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Handyman says he was untruthful about cancer diagnosis after botched remodeling job

Sale of home would have paid for assisted living for 90-year-old with dementia

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio handyman, who told a family he could not finish a home remodeling project because he had inoperable brain cancer, now admits he was being untruthful.

Michael Runnels, who calls himself the Affordable Handyman of San Antonio, was hired last August to remodel a home in the 4500 block of Manitou Drive on the city's Northwest Side.

The home belongs to a 90-year-old woman with dementia, who was forced to move out after being unable to care for herself.

Her daughter told the KSAT 12 Defenders that proceeds from the sale or rental of the home were going to be used to pay for an assisted living facility for her mother. 

Instead, eight months after Runnels was hired, the home is in such a state of disrepair that it has been taken off the real estate market.

"This is for my mother. This is not even my house. This is for her future. My dad left this for my mom," said the woman's daughter, Carina King, as she fought back tears.

According to a contract drawn up by Runnels, he agreed to install new windows, baseboards and flooring, as well as paint the inside of the home and rebuild its back patio.

King said she also paid for several thousand dollars of supplies up front.

Eight months after the contract was signed, many of the supplies sit in piles inside the home.

The floor was only partially installed, the baseboards remain pulled off the walls and a back window was never sealed, leaving a one-inch gap to the backyard.

Runnels also painted over a new stainless steel dishwasher, and he, or one of his workers, used 65-year-old curtains from the woman's wedding set to wipe up spilled paint in the front bedroom.

King also shared with The Defenders voicemails she received from neighbors who saw Runnels coming and going from the home at all hours of the night.

Neighbors also reported seeing workers sleep at the home.

"We told him, 'This is not a flop house. This is my mother's home,'" King said.

Runnels is not licensed to work as a contractor in San Antonio and did not attempt to apply for permits for the work, a city spokesperson confirmed.

A felony theft report filed by King with the San Antonio Police Department last month accused Runnels of stealing more than $2,500 in remodeling supplies and tools.

King also said family belongings were taken from a backyard shed.

Runnels, who agreed to speak with The Defenders after several attempts were made to track him down, apologized for how he handled the job but denied stealing items from the home.

"I admit I told Ms. King I had an illness. This was a situation where everything that could go wrong did. It was my name behind the work, and I accept full responsibility for that. And I intend to make full reparations to Ms. King as a result," Runnels said. 

In a text message sent from Runnels to King, he said he had two inoperable brain tumors and was receiving "a drug cocktail and pinpoint laser radiation treatments every other day."

Runnels said he left most of the supplies behind in an effort to start paying back the family.

King said this week, Runnels has made no attempt to contact her to pay back what her family is owed.

Runnels denied being at the home all hours of the night, and while he admitted to hiring "bad" subcontractors to help him, he also denied they slept there.

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