Straight Up with Sherri

Thursday, March 31, 2005

As in Terri's Case, Guardians Have All the Power, and the Wards are Victims....Florida is a HOTBED of ABUSE!

Miami Herald: Senior's court-appointed Guardian was Robbing and Starving her.

This person was not incompetent and was able to see she was getting robbed and killed! In 2004 nothing has changed, except the media's reluctance to tackle this issue. This robbing and killing is happening now.

This material is distributed in accordance with the Fair Use section of 17 U.S.C. 107, without profit, in the interest of public research and education.

September 19, 1995
Section: FRONT
Edition: BROWARD
Page: 1A

Miami Herald: Senior's court-appointed Guardian was Robbing and Starving her.

Guardian Charged with Cheating Client Elderly Woman's Savings used for Spending Spree

APRIL WITT Herald Staff Writer

Elderly Ethel Hill begged for help, telling anyone who would listen that her court-appointed guardian was robbing and starving her. But no one believed her and no one helped.

On Monday -- more than a year after Hill, 94, died an emaciated pauper -- Fort Lauderdale police charged her former guardian with stealing $287,480 of Hill's life savings in a four-year spending frenzy.

"Martha Wright had a free-for-all," said Fort Lauderdale detective Joseph B. Roubicek. "Ethel Hill's funds were depleted in a blatant manner, and nobody seemed to catch on.

"In a perfect world, the court system should have caught this, the bank should have caught this, and the police should have moved in a year ago."

Wright, 50, of Lauderhill, was charged with felony grand theft and jailed under a $200,000 bond.

According to police, Wright raided Hill's checking account. She wrote $207,000 in checks to herself or cash and more than $50,000 to her daughter. Wright even paid her cellular phone bill and made donations to her church with Hill's money, Roubicek said.

A former maid, Wright talked Broward judges into placing nearly a dozen elderly people and their assets -- a total of more than half a million dollars -- under her control although she had no experience in social work or financial management.

A June 1994 article in The Herald documented how Wright abused her power as a professional guardian: She made Hill a pauper, emptied out other old people's bank accounts, leased herself a car in the name of an elderly man who couldn't drive and sold the home of another ward to her own brother.

Police and prosecutors are still investigating whether Wright committed a crime against any of her other elderly clients and whether she had accomplices who should be charged.

"It's a pending matter, and I can't comment on it," Assistant State Attorney Lee Cohen said Monday.

Before a judge fired her from all her guardianship cases last year, Wright made a living watching over elderly or disabled people declared incapable of taking care of themselves. Professional guardians, acting on tips from people like social workers, neighbors and nursing home operators, can go to court to try to have anyone declared incapacitated.

Many of the elderly people Broward judges placed in Wright's care were extremely frail, confused and had no close relatives to help them. They belong to a fast-growing population that is straining South Florida's public social services and fueling the growth of a private guardianship industry.

In 1990, when Wright applied to be Hill's guardian, the former nurse insisted she was still able to take care of herself and did not need a stranger running her life, according to court records and interviews.

Hill was a frugal farmer's daughter who worked her way through nursing school and was proud to serve as a nurse at one of the first black hospitals in South Florida.

Still, Wright prevailed. She moved Hill out of her apartment into a succession of homes. Hill complained to one of her few relatives, John Stockton of Fort Lauderdale, that Wright didn't give her enough to eat.

Hill's bank accounts tell the sad story of how she lived and died, Roubicek said.

Hill, a careful saver, rarely wrote a check for more than $50 before Wright became her guardian, Roubicek said. As a result, she had savings of about $312,000 and owned two homes when Wright won control of her life and money.

In 1991, the Las Olas branch of Glendale Federal agreed to act as the "designated depository" for Hill's guardianship and acknowledged receiving more than $300,000 of her money. Glendale pledged to the court not to release Hill's money to anyone without first receiving a court order authorizing the withdrawal.

But the bank failed to keep that promise. Tellers allowed Wright to make huge withdrawals without court authorization.

Wright cashed up to $23,000 in checks a month until she had wiped Hill out, Roubicek said.

"Money started flying out the window," he said.

Although Wright spent Hill's money wildly, she did not spend it on Hill, Roubicek said.

