Granny and grown sons evicted by 14 deputies | News
Citronelle, Florida -- The Hamilton's are a well-known family in Citrus County. They've made newspaper headlines, television headlines and nearly everyone knows who they are.
John Hamilton and his relatives have been fighting for their land for decades.
In fact, John made a promise to his dying father, Edgar.
"I told him I'd fight for the land, that I'd never give up. I may get arrested doing it or even die."
On Wednesday, John made good on his promise.
John and his brother, Donald Ray, went to jail to prove their loyalty to the land.
"I think this is f----d up," said a cousin of the Hamilton's.
Amanda Osteen told 10 News, "His paperwork is up to date. The state is trying to take it away."
The two brothers were arrested on misdemeanor charges of trespassing, according to the sheriff's office. They were evicted from the land by ten Citrus County deputies and four state agents from the Department of Environmental Protection.
Jennifer Diaz, a spokesperson from the Department of Environmental Protection, told 10 News, "[The property] has been state-owned since 1939."
Citrus County is not getting involved in the controversial case. According to Citrus County spokesperson Lindsay Ubinas, the county was advised by the state not to be a part of it, rather let the state of Florida handle it.
For well over a century, the Hamilton family has called Citrus County home, and through the years even they admit they've used shotguns to protect acres and acres of land northwest of Crystal River.
The specific land in question, according to the state, is roughly 45 acres.
The family lives just off of Highway 495, not too far from the Suncoast Parkway. It is a heavily-wooded area, considered pristine and untouched.
The Hamilton's admited they know their property is profitable, with developers wanting to build more roads and homes in an area known for urban sprawl.
When asked, the family also admited that they are longtime squatters and are known for their longstanding feuds over acres of land they claim is theirs. In fact, they have a deed from 1933 that shows the family bought part of the land for $5.
"If there was a problem, then why not step up before now?" John asked.
On Wednesday, the family matriarch, Violet Hamilton, was evicted from the property at 77 years old, even though her son said she's paid her taxes and her mortgage. Her son, Donald Ray, said his mother was currently in the hospital after the ordeal.
10 News confirmed that her property taxes are up to date.
John Hamilton said he's ready to fight until the end.
"It's big, it's powerful, they want it point blank," he said. "This is what it's all about. The land, God only makes so much. When it's gone, it's gone."
The Citrus County Sheriff's Office served a previous eviction several weeks ago, saying that the squatters have to go. Even the former county attorney, Larry Haag, called this case a convoluted mess. He said the family got all the land by default during the depression and hasn't paid taxes since then.
"It's impossible for a squatter to get a good title," Haag said. "If it's owned by the county or the state, [the Hamilton's] can't get adverse possession."
John made it clear, "I got to do what I've got to do to protect my family, my land."
The Hamiltons maintained the land is theirs and if they have to spend a life behind bars, they're willing to do it. They claimed their case is now being reviewed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.