MIAMI – ( – Relief doesn’t come close to describing the joy Michele Pinder tried to express Monday. For the first time in nearly three months, she’s able to walk back into her childhood home freely. It’s the house her mom lived in until she got frail, and passed away.

“It feels amazing to get the house back. I did get it back for Christmas,” Pinder told CBS4 Chief Investigator Michele Gillen. “I feel like my mother is in this house.”

On the eve of selling the house, a group of strangers moved in and fought being kicked out claiming they paid someone cash to rent it. To Pinder , the system – from police to the courts to utility providers — seemed to be working in the strangers’ favor. Pinder turned to CBS4 News for help.

“I want to say that it has 100 percent to do with your news coverage,” Pinder said. “And I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

A judge ordered Ibet Flores Castano and her husband to get out by Monday, but in the middle of the night they moved out hanging a key on an outdoor chair.

“I happen to find a key that was wrapped around the chair,” she said adding that she was grateful when it opened the door.

For two months Pinder’s brother Bill DeHainaut worried the nightmare might never be over. He expressed shock at how a house vacant for just a short time before the closing of a sale could be so vulnerable.

“It’s a hard lesson – it’s just a knock in life and you move on,” DeHainaut said.

For Michelle Pinder, it wasn’t just her childhood home held hostage, but her life. While the door closes to this ugly chapter, she sends out a warning to other homeowners saying if this could happen to her, it could happen to anyone.

The Pinders say they still expect the sale of the house to go through – as the buyer has not backed away.


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