On Facebook, I followed the elder abuse case of Sherry Johnston’s mother, Willie Jo Mills, a victim of guardianship abuse under Ginger Lott, David Dexel and Judge Christine Butts. This was happening in Harris County, Texas. Judge Butts had the power to stop the abuse and allow Sherry to take her mother home and care for her but refused to do so; instead allowing the abuse to continue up until the day she died.
As in my own mother’s case, Judge Asarch had the power to release my mother from the nursing home Mary Giordano placed her in. Mom died before she was able to taste freedom again.
We all mourn the passing of Willie Jo Mills. She is now free from her abusers. May she rest in peace.
November 21, 2014
by Mike Volpe
Following multiple RebelPundit reports on guardianship abuse, our latest investigation reveals this problem is widespread across the country and there is top to bottom corruption in court appointed guardianship in Harris County, Texas.
After speaking to victims, lawyers, and activists, the investigation reveals that the probate court in Harris County works much like a good ole boys club where judges receive campaign contributions from lawyers who then receive favorable rulings. In a court with little oversight, several victims suffered physical and mental abuse and were left to effectively be euthanized.
Guardianship is a court created power to take decisions of healthcare and finances away from those the court has deemed incapacitated and unable to make those decisions for themselves.
Initially started to protect the elderly and mentally challenged from being taken advantage of, it has often been corrupted, having the opposite effect. Those perfectly healthy who are effectively jailed and held against their wills, often end up in nursing homes away from their families.
Sherry Johnston told RebelPundit her mother was one of those victims. Her mother died in September 2014, weighing less than thirty pounds her normal weight. She provided Rebel Pundit with a series of photos which showed bruising, bed sores, and she made a You Tube video of doctors and guardianship professionals refusing to provide her mother with treatment, instead choosing to send her to hospice care to die.
Johnston said her ordeal started when a family dispute led to an order placing her mother, Willie Jo Mills, in guardianship. Rather than choosing a family member to be her guardian, Judge Christine Butts, appointed David Dexel to be the guardian.
The judge also appointed a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) and an Attorney ad Litem to oversee the case, all at the expense of the estate. Rather than allowing Mills to live with Johnston, as both wanted, Dexel placed Mills in the Silverado Nursing Home in Kingwood, Texas, in the spring 2009.
The estate was charged $7,000 a month for the care.
“At Sliverado she was abused, isolated and neglected,” Johnston told RebelPundit.
Dexel, whose name came up repeatedly in the investigation, is out of the office until December, according to his law office, and didn’t respond with a statement on this and other cases.
According to campaign finance records, Dexel contributed $1,000 to Butts’ campaign while the GAL in the case, Howard Reiner, contributed $2,500 to Butts campaign in 2013.
Reiner didn’t return a phone message left at his law office.
Butts was re-elected in November 2014.
Johnston said her mother’s estate has been charged nearly $300,000 in total fees by court professionals, including lawyers like Dexel and Reiner who charged between $250-300 per hour for their services.
Debbie Valdez, President of Guardianship Reform Advocates for the Disabled and Elderly (GRADE) is not surprised and said poorly thought out legislation has led to problems in the State of Texas and Harris County.
She told Rebel Pundit that her group has received complaints against three of the four elected probate judges in Harris County.
The most notorious judge is Mike Wood who has been featured in a number of exposes in Houston area media. Valdez said in 2005, Woods was one of several judges to testify in front of the Texas legislature to argue for more ambitious guardianship laws, claiming elderly would be victimized without them.
The result was bill SB 6, which Valdez told RebelPundit has done the opposite, leading to far more corruption and abuse.
One problem is that the law turned Texas into a court initiated guardianship state. By this Valdez explained, once any report is made of an individual to probate court, they are immediately put into the guardianship system even before its determined, if in fact, the ward is incapacitated.
“We see court initiated guardianship as very dangerous.”
That’s exactly what happened to her mother said Johnston.
“She never had due process,” Johnston said of her mother. “She never saw a judge or anything (before being put into the guardianship system).”
This creates a “presumed guilty” dynamic.
Another problem is that courts are run entirely through a network the judge controls. In the case of Mills, her family wasn’t allowed to hire an attorney for her, but was instead appointed an attorney by the courts.
Valdez added, with attorneys and social workers are being invited into a dynamic where they are looking to please the judge and to make decisions which will prolong guardianship and thus add to the fees.
Possibly the most disturbing story was that of Helen Hale.
In an extensive expose, Lise Olsen of the Houston Chronicle wrote:
Under a court-ordered guardianship, 86-year-old widow Helen Hale was plucked from the house she and her husband had built on wooded acreage in Cypress for their retirement and relocated to an unlicensed group home run by a caregiver with a criminal history.
