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Finally, in late March, Amy Randall, the tax assessor, called Isabel to tell her that the keys to the farm were available for pick-up at the County Sheriff's Department. Since Isabel had been in possession of the deed to the property for several weeks, she had become discouraged with her slow progress with the county's bureaucracy. Now, the day had finally arrived. . . .

After obtaining a set of keys to the county-provided padlocks on the doors of the Farm, Isabel, Micah, Hank and I drove up to Hiawassee to visit, and view the contents of the Stoddard Farm. I rode in Isabel's Ford with Isabel and Micah, and Hank Beavers followed in his pickup.

I guess they brought me along for protection, but, frankly, going into a house where a dead guy had rotted for over a month was really creeping me out big time. Thank God for my 'poker face;' they never saw me tremble.

The day was sunny and unseasonably warm as we drove down the muddy lane to the Stoddard Farm. Even before it came time to enter the house, Isabel made it clear to us that she was very uncomfortable because she felt like she was "breaking into someone else's home." For Isabel, there was no sense of entitlement, and nothing seemed to fit the scenario that was about to play itself out on that balmy March day.


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