AKRON By the time deputies came to escort Addie Polk out of her home of 38 years, the 90-year-old had taken out her life insurance policy and placed it next to her pocketbook and keys in the neatly kept house.
She shot herself in the chest Oct. 1 before she could be taken away from the foreclosed house, which was worth less than its mortgage from the day she took out the loan.
A congressman called her the face of a national tragedy, the housing crisis that has affected millions of Americans. Neighbors were stunned and said they had no idea the widow had been about to lose her two-story, white vinyl home.
Ms. Polk, as she recovered, sounded a bit regretful.
She said that was a crazy thing to do, said neighbor Robert Dillon, 62, who visited her at the hospital.
Her cause was taken up by U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich and fueled blogs on reckless lending practices rampant during the housing boom. Mortgage finance company Fannie Mae dropped the foreclosure, forgave her mortgage and said she could remain in the home.
You have to shoot yourself to get help, lamented a neighbor, Hannah Garrett, 76.
The Summit County Sheriff s Department concluded Ms. Polk shot herself over the foreclosure, Lt. Kandy Fatheree said. A revolver was inches from her, and the house was locked.
Dillon heard the gunfire Oct. 1, climbed through an upstairs bathroom window and found her lying in bed bleeding.
Polk took out a mortgage in 1997 and refinanced several times after that, court and property records showed.
She took out a 30-year, 6.375 percent mortgage for $45,620 four years ago when the house was appraised at $31,230.
That move put her in a position that, according to Deutsche Bank, up to 40 percent of borrowers, or 20 million households nationwide, could face within 12 to 18 months: Suddenly she owed more on her house than it was worth.