbey said she’s not aware of any other criminal activity that would give officials at the apartment complex reason to evict her. She said an intoxicated friend struck her son in their apartment about seven months ago.

Abbey has a checkered past that she attributes to stealing a vehicle in an attempt to escape from a bad relationship.

“I stole a truck to get away,” she said. “I ended up crashing it.”

She was arrested in February 2007 by Fruita police on misdemeanor charges of failing to appear in court and being a fugitive from another jurisdiction. Less than a month later, she was arrested on a host of charges including motor-vehicle theft, driving under the influence of drugs, driving with a denied driver’s license and careless driving, according to Colorado Bureau of Investigation records.

Abbey ultimately pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of motor vehicle theft and driving under the influence, a misdemeanor. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail minus 18 days for time served and 96 hours of community service, according to CBI. Her most recent and final arrest was in January 2008 on a probation violation.

Shields said her daughter had used methamphetamine, but she has been clean for four years.

In addition, Abbey confirmed she’s married to convicted killer Jason Garner, who was found guilty in 2004 of first-degree murder in the slaying of 18-year-old Coty Vernon near De Beque in 1998. Abbey said she dated Garner years ago and was best friends with Vernon. Abbey’s Facebook page indicates she and Garner wed in October.

The story about the impending eviction prompted a number of angry calls to Housing Resources of Western Colorado. Police are listening to and looking into a number of threatening voicemails the agency received, Grand Junction Police Department spokeswoman Kate Porras said.

Abbey said she was on a waiting list for 16 months to get into the apartment complex. If she stays for three more months, she’s eligible to receive a voucher to get into a home. Abbey said she pays $154 a month for rent, plus the cost of utilities.

Her son received a sentence to complete 40 hours of community service and had to write a lengthy essay, Abbey said.

An eviction notice for Abbey hasn’t yet appeared on file at the Mesa County Justice Center. Sometimes an eviction notice outlines reasons in a complaint, but not always, according to a Mesa County District Court clerk.

“If there are other reasons (for being evicted), I sure would like to know what those reasons are,” Abbey said.


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