A Story Of A Dream Come True That Turned Into Nightmare

Man found $182000 in woman's wall, but none of them got to keep it.

Stumbling upon a great amount of money and becoming rich overnight is probably every man's dream. We all secretly wish to discover a wealthy relative, a treasure in our back yards, or a winning lottery ticket. Sadly, most of us are not that lucky and still have to go to work every day, hoping for a miracle.

However, miracles do happen. Contractor Bob Kitts and homeowner Amanda Reece stumbled upon a treasure hidden a wall. It could have changed both their lives, but due to disagreeing on how to split it, they both lost most of it.

Bob Kitts, a contractor in Cleveland, was working on rehabilitating an 83-year-old house - property of Amanda Reece, his former classmate. As he was gutting her bathroom, below the medicine cabinet, he found a box with $25200 in pristine bills.

He called his then-employer-friend-and former classmate, who rushed home, and together they found three more boxes, filled with more money and religious memorabilia. They were so excited and celebrated the life-changing event together.

They counted everything and found they had $182,000 in cash, of which, $157,000, were stored in white envelopes with the return address for "P. Dunne News Agency", and $25,000 were found in a carboard box.

After an expert evaluation, they found that the money in the wall were depression-era bills. There were several $500 bills and a $1000 one, and many of the $10 bills were rare 1929-series Cleveland Federal Reserve bank notes, now worth about $85 each.

The money and the house were traced to a businessman named Peter Dunne, who was unmarried and childless when he passed away, leaving behind a little fortune. In today's money, adjusted with inflation, his wealth would have been worth $2.7 million.

The two had clearly stumbled upon a fortune which was about to change their lives, so they had plenty of reasons to celebrate. However, when the celebration and excitement were over, it was time for house owner Amanda Reece and contractor Bob Kitts to share the money. But how?

The woman who owned the house offered Kitts a 10 percent fee for finding the money. The man thought he deserved much more than that. He rejected her offer and demanded 40% of the money, or he would file a lawsuit.

The two started arguing on how to share the money, and their story drew the media's attention. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the story in December 2007 and a month later, Dunne's heirs sued for their share of the money.

A messy lawsuit started, with 3 parts claiming ownership of the money: Amanda Reece, as it was found in her walls; Bob Kitts, as he was the one who found it; Peter Dunne's successors, as they were the rightful heirs.

However, when the lawsuit started, there was not much left to claim. Amanda Reece testified she had sold some of the bills to a coin dealer, and about $60,000 had been stolen from a shoebox in her closet. So, most of the money were gone.

Even though she never reported the theft to the police, she accused her former classmate, Bob Kitts, of stealing the money and started leaving him threatening phone messages. He denied stealing any money, and the lawyer representing the Dunne estate, said he doubted there was any theft in the first place.

The court decided that since the envelopes were on Peter Dunne's name, the money found inside them, $157,000 would belong to Mr. Dunne's twenty-one heirs. As for the rest of $25,230, the court determined it belonged to the owner of the house, Amanda Reece.

However, Amanda Reece gave up her claim over the money, so the court decided they would be split between Bob Kitts and Mr. Dunne's heirs. Mr. Kitts received 13.7% of the amount and the rest was shared between the 21 heirs.

If the bills are sold at the appraised value of $38,592, Mr. Kitts gets $5,287, which is a lot less than he was offered in the first place. Amanda Reece, on the other hand, came out empty handed, even though the money was found on her property. 

At the end of this messy story, the two who initially fought for the money were the ones who lost the most. Mrs. Reece testified that she was in debt due to the real estate meltdown, a bank foreclosed one of her properties and she was intending to file for bankruptcy.

Mister Dunne's twenty-one heirs got over $1000 each, as most of the money was gone when the lawsuit started. They could have sued Amanda Reece for more, but since she declared bankruptcy, they would not have gotten much.

Bob Kitts did win some money, but the $5,287 probably did not change his life completely. Especially since his contractor business had a lot to suffer after this story became famous and the media portrayed him as greedy.

When asked why he did not just shut up and keep the money for himself, Bob Kitts said he was not raised this way. He did not think he was entitled to all the money, but he believed he deserved more than 10 percent of it.

Bob Kitts says this has been a unique experience and seeing all that money was fascinating. He would gladly relive this part, but not the part with the threats and scandals. He believes he did nothing wrong and feels vindicated by the court decision.

An attorney who represents the Dunne's estate called this 'the greed case'. "If these two individuals had sat down and resolved their disputes and divided the money, the heirs would have had no knowledge of it," Mr. Marcinkevicius said. Since they were greedy, they both lost.

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