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Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Leawood couple sues after learning their home was scene of grisly murder

February 19, 2002

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— Pam and John Westhoff followed the news reports of a grisly killing in Leawood  an elderly man beaten to death with a baseball bat, his new wife badly injured.

Eighteen months later, they bought a house in Leawood.

The Westhoffs didn't connect the two events for another year. A neighbor's chance remark to a contractor told them what nobody else had; that they had bought the house where Lawrence Kubik was murdered in 1999.

Pam Westhoff said that when she learned of the house's history, "I became physically ill."

The Westhoffs have filed a lawsuit in Johnson County District Court, claiming they were victims of misrepresentation. They also claim the sale violated Kansas consumer protection laws.

Their lawsuit alleges that the previous homeowners and the real estate professionals had a duty to disclose that a "gruesome murder" had occurred in the house.

The defendants say they had no such obligation, although in court documents answering the accusations, they maintain that an agent working for the Westhoffs was told about the crime. The Westhoffs' agent denies the claim.

Disclosure that a house was a crime scene is not required in either Kansas or Missouri, where the Westhoffs lived before moving to the Kansas side of the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Attorneys involved in the case said Kansas courts have not addressed the question of whether a seller should be required to disclose that a heinous crime occurred in a house.

In their lawsuit, the Westhoffs are asking for more than $200,000 in property damages; $500,000 for pain and suffering; and $5 million in punitive damages.

Pam Westhoff, however, said the intent of the lawsuit was to prompt a change in real estate disclosure requirements.

She thinks homebuyers should be given as much information as possible so they can make an informed choice.

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