STARKE, Fla. – Life was already difficult for Helen and Herb Bohannon. Herb is battling Stage 4 throat cancer, which forced him to retire early from his job as a car salesman.
Helen would like to retire, but she told us she can't. She explained that Herb's Social Security check doesn't cover their monthly household bills and his medical expenses.
Last year, the couple turned to the lead pastor of Harvest Church in Starke, Pastor Kyle Harrison. He is someone they've known for a long time and someone who has been a staple in the community for 20 years. They trusted him.
The Bohannons needed a new roof after it was damaged by a tornado. They said Harrison assured them he was a licensed contractor and could do the job. So they signed over all the insurance money to replace the roof to Harrison. Looking back, they said that was a terrible mistake.
As a result of our I-TEAM investigation in December that exposed the couple's plight, a viewer emailed us and offered to replace the Bohannon’s roof for free. Steve Scoates, owner of Big Fish Roofing, told us he did not want any attention -- he just wanted to “do the right thing.”
Scoates actually recognized Herb from our December story, despite his now gaunt appearance after battling a cancer for six years that has robbed him of most of his hair and his ability to eat solid foods.
"Herb sold me and my wife three cars when he worked at Duval Ford,” said Scoates. “I’m still driving one of them, it has more than 300,000 miles on it. Herb took care of us, so now I want to take care of Herb.”
“I fell to my knees and I praised the Lord, I thanked the Lord,” said Helen when she learned of Scoates' email to the I-TEAM.
The Bohannons said they were relying on their faith to help them find a way through their pain, despite Pastor Harrison’s actions. Helen told News4Jax it would have taken $46,000 to fix the additional damage caused by the poorly-repaired roof, replace it and correct damage caused by other work she had paid Harrison to complete, and he did not.
“We don’t have that kind of money,” she cried.
In addition to the generous offer from Big Fish Roofing, another contractor along with an electrician also contacted Helen to offer their services for free. Matthew Carlton and Prestige Electric donated supplies and labor to make the Bohannon’s property whole again.
“I’m so excited, I can’t stand it. I’m so excited just knowing it’s going to be done and I’m not going to have water in my house anymore,” said Helen as she stood outside her home in Lawtey.
Workers were nailing on her new roof during our interview.
We have also learned that within a week of our I-TEAM story last December, Pastor Kyle Harrison was removed from his job at Harvest Church in Starke. He turned down an on camera interview then, but did tell us the following in an email dated Dec. 11:
"I am working diligently to return all the funds back to the Bohannons. Please know that I am extremely regretful that this turned out the way it did, and it was NEVER my intentions to wrong them in any way. Several mistakes were made and I take full responsibility for them all,” wrote Harrison.
Two months after that promise, Harrison still has not paid back the Bohannons or spoken with them. We've also learned that Harrison has been spending time at a Jacksonville bar known for its topless dancers.
Our cameras spotted his truck in the parking lot of the gentlemen’s club about a week after our first story aired. Harrison was there for more than five hours. We also have video of Harrison, who walked outside several times while talking on the phone.
Harrison called the I-TEAM last week, saying he was still trying to work with a friend -- who is a contractor -- to replace the Bohannons’ roof. He called the same day Big Fish Roofing was actually out there replacing it. Harrison could not tell us when he was going to repay the couple the $26,009 he was paid last year.
Helen said she wants restitution from Harrison.
"You can forget the sin, but not the debt,” she said.
Harrison’s next court date is scheduled for March. He is charged with falsely identifying himself as a contractor, a misdemeanor offense.