In some of the state’s largest counties, like Harris, Travis and Bexar, so many people are in guardianships that each probate judge oversees from 1,500 to 3,000 ‘wards’ of the court. Yet most judges have only a single investigator to check out potential problems.
Upon speaking with Hale’s family, the end result is that more than three years later nothing has changed.
RebelPundit conducted interviews with Hale’s daughter Susan Staley and her granddaughter, Jennifer Goings, and though Hale has six children, Judge Butts, without explanation, chose a daughter with a history of drug use who had recently spent more than a decade without seeing her mother, as her guardian.
Goings provided RebelPundit with a series of photos which show bruises, bed sores, and other signs of neglect perpetrated on her grandmother.
The photos of Hale’s bed sores from one of the unsanitary nursing homes she’s been forced to stay in were to graphic for publishing.
Staley said she can’t remember the last time she’s seen her mother, because in order to do that she’d first need to get permission from her estranged sibling guardian.
“I won’t give her the satisfaction.” Staley said.
The Goings family has written a series of letters and emails begging Judge Butts to reconsider this decision including one written by Ron Goings on April 4, 2012.
“She (Helen Hale) has asked us to please get her out of this situation. At every turn we have been painted into a corner as being aggressive, manipulative and now as terrorists. I cannot understand how the court and its investigators and supposed guardians can be so blind.”
Harris County has a population of 4.1 million people, according to the 2010 census, making it the largest county in Texas and third largest in the country. It includes the cities of Houston and Sugar Land.
Judge Butts provided a statement to RebelPundit addressing these two cases:
I am unable to comment specifically on the cases you identified, as the Code of Judicial Conduct provides in part that, ‘A judge shall abstain from public comment about a pending or impending proceeding which may come before the judge’s court in a manner which suggests to a reasonable person the judge’s probable decision on any particular case.’
However, I will tell you that, with regard to the cases involving Helen Hale and Willie Jo Mills, such cases were contested in that the children of Ms. Hale and Ms. Mills were in dispute as to the appropriate choice of guardian. With regard to all cases in Probate Court 4, copies of the pleadings (which include orders of the court and reports of the court investigator) are available through the Harris County Clerk’s office.
“Ms. Mills due process rights were violated when she was not allowed to participate in resolving the dispute in Judge Butts court, instead Judge Butts removed all her civil, constitutional and human rights by forcing a guardianship upon her which ultimately placed Ms. Mills in an abusive and exploitive lifestyle until she died.” Sherry Johnston said in response to Butts’ statement. “Ms. Mills guardian ad litem, attorney ad litem, guardian, were and remain to be much better protected by the guardianship placed on Ms. Mills than she was,while she suffered, and her estate paid for the abuse, neglect and exploitation she was subjected to. Her only protection would have been by and from Judge Christine Butts.”
The abuses George Paxton suffered at the end of his life were so horrific that it is almost impossible to believe things like this happen in our country, the “Land of the Free.” His daughters, Lynne and Lorrie continue to suffer unconscionable judicial abuses by a team of lawyers so callous it is hard to believe they are actually human. As George stated right before he died, “fighting for his own freedom was much harder than any war he ever fought, Pearl Harbor, WWII, or the Korean War.”
George is right; fighting for your freedom from guardianship in a country where freedom is absolutely cherished is almost impossible. There are few that manage to get out from under this judicial nightmare of human trafficking. The judges and attorneys and “professional” guardians who descend upon these innocent victims are always and only in it for the money, but there is something much more sinister; they want to “own” humans. Guardianship is nothing but modern-day slavery.
My mother desperately wanted her freedom from Mary Giordano, the elder care attorney from Franchina and Giordano who took away all of her rights, kidnapped her and incarcerated her against her will. Two months later she was dead. Her desperate cries for freedom still haunt me every waking moment.
This is the unbelievable nightmare of guardianship.
by Candice Schwager
George W. Paxton, Jr. CWO3 (Ret) deceased, was one of the most honorable men of America’s Greatest Generation. He deserved the same respect and honor afforded our military heroes who sacrifice all so that we may be free. But he has yet to be afforded this honor by a corrupt system of lawyers and court appointed guardians who place no value of human life or the rights we hold dear under our Constitution.
George prepared for his golden years with the two daughters he cherished, grieving the loss of his beloved wife to Alzheimer’s, but hopeful for new chapter in life as he was reunited with the disabled daughter he believed deceased for 60 years. Secretly keeping Lynne’s baby clothes for 60 years, carrying the grief of losing her in a traumatic birth that deprived her of oxygen, George was overjoyed upon hearing that his daughter was alive, well and could leave the institution and come home with him.
