BATH TWP. – A million-dollar “smart house” bought by a local Internet entrepreneur may soon be on the auction block to be sold for back taxes and mortgage payments.
Ryan D. Johnson, 22, bought the glass-fronted showpiece listed at$1.1 million in 2003 for $933,000.
Only two years after the purchase, however, police reports indicate that Johnson has done $100,000 damage to the house.
In May, he was declared incompetent to stand trial on a charge of contempt of court, and last month a judge ordered that he receive 60 days of inpatient care for mental illness.
An order to sell Johnson’s house is now being sought by WMC Mortgage Corp. of Woodland Hills, Calif., in Summit County Common Pleas Court. A motion for the foreclosure states he owes $190,876 in delinquent mortgage payments and interest. County records show he also is behind $31,922 in property taxes. The house is now valued at $840,000.
Lawyer Frank Pignatelli declined to comment on behalf of his client. He said Johnson is doing well in treatment at Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare, but he declined to discuss the nature of Johnson’s illness.
“It’s my understanding that once he is restored to competency, he will obviously return to the property and preserve his interests,” Pignatelli said.
While Johnson is receiving court-ordered care, his contempt case in Akron Municipal Court is on hold. Upon his release, he also will resume one year of probation from a previous case.That case stemmed from an incident in April when Bath police discovered Johnson threatening to jump off the roof of his Granger Road house.
Although the foreclosure lawsuit was filed in civil court in August 2004, Johnson has yet to be served with it because the street address, taken by the court from the mortgage, was incorrect.
A new summons with the correct address was issued July 7, but it is unclear whether the foreclosure process will continue while questions about Johnson’s mental competency are settled.
Court documents indicate he has not hired a lawyer for the foreclosure. A spokesman for Judge Marvin Shapiro’s office said the civil court had not been notified of Johnson’s mental difficulties or his incarceration.
The “smart house”
Johnson’s 4,200-square-foot house in the upscale suburb west of Akron was the subject of a hyped billboard campaign to attract athletes LeBron James or Ben Curtis as potential buyers. But the house seemed a fated match for the Cuyahoga Falls High School graduate and self-described computer consultant who said he made his money in Internet ventures.
It was built in 1991 and billed as a house of the 21st century. The white multistory house near a waterfall on Yellow Creek features a computer that warns of approaching visitors and, at the sound of its owner’s voice, opens and closes banks of windows and stops and starts the whirlpool, laundry, heater and air conditioner.
In an interview shortly after he moved in, Johnson told the Akron Beacon Journal he would live in the house with buddies, and he looked forward to having his family over for Thanksgiving.
Johnson said his father was supportive, but his mother was worried about the expense. “She thinks I’m going to be like Mike Tyson and spend all my money, then go living on the streets.”
Neither of Johnson’s parents could be reached for comment for this article, and friends contacted for comment did not return telephone messages.
Run-ins with police
Public documents give some of the details of Johnson’s time on Granger Road.
Court documents show he was delinquent on his 30-year mortgage eight months after signing for the loan.
In the spring of 2004, Bath police reported that Johnson smashed a two-month-old Volkswagen Toureg blaring rock music through the security gate of his house, plowed the car into a tree and then beat it with golf clubs and boulders. A Mercedes SL500 was found parked in Yellow Creek under the bridge to the then-20-year-old’s mansion.
Johnson wasn’t breaking any laws by breaking up his cars on his property, so police went away after the music died down and they were certain no one was injured.
There were also other, minor run-ins with the law. A month earlier, Johnson was arrested on a charge of obstructing official business when he refused to produce a driver’s license or remain in his car while being cited for a fire-lane violation at Summit Mall.
Neighbors notice him
Since then, Johnson and his house — now obscured by boarded-up windows and a long-neglected front yard full of waving, weedy grass — have become a neighborhood mystery, the subject of dinner-party speculation.
“It’s abandoned now,” Granger Road neighbor Bob Gold said of the local landmark. “There’s a small, packedDumpster and furniture scattered out in front of the garage.”
Seeing the disarray wasn’t Gold’s first clue that unusual events were taking place beyond Johnson’s winding drive. “I used to have my office down the road, so I passed there every day,” Gold said. “By coincidence, the day he drove that thing into the creek, I was following him. I saw this Porsche racing by, followed by an SUV. Of course, when it pulled in the drive, I kept going.”
Later, on television, Gold saw Johnson’s car in the creek.
Gold remembers the last time he saw his neighbor in person. “He was sitting out on the edge of the drive in a bridge chair,” Gold said, “just kind of waving … ”
More police calls
In April, police calls to the Johnson residence picked up again.
On the 10th, neighbor Billy Poole signed a warrant against Johnson for turfing back yards behind his Wye Road house.
Poole called Johnson’s cell phone asking him to pay to repair about $100 in damage. He never got an answer.
“I felt bad for the kid,” Poole said. “I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble because they got stuck in my back yard, but the police wanted him.”
The next day, a guest at Johnson’s house called police for help, worried about his friend’s safety.
Chief Michael McNeely said Johnson was found agitated, breaking out windows and beating his living room walls with a sledgehammer.
And at some point, he had re-created his living room outdoors by moving his furniture into Yellow Creek.
“He had the tables and the sofas, and he even put lamps out there,” McNeely said.
Police said Johnson told them his idea was to get people to pay to log on to the Internet to watch him destroy his house, and he might sell the footage to MTV. The Web address Johnson gave police, www.breakinthings.com, was not operating Sunday.
In the house, McNeely said, police found a collection of swords and thousands of plastic water bottles piled 1 to 2 feet deep on the living room floor.
The bottles were used to break Johnson’s fall when he jumped from a second-floor landing, McNeely said. Johnson had been running from level to level.
Outside, he jumped from tier to tier of the roof. Police said he threatened to jump off rather than be taken to a hospital.
Johnson made his last stand in the creek waving a garden tool. “I can’t remember what he had,” McNeely said. “It was a shovel or a rake. We got him out of the water, but he kicked one officer in the side, I believe.”
The officer was not seriously hurt.
Johnson is to appear before Akron Municipal Judge Lynne Callahan at 10 a.m. July 27 to determine whether he is competent to be released and to continue his contempt case.