Hill's estate has since settled a civil suit against Glendale Federal, and the bank agreed to repay much of the money it gave to Wright in error.

Barbara Goglio, an attorney for the Broward court system that was supposed to oversee Wright's guardianships, expressed frustration Monday. Broward probate judges pleaded last year with the Legislature to require guardians to be licensed and regulated. They also begged county and state officials to fund more court auditors and court investigators to keep guardians honest. None of that happened, Goglio said. As a result, it is tough for judges to sort out the good guardians from the bad.

"We were asked what we thought we needed," Goglio said. "It wasn't heeded. We need help."

Roubicek said he is haunted by the statement he took from a bank teller who knew Hill and Wright. The teller told him Hill complained from the start of her guardianship that she was being robbed.

"It's scary to think that Ethel Hill knew she was being victimized from day one and she couldn't do anything about it," he said. "No one would listen to her.

"Pull a gun on me and take my wallet any day over what happened to Ethel Hill. Her life was stolen."


  • Sherri I read this post but im not sure who you are mad at. The courts, the laws, the people who didn't listen to her, or the bank?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:23 AM  

  • And this case that you reference has absolutely nothing to do with the Schiavo matter; except that because they both have "guardians" you want to pretend they are exactly alike.

    You really need to move on to something else. You are being ridiculous. You are losing all credibility by posting such irrelevant information and attempting to rile people up.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:36 AM  

  • I can only surmise she's attempting to establish some very broad theme. But I agree with you -- it's overly broad and without commenting on the story herself it's pretty long and boring.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:28 AM  

  • anonymous

    There are MANY things with Terri's case that a concern. You ask who I am mad at? I am mortified by our legal system. This is VERY RELEVANT. I realize that the media has portrayed those that support Terri as zealots that don't care abut Terri's wishes, etc. What most of us are outraged over is that we do NOT believe that Michael is a proper guardian, let alone giving him the right to starve his wife to death with so many factors at question.

    The real concern IS the system. The wards are NOT protected. THe Laws created to protect the handicapped and elderly are not followed by the guardians, and our judges allow this.

    Michael should have been removed as Terri's guardian a long time ago. He did NOT follow the law and live up to his responsibilities. We can debate doctors opinions all day. But please just ask yourself one question. If your child was under the care of hospitals and ofund that she had 13 bone fractures, would you not DEMAND to find out what had happened to her? At the time of the bone scan- back on March 5 1991- Michael was living with the Schindlers and never even mentioned that a bone scan was done. He never asked them to investigate. Even more horrifying is that the HOSPITAL never investigated it. You don't just get 13 bone fractures. Something causes this.

    Anyone would have looked into it. Let's forget ANY suspicion that Michael may have caused it, but at the very least, he should have done more testing or investigating.

    I mean c'mon, did they drop her? what? If a parent in the same situation acted the same way over their child, and Terri is as helpless as a child, all of America would be demanding we find out what happened.

    It is not only her guardian that has failed her or the courts, it is also the medical facility in this particular instance.

    This is not only about Terri. It is about a system that treats those most vulnerable without the dignity they deserve.

    As for moving on- I am moving hard to expose this type of injustice to people. Please take the time to check out the link and the other stories there. This is not a right to die issue, this is about protecting people. People that need people like you and me to take a look at the entire system that allows these things to happen.

    Oh, and the banks is a good point. Like I said, if you check out the link- you will see there are many other cases like this one and other banks have also played a role in not living up to their responsibilities for these wards as well.

    You asked very valid questions. I understand why you think we (fighting for Terri) are just religious zealots, but labeling us will not change the facts. I honestly think that if people understood our real concerns on Terri's case, they would understand why we are fighting so hard.

    Terri's case will set a dangerous precedent for the courts, further endangering the vulnerable wards. Right now, all eyes on Florida- but Florida is NOT the only place these things are happening.

    Thanks for your questions. As for getting people riled up, ya know, I hope so. I don't mean reiled up as in the horrible things people have done with bomb threats and bounties on people's heads. Those things are CRIMINAL and these people should be brought to full justice for what they have done!

