Sovereign citizen leaves McHenry house

McHENRY – Before a sheriff’s deputy arrived Friday morning, Marion Berntsen was bundled up waiting for someone to pick her up at the end of Anja Hertel’s driveway.

Berntsen had bags of her remaining belongings with her, a day after most of her stuff had been moved out.

The so-called sovereign citizen had left the property peacefully before the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office came to assist in her eviction. When asked where she planned to go, the 73-year-old Berntsen mumbled incoherently, but said she would be going to court.

A Pace bus briefly stopped in front of the house, but it wouldn’t allow Berntsen to board. Eventually, an unidentified man picked up Berntsen and her remaining belongings and left Hertel’s house.

Friday morning’s departure ended Berntsen’s stay at Hertel’s house, where she had rented a room since August.

Inside, after the sheriff’s office obtained the key to Berntsen’s room, an inspection revealed stained carpets, garbage, bugs and a stench that forced people to quickly leave the vacant room.

There have been fruit flies in the house constantly, Hertel said.

“Oh my. What did she do?” Hertel said after the door opened.

“It’s all coming out,” Hertel later added.

She said she planned to change the locks to her house Friday afternoon.

Hertel filed a petition to evict Berntsen after Berntsen had called the police more than 10 times, accused Hertel of stealing her belongings and filed an order of protection as well as a civil lawsuit claiming $15,000 in damages for stolen items.

In addition to a retainer fee of $4,000 for an attorney, Hertel also has racked up other costs, missing work to attend court hearings, paying police fees and covering damage to the rented room and her driveway, she said. Berntsen also has not paid the last three months worth of rent, a total of $1,500.

After a judge ordered Berntsen to leave, Hertel also had to pay for the sheriff’s police to be at the house to assist in the eviction.

“I think it went as well as can be expected,” Hertel said. “I wasn’t sure if she would leave in the middle of the night or anything, but she was here.”

Hertel added that over the past two days, Berntsen has been on the phone, crying and upset, asking for help.

Looking back, Hertel wishes she had checked references, had an application and asked for a driver’s license.

“She said she was a Christian, and I was thinking ‘I could be a friend to her, and she could be a friend to me,’” Hertel said. “She was nothing of anything that she said.”

Hertel said she had a verbal agreement with Berntsen.

“Just don’t be really trusting,” Hertel said. “I’m a trusting person, and that’s changed.”

She said that if people rent out rooms in their house, they should know the person, whether a friend of someone they know, or have the tenant have a recommendation. Having a short tryout period before signing a lease also would be a good idea.

Friends of Hertel arrived shorty after Berntsen left to help clean the 15-foot-by-25-foot room, with a closet and bathroom.

“I’m really glad this part’s over,” Hertel said.

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