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Updated 06/09/13 04:46:18 PM   

June 15, 1005
Spring Garden's most famous resident avoids eviction by Linda Baker


Natalie Berquist and Attorney Chuck Woods

Spring Garden's notorious resident, Natalie Berquist, won an eviction reprieve Friday in Justice of the Peace Sandy Prindle's courtroom. 

Big D Holdings, LLC., the owner of record of the townhouse at 3984 Witten Drive, had hired Fort Worth attorney Annette Loyd to purge Berquist from the home. 

Since Berquist had no written lease, paid no rent, and had appeared to have moved from the residence.

Ms. Loyd and a representative from Big D Holdings, who had flown in for the case, had expected little opposition to Justice Prindle to granting the eviction. 

Unlike the Municipal Court action in late May for Seizure of her abandoned cats, this time, Natalie showed up for the proceedings with her own attorney and a few surprises. Charles E. Woods, of Short, How, Frels & Heitz in Dallas, represented Berquist, who challenged the eviction on several grounds.

Attorney Loyd told Justice Prindle the townhouse on Witten Drive was primarily a business property that Big D Holdings originally purchased in May of 2002. It was to be used as a home base where Natalie Berquist could reside while she was completing Real Estate classes to obtain her license to sell. Berquist never completed the classes, nor received a Realtor license, and Berquist was a "tenant at will". Ms. Loyd indicated that Big D Holdings had decided the "will" was up, three years later, and the two required notices had been sent, the last a 3-day Demand to leave, on May 31, 2005.

Justice Prindle asked Loyd if Big D Holdings was primarily a real estate company and Loyd affirmed that it is, but not currently active in Texas.

Justice Prindle asked Charles "Chuck" Woods to respond. Attorney Woods began by pointing out the first notice had gone to the wrong address. Berquist added she had not moved out previously, but that someone had kept changing the locks on her house to prevent her coming into the home. 

Then Woods went on to say that 3-4 years ago, Natalie Berquist and Michael R. Boyce, who is an officer of Big D Holdings, LLC. had an affair, and that Boyce not only asked her to live in the townhouse, but told her he was purchasing it for her, as a "premarital gift." Boyce had promised to marry Natalie, and the case "goes to when the promises were made," Woods stated. Only recently had Berquist, "unbeknownst to her, learned the home was not put in her name, but put in the name of Big D Holdings." Attorney Woods told Justice Prindle that a lawsuit was going to be prepared against Michael Boyce.

Justice Prindle said "The company has a right to reclaim their property, and this action can be resolved out of that action."

Chuck Woods responded by flourishing a document he said had been faxed to him last week. Woods said "Big D Holdings has no right to bring a lawsuit in Texas, because they are behind in paying their franchise fees to the State, from September 13, 2003. We ask this case be dismissed, because the company is not in 'good standing' to issue a notice to vacate." 

Attorney Annette Loyd stated she had not seen the document, but would certainly have Big D Holdings' CPA look at it. 

Justice Sandy Prindle told the parties that when and if Big D Holdings returns to 'good standing,' another 30 Notice to Vacate could be issued, and "Meanwhile" he said, "I am Dismissing this case Without Prejudice."

In a brief interview outside the courtroom, Charles Woods and Natalie Berquist were asked if a lawsuit in District Court had already been filed against Michael Boyce or Big D Holdings, LLC. Woods replied "Not yet." 

When asked if it would make any difference if Boyce had been married to someone else at the time of the promise to give Berquist the townhouse and marry her. Woods said that it would not, under Texas Family code 1.108. 

This statute below can be found at this web site.

§ 1.108. PROMISE OR AGREEMENT MUST BE IN WRITING. A 
promise or agreement made on consideration of marriage or 
nonmarital conjugal cohabitation is not enforceable unless the 
promise or agreement or a memorandum of the promise or agreement is 
in writing and signed by the person obligated by the promise or 
agreement.

