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Avast, Widow and Daughter Say, in Hunt for Buried Gold

DALLAS (CN) - The 83-year-old widow of a demented man who buried gold bullion in and around their house before he died has sued the people who bought the house, demanding they return the gold.

Vicki Nichols inherited "a substantial cache of gold bullion," from her husband, Don Patteson, who died in 2007. "In his last years, Mr. Patteson suffered from dementia, which manifested itself in part by a compulsive need to hide the bullion," the widow says in her Jan. 27 complaint in Tarrant County Court.

"Among other erratic acts, the latter compulsion was satisfied by burying the bullion in the yard at the property, hiding the bullion in planters situated upon the property, and by secreting the bullion beneath floorboards at the property."

Nichols says she was "generally aware" of the existence of the bullion, but was unable to find it. She and her daughter, Juanita Faye Patteson, sued the people who bought the house, Jessica and Jacob Zajicek.

"Because of the late Mr. Patteson's erratic behavior in his life, it was impossible to know exactly how much of the bullion remained in plaintiff's possession at the property," the complaint states.

Patteson and Nichols apparently do not know exactly how much gold was secreted around the house, though they estimate its value as $68,000.

They describe it as "a substantial cache of gold bullion which included numerous Canadian Maple Leaf gold coins in one-ounce, half-ounce, quarter-ounce, and one-tenth ounce sizes, each containing a gold purity of .9999."

The widow Nichols, who is in dependent care, sold the house to the Zajiceks in October 2014. She and her daughter say they learned that the Zajiceks had found the bullion "in a planter on the back patio and under the game room floor," as they renovated the house shortly after buying it.

"By happenstance, word of defendants' location of the bullion reached plaintiff's relatives in October 2015, when a window contractor working for plaintiff's grandson-in-law, Jimmy Ramey, related to Mr. Ramey that his friend had found '$68,000.00 worth of gold' in a house he had recently purchased," the complaint states.

"When Mr. Ramey asked for further details, the contractor confirmed the gold was found in specific locations at a house on Lincolnshire Drive in Bedford, Texas. The locations recounted by the contractor were relayed to plaintiff, who confirmed them as places her late husband would likely have hidden the bullion."

Nichols and Patteson say the deed conveying the house does not "convey any interest in personal property of any kind," including the bullion, which the Zajiceks have "failed and refused" to return.

"In point of fact, as part of an apparent willful scheme to deprive plaintiff rightful possession of her property, defendants have wholly denied the existence of the bullion upon the property and the fact of their recovery thereof," the complaint states.

The Zajiceks could not be reached for comment Thursday. No phone number was listed for their address.

Patteson seeks actual and punitive damages for conversion and violations of the Texas Theft Liability Act.

She is represented by Jacob W. Stasny with Sumner Schick in Dallas.

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