A Columbia minister didn’t have to spend the last two months behind bars. He did anyway.
The Rev. Raymond Warren could have walked free if he signed five deeds that would relinquish his claim to several pieces of property in Columbia.
Instead, he told Boone County Associate Circuit Judge Larry Bryson in March that he wouldn’t sign the papers, and he still won’t sign them.
After being held at the Boone County Jail in contempt of court since late April, Warren was released Thursday morning.
“There was a blatant refusal,” Warren said. “And the judge acted on that, but it was brought to his attention that this isn’t over with.”
Warren remained under indirect court contempt Thursday.
He said the properties in question, which include an 80-acre farm south of Columbia, a house on Nifong Boulevard and four adjoined plots of land near his home off Providence Road, are his. He said he rightfully inherited or purchased them through a will and living trust set up in 1991 by his adoptive mother, Ruth Warren, before she died in 1993.
“I feel, legally, they have no right to that property,” Warren said.
“They” are the lawyer and the heirs named in Ruth Warren’s 1987 will — the document recognized by a jury in October 1997 as her last viable will and testament.
Court documents said a stroke Ruth Warren had in 1990 left heirs questioning her competency to draft a new will, and in the October 1997 trial, the 1991 will was ruled invalid. The living trust that gave Warren his land was thrown out in a summary judgement issued in 2001.
Brian McBrearty, the attorney for Ruth Warren’s estate, said Ray Warren had used the properties in addition to his house as collateral for a mortgage loan he took out to refinance his home. Now, McBrearty said, the estate faces two roadblocks before the land can be sold and the proceeds given to Ruth Warren’s other heirs.
First, the estate must get liens left by Warren’s mortgages removed from the properties. The estate must also convince Warren to sign the quitclaim deeds that would renounce his claim to the real estate. McBrearty said a title company, which ensures that a property owner has the right to sell that property, can’t get involved with selling the properties. So the estate is effectively in limbo until Warren signs the deeds.
“The title company has checklists they have to follow,” McBrearty said. “So when there’s a dispute and the local guy claims the land, you have to get him to quitclaim it.”
But Warren said he won’t be signing quitclaims anytime soon because the land is still his, according to Ruth Warren’s 1991 will, regardless of what the courts have found in the past.
“Different attorneys that I’ve talked to said this never should have even been in court because she had a living trust,” Warren said. “She had a chance to see it, you know.”