SURRY, Va. (eTN) – Sherry Walker descended the polished hardwood stairs and joined husband Ben in what used to be Michael Vick’s den.
“The bathroom – oh my God! – has a fireplace. It’s beautiful,” the Goochland County woman said, describing what she had seen upstairs during her tour of the 4,600-square-foot white brick house that was headquarters for Vick’s dogfighting operation.
Out back, beyond the deck and the full-size basketball court, the scene was more grim.
“You can tell something was going on here,” James Thomas of Suffolk muttered to no one in particular as he looked over a sturdy metal pole with a rusty chain and four weightlifting plates at its base – equipment presumably used to restrain pit bulls.
The Walkers and Thomas were among the visitors at an open house conducted Saturday, a week before a planned auction of property that likely will forever be associated with the downfall of the NFL’s highest-paid and most electrifying player.
Vick faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced Monday in a federal courtroom in Richmond for his role in the “Bad Newz Kennels” dogfighting enterprise.
The suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback sold the 15-acre spread in rural southeastern Virginia to real estate developer Wilbur Ray Todd Jr. of Carrollton for US$450,000. Todd spent $50,000 fixing up the place, which had been trashed by burglars and looters, and hired Kyle Thomas Hause Jr. to sell it at auction.
The property has an assessed value of $747,000.
Most of the scores of people who wandered through the house and the rugged area behind the house with dog houses, kennels and four flat black outbuildings were just looking – not looking to buy. That was OK with Hause, who stood at the gated entrance, cheerfully greeting every visitor.
“It’ll take away the curiosity factor and give the buyer a little more privacy,” Hause said.
And he was confident the auction would produce a buyer.
“Are you kidding? This is the most famous address in America today – 1915 Moonlight Road. I’ve never seen so much attention to one piece of residential real estate,” Hause said.
He said two potential bidders, driving vehicles with Maryland and New Jersey plates, showed up hours before the noon start of the open house. They were allowed in early and seemed impressed, Hause said.
Even the merely curious found a lot to like about the house. After walking through the French doors, the first noticeable thing was the faint smell of fresh paint. Hardwood floors had been refinished, carpets cleaned, broken appliances repaired.
The double-sided gas fireplace between the upstairs master bedroom and bathroom was a hit, as were the downstairs master suite and the expansive kitchen with granite countertops and black ceramic tile floor.
“I don’t think I’d want to jump into something this big,” said Thomas Hardy, who lives just down the road and stopped by for his first up-close look at the land Vick bought in 2001 and the house he had built in 2003.
Hardy said he has attended services at the little Baptist church across the street from Vick’s property, but he had no inkling what his famous neighbor was doing.
“Never even heard the dogs barking,” he said.
In stark contrast to the spotless house, the compound of dog kennels and littered outbuildings appeared just as it was left by investigators who confiscated dozens of pit bulls and dogfighting equipment.
There are three one-story sheds and one-two story outbuilding with pull-down ladder access to the second floor, where dogs were tested for their fighting abilities and some of the dogfights occurred. Several dogs that did not perform well were killed, according to court papers.
Hause said he didn’t think potential buyers would be repulsed by the idea of what transpired behind the fence separating the house and the kennel area. Jane Byrd of Rescue, Va., agreed.
“I don’t think that would bother me,” she said.
Derrick Mings of Newport News, wearing a No. 7 Michael Vick Falcons jersey, said he remains a fan of the former Virginia Tech star and just wanted to check out his house – although he would like to buy it if he could.
“It’s like a dream house. You could probably put a couple of families in here,” he said.
As for Vick: “I don’t think nobody here is perfect on earth,” Mings said. “He’s learning and growing from this. I think he’ll be back.”