Daughter of Legendary Radio Exec Says This Guy Has Taken Over Her Dad’s Home
Wynnefield resident Mannwell Glenn was walking his dog down a leafy, generally quiet neighborhood street earlier this week when he noticed something odd: Two men milling about 2400 Bryn Mawr Avenue, the property of the late Kernie Anderson, a veritable giant in the urban radio market who died in December.
Their presence stood out to Glenn, because this section of Wynnefield is a very tight-knit, secure community (Mayor Nutter lives literally around the corner) and as far as the neighbors were aware, no one had access to the house other than Anderson’s daughter and sole heir, Shama Anderson, who still kept tabs on the home and made occasional visits from Harrisburg, where she had relocated. Generally speaking, the house had been vacant since shortly after Anderson’s death, and so the new activity did not go unnoticed.
So, as any good neighbor would do, Glenn started asking questions.
“I asked, ‘Excuse me, who are you?'” remembers Glenn of his conversation with James Gadsden, the new 35-year-old resident. “And he responded, ‘We’re the owners.’ Well, I had already called Shama and had her on the line, and I told him, ‘No, I am talking to the owner on this phone. You’re nobody. You better leave.’ And then they left. But then I see them the next day and now they have kids and a woman, and they go inside the house.”
Months before, neighbors had discovered that the house had been broken into — and no one suggests that Gadsden had anything to do with that — and so Glenn and others nearby did their best to secure the 19th Century home, boarding up a broken window and changing the lock on the door, with Shama Anderson’s permission and gratitude. But when Glenn further investigated, checking the door upon seeing the new neighbors enter the house on Tuesday — a house with no electricity or running water — he realized that someone had changed the lock again. And since Shama Anderson said it wasn’t her, the cops were summoned to get to the bottom of the matter. Only that wouldn’t be so easy.
Glenn claims that when the cops arrived, Gadsden distinctly told them that he was invoking squatters rights — that strange, often misunderstood and rarely invoked section of the law that can, at least in theory, allow a person to claim a legal right to a property without ever having actually, you know, bought the property. There is no indication in the police report that Gadsden invoked those rights (of course, it’s worth pointing out that police reports generally only include a fraction of what is said and done when the cops visit your home), but what the police report does indicate is that Gadsden told police that he had purchased the property through the Department of Licenses & Inspections.
But on Thursday, Gadsden told us that both accounts — Glenn’s and the Philadelphia Police Department’s — are untrue. And he points out that the police left the property after his wife, Marissa Gadsden, showed legal ID bearing her name and 2400 Bryn Mawr Avenue as her legal residence, as police confirm.
“I never said anything to the police about squatters rights,” Gadsden told us in a conversation that he insisted on recording. “I am very aware of squatters rights, because I researched them. I do law. I passed the real estate exam, so I am familiar with it… At the end of the day, squatters do got rights. But I’ve never claimed squatters rights. But if you really want to get technical, yes, I could say squatters rights.”
OK then. But what about the police, who say that Gadsden told them that he bought 2400 Bryn Mawr Avenue from L&I?
“The cop lied,” insists Gadsden. “They are all lying.” (L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams assures us that his department is not in the real estate business. He also notes that the home was cited in May for not having a vacant property license. That citation is readily available online and essentially advertises: Hey, this home is unoccupied.)
The way Gadsden tells it, Shama Anderson actually told him that she was happy that he was in the house: “She wants me to have the property… She told me, ‘I was glad you are in the property… Put stuff to the side so I can get my stuff.’ She doesn’t want anything to do with the property.”
But Anderson’s story is completely different, saying that she never abandoned the house. “He told me, ‘We are great people. Whatever it is you want in your home, you are more than welcome to come and pick up. He told me that I was welcome to come get whatever I want out of the house. The gall of this man to tell me that I can come into my own home and take what I need.”
We asked Gadsden point blank whether he was the owner of the property and, if so, how he came to be the owner. First, he went off on a tangent about reverse mortgages and revealed that he had done quite a bit of research into Kernie Anderson and 2400 Bryn Mawr Avenue. Then, he refused to offer further explanation about his right to be on the property.
“Because of their nastiness to me and to the family… that’s why I won’t answer those questions,” Gadsden added. (By nastiness, he is referring, at least in part, to the fact that the Department of Human Services paid a visit to the house on Wednesday after receiving a complaint about children living in a house unfit for habitation.) He later told us that the only person he’ll provide any of these answers to is a judge; police instructed Anderson to initiate eviction proceedings against the family, and she says she will.
Gadsden suggested that we visit the Recorder of Deeds in Philadelphia and explained that the “facts are clear.” So we told him that we did, in fact, check with the Recorder of Deeds, and according to that office, the deeded owner of the home is, yep, Kernie Anderson. “Yes, the deed is assigned to Kernie, but it’s still in limbo,” Gadsden offered. Other city records show that Kernie Anderson had a significant number of run-ins with the Internal Revenue Service and the city over taxes, and there are active liens against the home. But there is no record of a foreclosure or sheriff sale at 2400 Bryn Mawr Avenue, and none of that changes the fact that the rightful owner of the home, as far as City Hall is concerned, is still Anderson.
It’s not the Gadsdens’ first time in the news or dealing with cops. In 2010, both husband and wife were arrested in Delaware County and charged with drug dealing. According to a report in the Daily Times, Marissa Gadsden allegedly barricaded herself inside her apartment so she could destroy evidence, while James Gadsden was accused of selling drugs to undercover cops on five occasions. At the time, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood called him a “significant dealer.” In the end, he made a deal, pleading guilty to felony drug charges and receiving a 20- to 40-month sentence and probation, while his wife pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and was sentenced to probation only.
As for Shama Anderson, she finds the whole situation heartbreaking.
“It hurts,” she tells us, fighting back tears. “What hurts me the most is the hard work that my parents put into this home, and to have someone come in and think they are going to take it — it’s absurd.”
Anderson remembers her parents — her mom died prior to her father — entertaining the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Wilson Goode Sr. and John Street in the house. After all, he was the head decision maker for the biggest black radio stations in the region and his influence was vast.
“And it makes me sad that it has to end this way after all my parents have done for the community,” she says. “I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”
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