    I want people to get riled up in the way that they start to get involved in making changes that will protect wards. I have already spoken with local Reps and attorneys on ways we can help protect the wards here. I only hope others will do the same.

    By Blogger Straight Up with Sherri, at 9:39 AM  

  • I am the one who asked the question to you. I have been told by many people and some reports I have read that her husband tried many things to help bring her back even as far as some kind of electrical implants to takeing her to Mexico for alternative treatments but all have failed. I have seen that nearly all the Drs. that have check her out have said the same thing (unrecoverable PVS). It seems to me that there is no hope for recovery. I am not saying I agree or not. I have mixed feelings on the whole thing. For 1. Her hubsand is th GAL and from what I have read he has the right to decide what to do. On the other hand I have read on sites that he doesn't. The courts seem to agree that he does so i tend to lean towards that side a bit.
    2. It also seems to me that for the first 8 years or so he tried many things to help her recover and because of this I don't understand why people would say he doesn't want her to recover. But I also don't see the harm in turning over GAL to the parents if he has given up hope unless he believes (1.) This is no hope what so ever for recovery or (2). he believes she would not want to live like this. On that mater I have heard that people say he said he doesnt know what she would have wanted . BUT I have also heard that 3 people heard her say she wouldn't want to live like this. So it seems to me that it depends on who you want to believe in the matter.
    I have more to say but I am getting long winded sorry.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:06 AM  

  • Me again It seems to me it boils down more to the laws than anything else. 1. Gal should not be up to 1 person alone but mabey Spouses, Parents, Children (of age), and mabey even brothers and sisters. If there is an odd amount then majority rules, if there is an even amount then you could say after a vote on what to do (not only life or death but any medical procedure) if it is even then Spouse gets final say and on doen the line if there is no spouse. this seems to me the thing people should be more focused on (getting the law changed). It seems wierd that if you have say 4,5,6,7 people that fit into one of those catagories and all but the GAL feels one way that it doesn't matter what the others think (It does seem to be the law though). A living will seems to be the way to go and I am sure that many many many people have made one since this began no matter what side they are on.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:15 AM  

  • No problem

    You can be as long winded as you like.

    Michael took her to California for the implants. It wasn't Mexico. I have to admit, this was a good move in my mind. Some dispute this, because it was considered "experimantal medicine" which is against Florida Statutes. That being the case- all I can say is that I am not for breaking the law, but maybe that is why he took her to California to do it. Michael also did fund raising in order to do so. He raised, from what I understand, about $20,000 to take her there for this procedure.

    You are addressing a lot of points so forgive ME for being long winded.

    As far as PVS.. There hve been doctors on both sides of this. One VERY telling point is that studies have shown that when patients are diagnosed as PVS that about 43% have ended up to be MISdiagnosed. Keep in mind that medical experts say that PVS is unrecoverable as you say. SO when someone does recover from waht was considered PVS- they change the diagnosis. i don't know what to make of that. I don't know if it is TRULY a misdiagnosis- or if it is TRULY recoverable- but this is why they call it PRACTICING medicine, I supose.

    The judge repeatedly dismissed any evidence brought forth that challenged her PVS state and anything else that challenged his original ruling. This is FACT, not conjecture. We can argue all day about what was brought forth as being "credible" or not- but it is a fact that MUCH evidence was introduced to counter the PVS diagnosis, and it is FACT that those diagnosed as PVS have ended up recovering.

    It is also a fact that Michael denied further testing. In fact a CAT is GREAT for determining the damage done my a stroke, but as far as determining actual brain activity, etc- an MRI or PET is much more accurate and needed for a thorough look. A CAT is only a small par of the full picture. Michael's own doctor suggested these be done, but he refused they be done.

    Now, on this note- We have to go back to the implants. These implants should have been removed- another failure in his job as guardian. I have heard claims that with these implants, you can't do an MRI- but I have not been able to verify this as fact. But it is possible that this is true.

    Another little known fact-

    At one point- I believe back in 2003- both sides agreed to a swallow test. They met during the day with Greer in closed chambers. BOTH sides agreed to give Terri a swallow test at 12:30pm the next day. At 10:30pm that night- Felos called Greer and said NO DEAL! DEAL IS OFF! The reason given- they were afraid she might choke to death.

