CROWN HEIGHTS, Brooklyn (PIX11) – Cheyama Legrand cried when she heard that her childhood home at 222 Brooklyn Avenue on Wednesday morning in a fire. Even though it was a place where teenagers and women were beaten or killed in the 1960s and 70s, it was still a place she called home.
“I was devastated when I got the call,” Legrand told PIX11 News on Thursday. “We all grew up in a big house. My brothers and sisters. Dad loved all his kids, no matter what people said about him.”
Devernon Legrand, who called himself a bishop, went to prison in 1975 for stomping two teenage sisters to death, as well as murdering his ex-wife. But the mystery of what happened to the other 20 missing women has never been solved.
Legrand is believed to have fathered between 50 and 70 children – with women who lived with him at 222 Brooklyn Avenue. Many were forced to dress in black habits to look like Catholic nuns and then beg at tourist spots or in the subway. Some were beaten when they came home if they did not earn a certain quota of money.
Cheyama Legrand’s mother ran away from home in the late 1960s, but Legrand and her sister stayed. Legrand visited her father in prison until his death and said he gave the house to her younger sister Labrendas. Cheyama Legrand said the document was forged in 2013 by former head “nun” Vivian Sannicola, who later sold the property to investors.
“I fought for so long to preserve my father’s property for my children and grandchildren,” Cheyama Legrand told PIX11 News Thursday, her voice filled with emotion. “When our property was confiscated, it was taken on the basis of a forged deed.”
In 2019, PIX11 News tracked down the developer who bought the property, who said Cheyama Legrand lost a court battle to keep the house. But Legrand said the battle is on.
Legrand said the developers tried to give her $40,000 to leave, even though the four-story property was worth close to $2 million back in 2019.
“$40,000? I said to him, ‘Are you crazy?'” Legrand recalled.
A 2-alarm fire early Wednesday morning caused a partial roof collapse on a main property on Brooklyn Avenue and another roof collapse on an adjacent property on Sterling Place.
PIX11 News reached out to the FDNY to find out what caused the fire, and we were awaiting a response Thursday evening.