A Forest park man is on a hunger strike and living in a tent on his front lawn to raise awareness about his years-long effort to regain control of his late father’s property in the 1100 block of Circle Avenue.
Xavier Murillo Guerrero, 52, who has lived in the village for more than two decades at several addresses, says he began forgoing food around 1 p.m. on Jan. 1 and has spent the following nights outside 1132 Circle Ave. in a tent.
Since his father unexpectedly died in a car accident in 2005, Guerrero has unsuccessfully tried to transfer the deed of the house from his father, Jesus Murillo, to himself. His father’s will left no clear instructions, and Guerrero and his brothers — he is one of 14 siblings — have been haggling over the fate of the home ever since.
“My kids grew up here. I don’t want to move,” Guerrero said. “I love Forest Park. It’s my hometown. I know this is irrational [but] I have my faith and hope.”
In 2011, Guerrero stopped paying property taxes, refusing to invest any more money in a home he did not have full control over. According to the Cook County Clerk, Longstreet Capital Funding, a Chicago-based LLC registered to Brian Passmore, purchased the delinquent tax bill in an August 2013 sale.
Longstreet has paid the twice-yearly property tax bill since then. In October 2016 the Circuit Court of Cook County issued a tax deed to Longstreet Capital Funding. On Dec. 12 the court gave possession of the home to Longstreet, effective Dec. 31, 2016. Guerrero started his hunger strike the next day.
If a property owner fails to pay his or her tax bill, the property taxes are considered delinquent and can be sold at public auction, called a “tax sale.” The Cook County Treasurer’s officer conducts the sales. Property owners can redeem property by paying the tax buyer unpaid taxes, additional interest and fees.
Guerrero plans to continue the strike as long as possible, but acknowledged he will need to eat eventually. Guerrero lives in the home with his four children and wife, Juana Romero. Guerrero said he has contacted several lawyers to help him transfer the deed, but each one either refused to take him as a client or charged too much money.
Forest Park Department of Public Health and Safety Director Steve Glinke said the village is monitoring the situation but has no immediate plans to tell Guerrero to take down his tent, which does violate a local temporary structure ordinance.
“It’s not really what we prefer to see there. [But] we are allowing him to stay there,” Glinke said. The house has heat and the kids are safely inside.”
Forest Park police will drive by every few hours and the village is working with Passmore to sort out the situation. No residents have complained yet.
“The neighbors are usually the first to call,” Glinke said. “We haven’t received anything yet.”
When reached by phone Tuesday, Passmore had no comment.
Cook County Recorder of Deeds records show the Murillo family purchased the home in 1990 for $90,000.
Jesus Murillo, Ezequiel Murillo and Gabriel Muro — Guerrero’s father and brother and cousin, respectively — were listed on the deed. Guerrero is not listed on any documents but has lived in the home, along with a variety of family members, since it was purchased. He immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the 1980s.