Whatever Happened to Eva Mae?

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Eva Mae, Washburn says, told him and his crew to stay away. She said she needed her house to be repaired, and that the two men had told her that couldn't happen if Washburn's crew continued to work for her.

Washburn left, as asked. But several weeks later he returned, just to make sure Eva Mae was okay. What he found when he got to her house, he says, was the last thing he expected to see.

Posted in Eva Mae's front yard was a sign saying her home had been sold.

John Schillinger is a Scottsdale real estate broker who specializes in quick sales. He advertises all over the Valley that he will pay cash for houses, regardless of their condition.

On January 24, Schillinger got a call that was, as he describes it, a typical response to his ad, and the urgency didn't give him pause.

The caller said his name was Carlos and he wanted Schillinger to come look at a property on East Palm Lane in the historic Coronado district. Schillinger drove over that day.

He met Eva Mae and Carlos, who neighbors say was actually Chris, the natty Hispanic. According to Schillinger, Carlos said he was Eva Mae's son-in-law and that he needed money immediately to get his son out of jail. Carlos said his mother-in-law was very embarrassed about the condition of her home.

Schillinger says Eva Mae appeared coherent and friendly. She told him that her mother had died years before, and that she wanted to sell her house.

The house was a wreck, according to Schillinger. The foundation needed repair. Trash and debris filled the interior. A foul odor emanated from the dark, dank rooms. The ceiling was deteriorating.

Carlos did most of the talking that day. He said Eva Mae lived with him. He stressed that he needed bail money and that he planned to find Eva Mae a new place to live. A second man was at the house, but didn't speak, Schillinger says.

Schillinger offered $30,000, and Carlos countered with $32,000, which Schillinger agreed to pay. Eva Mae, he says, signed the contract that day.

"Eva Mae, in her own handwriting, wrote 'Thank you' below her signature," Schillinger says. "She appeared to be happy and relieved."

On January 28, Carlos took Eva Mae to get a copy of her mother's death certificate, which was needed by the title company. A day later, she and Carlos arrived at Fidelity National Title to close the deal.

Carlos was agitated and demanded that they receive a check immediately. The title company reluctantly agreed.

In a matter of moments, Eva Mae signed away her home of 30 years.

Fidelity National Title officials were reluctant to talk to New Times about the sale of Eva Mae's house. A spokesman for the company says nothing appeared suspicious at the closing.

Eva Mae, according to the spokesman, was "lucid" and did not appear "to be under duress."

Schillinger says he spoke to Carlos once more, on January 29, on Carlos' cell phone. The man said he had found Eva Mae a new place to live.

Everything seemed okay.

Eva Mae Wilson may have spent much of her life retreating from society, but she couldn't keep people from liking her.

And worrying about her.

Even strangers who heard about her life alone, caring for a sick mother, found a place for her in their hearts.

Almost as soon as neighbors and acquaintances realized Eva Mae was gone and her home sold, the search for her whereabouts began. Leading the hunt was Donna Nichols, but she wasn't alone.

One of Eva Mae's former co-workers, June Martin, was worried because it had been months since she last heard from her friend.

Eva Mae often wrote her, sharing the poems she liked to write, but she always seemed embarrassed when Martin complimented her. She clipped pages from newspapers and mailed them to Martin. One of Eva Mae's favorite things to do was to play matchmaker with the personal ads. She would link ads together with arrows and scribble comments.

Martin had left Phoenix after retiring from Honeywell in the late 1980s, but her friendship with Eva Mae didn't fully blossom until Martin decided to return to school and complete her college degree.

"She always wanted to go to college, and she would help me with her limited funds," Martin says. "The last time I heard from her was August, and I had sent her some of the money I owed her."

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John W. Allman