Recently, I had something so unexpected happen, I was in a state of sheer panic for a couple of hours.
Last Tuesday I was in front of my laptop doing what I do. The phone rang, and as usual, when I didn’t recognize the number, I ignored the call. A couple hours later, I happened to look down at the small cordless handset beside me, and saw the tiny amber light blinking, meaning I had a voice mail.
I dialed in, and heard this, “This message is for Donna Everhart. Ms. Everhart, this is Lieutenant Terrell with the Harnett County Sheriff’s Department, Warrants and Records Division. This is related to a court matter. Please call me at your earliest convenience.”
A court matter? I couldn’t imagine what this was about. I’d not had any speeding tickets in decades. It had to be some sort of mistake, so, I called the number thinking I’d fix this pronto. Ha.
“This is Lt. Terrell.”
“This is Donna Everhart, returning your call.”
“Ms. Everhart, I’m contacting you regarding grand jury selection. And regarding the two warrants I have for your arrest.”
“What? Warrants for my arrest? For what?!?!”
“Ms. Everhart, on March 17th, a letter was sent to you from the Harnett County Superior Court in regards to grand jury selection. It was expected that you would appear in court on April 14th. You did not appear in court, and Judge Faircloth has cited you with failure to appear, and these warrants have been issued, and are about to be activated.”
“Wait a minute, that’s impossible! I never received any letter!”
“Ma’am, okay, you can dispute it, but, I have right here, a copy of the letter which was sent. And now, Judge Faircloth has approved the activation of the warrants.”
(Needless to say, hyperventilating and freaking out begins. While I try to wrap my head around this, I demand clarification and answers – as if I have any control.)
“Wait a minute, wait a minute. This is crazy! This is insane! I never received any letter! Are you telling me the courts can just send a letter, and if people don’t appear they can be arrested???”
“Yes ma’am. If they’ve indicated they are going to show up.”
“What do you mean, ‘indicated they are going to show up?’ I never got any letter, how can I have said that?”
“I have your response here.”
“No, no, you don’t. There’s been some sort of mistake.”
“Well, ma’am, that’s possible, but right now, I’ve got these warrants and this all needs to get resolved today. I’m trying to give you an opportunity to complete a ‘conditional attachment’ to take care of this, to avoid, if possible your arrest.”
“Wait. What? A what?”
“A conditional attachment.”
“What is that?”
“If you’ll calm down, I’ll explain what you need to do. But, Ms. Everhart, please be aware, these warrants are in the system for activation, and this may or may not prevent that from happening.”
Needless to say, more hyperventilating and freaking out, and NOW, I’m getting emotional.
Sobs, “Oh God. I can’t believe this. There’s a big mistake. This is all a big mistake.”
“Ma’am, I need you to calm down. I need to be able to tell you what you need to do.”
More sobbing, “Oh God. Oh God.”
“Are you able to write this down? The instructions for what you need to do to rectify this?”
Sobbing, “Yes. I’ve got a pen. What do I do.”
“I need you to get an envelope, and address it to Harnett County Superior Court House. Address is…. Did you get that?”
Still sobbing, “Yes. But, what’s this for?”
“The receipt that will be issued to you, and what you will send once you pay these fines. Bring cash or check, no credit cards, to the Harnett County Sheriffs department at…ma’am, are you all right?”
“No! I’m not. I’m upset!
“Ma’am I need for you to calm down. I’m just doing my job.”
Still crying, “Okay, all right, but I need to talk to my lawyer. Something’s wrong. This doesn’t seem right.”
“Ma’am, you can call your lawyer if you want. That’s not a problem. If you do that, I can’t guarantee I can stop the activations.”
“Can’t you give me five minutes? I’ll call you back in five minutes.”
“Okay. Five minutes.”
I call my next door neighbor – who just so happens to be the city attorney. I explain to him as best as I can without having a major meltdown what’s going on. He asks if the guy wants a credit card number. Which is what I was on high alert for during the entire conversation. If he had wanted my credit card, I’d have been all like, “Uh, hell no, and hell no.”
I tell City Attorney he said cash or check only. I tell CA the address he’s given me of where I need to take it.
CA said, “Well, that IS the sheriff’s department address. I guess you better go and see what’s going on.”
“That will allow Judge Faircloth to set a court date. The matter will not be held in open court, but in chambers, where you’ll be able to dispute the matter.”
“And how much are they?”
“One if $1,498.00 and the other is $998.00 both for the failure to appear.”
I swallow hard, and tell him, “Okay. I’m on my way.”
“Ma’am, before you come, I need your cell phone number to establish a link with GPS.”
“Uh, okay, why?”
“Like I’ve been saying, these warrants are about to be activated, and I’ll need to have an open line to you in case, between your house and here you’re stopped. You don’t have to talk to me. It’s just an open connection, where I can prevent an arrest if they see your vehicle and initiate the arrest.”
“I don’t have a cell phone. I have OnStar.”
“I’m on my way now.”
“I’ll see you in twenty minutes.”
In the meantime during the last five minutes, my husband has come in, seen the state I’m in. He only understands the basics which I scribbled down on piece of paper and flipped up for him to see. *FAILURE TO APPEAR*
He and I go to his truck in silence.
I call Lt. Terrell’s number and it goes to voice mail, which states, “This is the Harnett County Sheriff’s Department Warrants and Records Division. Leave your name, number and message and someone will call you back.”
I give him my husband’s cell phone, and tell him my husband is bringing me. I call the number a couple more times while on the way and get vm.
We arrive at the Sheriff’s Department, I go in and up to the glass window where a young woman is sitting.
“I need to see a Lt. Terrell.”
She shakes her head, “There is no Lt. Terrell. It’s a scam.”
Guess what I do? Yeah. Boo hoo. This time in relief. I have a lily white reputation to maintain, don’t you know.
And…, that’s when my husband starts cussing. And that’s when we are taken into a REAL Lt.’s office where we file a report. Turns out I was the third victim in Harnett County, while Wake County (my home county) has something like 400 cases similar to this.
After it was all said and done, I began to play the what if game. What if he wanted to know where I was (via GPS) so buddies of his could back a truck up and clean us out? What if he was watching the house? Saw me leave? What if he fell in behind me and all along I’m “linked” to his cell phone, and on some stretch of Hwy 421, a car with a blue light in the dash pulls me over?
What if I said, “Oh no, they’re pulling me over, what do I do? Can’t you stop this?”
What if he played the part and said “Sorry. I tried to prevent this. Just go with them, and it will be straightened out.”
What if the call then disconnected and I’m under the impression I AM being arrested.
What if the “sheriff,” came to my window and said, “Ma’am, please step out of the car. You’re under arrest.”
What if I did as he said, and he put me in the back of his “squad” car and took off?
Thinking beyond that…, well, it’s too scary, too real, it hits too close to home.
What’s the strangest thing to happen to you lately?