Monday, July 28, 2014

TOP STORY >> Contractor says he is not guilty

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville contractor accused of swindling an 90-year-old McAlmont woman out of nearly $60,000 pleaded not guilty to a felony theft of property charge on Monday.

A pre-trial hearing for Marcus Dupree, 36, of North-star Consultants will be held at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 20. The trial will start at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 19.

Both will be held in Room 220 of the Pulaski County Courthouse in Little Rock. Judge Barry Sims is presiding.

Gretchen Madison filed a lawsuit on July 8, 2013. She is seeking $520,000 because inspectors say Dupree, after he tore down her old house, built a new one that is uninhabitable.

The contractor is accused of stealing the $60,000 he was paid to rebuild the elderly woman’s home at 420 Freda Road plus six boxes of ceramic tile taken from the construction site.

Madison’s daughter, Sam Parsley, said Dupree claimed he was taking the tile because her mother still owed him $2,400 he had used to purchase building materials.

Dupree was arrested on Oct. 2. Madison’s family fired him on Feb. 25 for failing to meet several deadlines and leaving, according to inspectors, an incomplete house rife with code violations. That was the day Parsley saw him stealing the tile and called 911, but Dupree allegedly fled the scene.

Dupree has filed for bankruptcy and asked that the civil lawsuit be dismissed.

Madison’s son-in-law, Todd Parsley, told The Leader late last month, “We are fighting to break through the bankruptcy based upon the discrepancies that were discovered in his original filing.”

Those discrepancies included new vehicles for Dupree and his wife plus a recent Gulf Shores vacation they took, Parsley said previously.

Madison, who is staying with her daughter in Cabot, had lived on the Freda Road property for 49 years. Then her house was damaged beyond repair by a water leak.

She obtained three bids to tear it down and rebuild it with money she received after filing an insurance claim. Dupree’s bid was the only one that fit her budget.

Also listed in her lawsuit are Jacksonville Water Commissioner Joy Kinman and her adopted son, Chili’s manager Robert (Drew) Walker. Walker is an officer of Northstar.

The Arkansas Contractor’s Board gave Kinman a letter of reprimand on Oct. 23, 2013, because of her role in the case.

Walker’s license was revoked in July 2013. He told the board then that Dupree reactivated the license without his permission and used it to do business.

Kinman, a licensed homebuilder, gave a reference for Walker, which she shouldn’t have done because he was a relative.

Madison’s family said Kinman and Walker are just as much at fault for what happened because, if Walker had not obtained a license with the reference, Dupree would not have been hired to construct the house. Dupree never had a contractor’s license.

Kinman’s defense is that, years ago, she accidentally misread the form that asked if she was related to the applicant for a contractor’s license.