Added by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 7, § 1, eff. April 17, 1997. 

When asked about her abandonment of the cats and kittens, Natalie Berquist said "I checked on the kittens every two days. If the locks hadn't been changed it would not have been a problem. My daughter and I volunteer at Petsmart for two to four hours a week." LNO contacted the Southlake Petsmart and was told that they were not familiar with anyone named Natalie that worked there in any capacity.

Woods added that he would like to know how the Animal Control Officer could just "use Forcible Entry" to save the kittens, "it would only be the second time in 150 years" to be allowed.

(Richard Berquist, Natalie's brother, had advised the ACO about the kittens and said he had "permission from the mortgage company and their attorney" to enter the townhouse.) 

Colleyville Police reports note that on May 17 the Colleyville Animal Control Officer, Michelle Benton receive a message from a Spring Garden neighbor that she had been feeding two adult cats because the resident that owned them (Natalie Berquist) had moved out and left them.

Benton was told that the two cats came out of an open window and were very hungry and thirsty when she found them.  The caller wanted Benton to investigate.  Upon arrival at 3984 Whitten, Benton notes that she was approached by an individual identifying himself as Richard Berquist, the brother of Natalie Berquist.  When he was advised that Benton was there to pick up two cats, Berquist told the officer that the cats belonged to his sister Natalie and that "no one knows where she is, but knows she had not been back at the town house for at least two weeks."  Berquist said he thought there might be more cats in the town house.  

Benton notes that shortly after leaving the scene she received a call from Berquist that he had made entry into the house.  Benton called for assistance of Detective Hillary Wreay and the two met Richard Berquist at the scene.  When asked how he had made entry, Berquist told the police officers that "he had permission from the mortgage company and their attorney."

Upon going into the town house, the officers went up stairs where they found three kittens about 4 weeks of age and three more about one week old, one of which was dead.   Benton said she picked up one of the kittens and "could feel all of his ribs and other bones."  The kittens were immediately taken to Dr. Allen at the Boulevard Animal Hospital.

In the investigation by Detective Hillary Wreay, she reports that neighbors stated that cats were climbing in and out of an upstairs window and that Natalie Berquist had not been seen for some time.  The report also noted that Richard Berquist, who was at the house on May 17th, stated that he could hear cats inside "screaming."  

It was noted that Richard Berquist spoke to neighbors that suggested he use a ladder to access the home.  Berquist stated that he entered the home and called out to Natalie, his sister.  He said that he saw four to five kittens "meowing uncontrollably."  "He continued to look around the house as he side stepped around the feces.  Due to the aroma in the home, Richard exited and contacted ACO Benton."

Wreay reported that she entered the home after speaking to Richard Berquist and immediately observed animal feces on the floor and a foul order.  She noted that while there was a bowl that contained cat food it was two feet off the ground with a Styrofoam cup with no water inside.  The electricity to the home was turned off.

The report continued that the Detective went upstairs and observed kittens too young to have gotten downstairs on their own and "certainly could not access the food that was two feet off the ground on the window seat."  There was no food or water in the area.  She stated that three of the kittens could eat soft kitten food if provided, but two were too young to care for themselves and would need to be nursed or given nutrition through a dropper.

A couch was removed from the wall and a deceased kitten was found.  Wreay wrote that, "the home appeared to be abandoned, except that there were a couple of couches and a bed."

LNO confirmed that the water was cut off to the residence for non-payment.

LNO had previously received emails about concern for these animals when the story was first posted.  Especially concerning the cruelty of abandonment, and what action could be taken against an individual responsible.

Detective Hillary Wreay of the Colleyville Police Department filed the case with the Tarrant County District Attorney's Office "for consultation" on June 2, 2005. On June 8, 2005, a response from the DA's office indicated that, "there was insufficient evidence to make an arrest in this case."  Wreay concluded no further action to be taken and the case deposition was "cleared exceptionally-Prosecution declined."

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