With the help of his loving “daughter”, Lorrie, Lynne was released from a lifetime of isolation in favor of three bittersweet years with her loving family. Lorrie had just graduated from Nursing School Magna Cum Laude, but abandoned her Nursing Career to care for her sister, Lynne. This was no small task, as Lynne is quadriplegic and requires extensive care to every need. For the joy of having Lynne home, George and Lorrie retrofitted their home for Lynne and complied with every last condition for Lynne’s release. Assistive Technology devices helped Lynne blossom as she began to communicate with her newfound family and they realized that she was much more capable than others told them. After losing his wife of 30 years, this seemed the perfect happy ending. But for deplorable actions of George’s estranged daughter, Miriam, it would have been. Miriam is the wife of a prominent Radiologist in Jackson, Tennessee. Her relationship with George ended when she began a series of legal assaults against him and Lorrie, with 3 applications to have him deemed incompetent and 4 lawsuits against him and/or Lorrie.
Her estrangement from George was entirely her making, with threats to bankrupt George if he refused her demands to institutionalize his wife and Lynne and make no provision for Lynne in his will. George’s will was changed to provide 75% of his estate to Lynn, established a special needs trust, designating Lorrie as guardian. The other 25% was to be given to Shriner’s to help crippled and burned children. The will expressly stated that Miriam and George’s stepsons would receive only $1 if they challenged any aspect of his will. He prohibited them from having any input on Lynne.
George tried to protect Lorrie and Lynn from Miriam’s relentless legal assaults with 20 lawyers and court appointed guardians/investigators, but was exhausted and ultimately, unable to withstand the stress of the fight at age 92. He gave up, telling Lorrie “Honey, it’s over. I’m tired.” In response to Lorrie taking him to the hospital for care, he was placed on a gurney, where he was chemically and physically restrained with hands tied and an armed guard at this side. His doctor ran to assist him and demanded that Adult Protective Services be called, with George desperate to just be permitted to go home and die. APS investigated, leading to his return home, but his fate was sealed by the appointment of Ron Bloxom as his guardian. Bloxom fired all of his treating physicians and the hospice team in place in favor of hiring his own hospice provider and doctors willing to comply with their requests. Bloxom’s status as Chairman of VNA translated into dollars for Bloxom’s unethical decision, which hardly raised an eyebrow.
Staffing, whether insufficient in labor force or hours of care provided, was a common thread among 96% of states cited for poor nursing home care, according to a first-ever state-by-state analysis.
Only seven states provided more than one hour of professional nursing care per resident per day, notes Families for Better Care’s Nursing Home Report Cards.
With the goal of applauding states that provide good quality care, while motivating improvement for those that score poorly, Families for Better Care’s survey also ranked the top states for nursing home care as well as those posting “failing grades.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the South accounted for much of the survey’s lower scoring states for nursing home care, with Texas (51), Louisiana (50), Indiana (49), Oklahoma (48) and Missouri (47).
Adequacy of staffing played a key role in determining state rankings, noted Brian Lee, Families for Better Care’s executive director.
“A distinctive trend differentiated the good states from the bad states,” he said. “States whose nursing homes staffed at higher levels ranked far better than those with fewer staffing hours.”
The analysis, which scored, ranked and graded states on eight different federal quality measures—ranging from the percentage of facilities with severe deficiencies to the number of hours provided by caregivers per resident—found that states whose nursing homes employed an abundance of professional nurses and frontline caregivers translated to higher quality scores.
Ranking states according to this criteria, three states (Alaska, Hawaii and Maine) scored a “superior” grade in all staffing measures—each ranking among the nation’s best nursing home states.
Conversely, the four states receiving below average grades overall for failing staffing measures were Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas.
“The data reflect what academicians, residents, families, and ombudsmen have heralded for years; the higher the staffing levels, the better the care,” Lee said.
Widespread abuse and neglect was another area of concern recorded in Families for Better Care’s analysis, as 1 in 5 nursing homes abused, neglected, or mistreated residents in almost half of all states.
- Eleven states get failing grades for nursing home care (khou.com)
- Eleven states get failing grades for nursing home care (cbsnews.com)
- Alabama’s nursing home care receives a D ranking in national review (al.com)
- New Report Gives Illinois Nursing Homes Failing Grade (chicago.cbslocal.com)
- Oklahoma 48th worst in nursing home care (koco.com)
- Nurse Next Door Simultaneously Launches Two Seattle Area Locations to Address Needs of Seniors (prweb.com)
- Nursing homes’ financial reserves (japantimes.co.jp)
- 2 file complaints against Ormond nursing home already on fed’s watchlist (news-journalonline.com)
- Benefits of Availing Services of Nursing Homes (notarohomes.wordpress.com)