    I encourage you to check these things out for yourself, I honestly do.

    Michael is her guardian- but this is different than a GAL.

    Terri had a court appointed GAL, named Pearson. Pearson filed a report and found that Michael should be removed as guardian due to conflict of interest. He cited several reasons. He One of those was that the ONLY record of Terri claiming to not want "life support" was that of Michael's words. Felos immediately filed for Pearson to be removed as GAL claiming he was "biased." Greer did so, and claimed that a GAL only repeated HIS own role. In essence, now Greer considered HIMSELF to be Terri's GAL.

    Michael gave up on Terri in February of 1993. This is right after he received the money in the lawsuit where he claimed (only 3 months beofre) he wanted to care for her for the rest of her life.

    He stopped all therapy to her. this is why he and the Schindlers had a huge falling out on Valentine's Day of 1993.

    By Blogger Straight Up with Sherri, at 10:42 AM  

  • anonymous

    AMEN to that!

    By Blogger Straight Up with Sherri, at 10:44 AM  

  • Sorry I forot to sign my post #6 in faver of group decicions(sp? i suck at spelling)

    By Anonymous ylb, at 11:12 AM  

  • YLB

    It's decisions

    No worries about spelling- I am pretty good at spelling- but stink at typing...

    both end up with the same results..

    By Blogger Straight Up with Sherri, at 11:21 AM  

  • I have a sister thats the same way types to fast and misspells as much as I do but I got the looks in the family so I can live wit hthat lol.

    By Anonymous ylb, at 11:30 AM  

  • YLB!


    I didn't think anyone would be able to make me laugh today... thank you! I needed that!

    My sister got the looks in the family too! But she also got everything else! the talent, brains, and a great ability to set goals and reach them....

    She is an incredible person. More than I will ever be. I love her dearly.

    My son is also an incredible person. He is 10 times the person I will ever be already at only 15.

    People ask me what I did...

    My answer- "I messed up a LOT! He is who he is because HE chooses it."

    Thanks for the laugh and reminding me of these thoughts today.

    By Blogger Straight Up with Sherri, at 11:51 AM  

  • miracle of miracles

    Sherri and YLB being kind to each other. I like it.

    Thought this was interesting:

    guardian withdrawals plea to remove feeding tube for her duaghter-in-law:

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:09 PM  

  • looks as if everyone's "kissed" and made up, but I find the anonymous comments at the start of this thread too odd to not comment.

    One thinks Sherri is being "ridiculous" for noticing similarities in how guardianship from ward to ward can be so powerful that it can be abused to the point to even cause the ward's death. Another anonymous person things the article Sherri posted is "pretty long and boring". How anyone can read about an elderly woman being robbed and starved over the course of a year (and ignored by all those who saw/heard her) and find it boring is beyond me. Please...take a look behind you and find your heart. I think you dropped it somewhere as you've traveled through life.

    The similarites between the power of guardianship Michael wielded in Terri's case and what happened to that elderly woman are significant. Florida's guardianship laws and what they're allowed to do to/for a ward are very authoritative. If a guardian is negligent, removing them is almost impossible. I've been searching the web for a case where a guardian in Florida has been changed, but I haven't found one yet.

    I'm appalled that the desires and opinions of blood relatives mean less to Florida than a guardian's wishes. Michael even mentioned in a Larry King interview that he and Felos didn't know what Terri wanted, this is what they wanted. If there's any dissention in the family (both blood and married),then the courts should decide to prolong the situation until all family members are in agreement. Use an arbiter... Terri had the malpractice money that could have been used to do PET scans and rehabilitation for longer. There were ways to have gotten Michael and the Schindler's on the same sheet of music. But these methods weren't chosen by the courts who opted instead for a combative "solution". That solution put hundreds of thousands of dollars in the pockets of lawyers and depleted the ward's money (Terri's malpractice money)

    The similarites between these two cases are easy to see....if you want to. Yes, when focusing on similarities one has to be careful to not lump too many things together. But when focusing on differences, one has to be careful to not split too many things apart. The key is to find a middle ground. I think Sherri is there. Even on the middle ground, there are strong similarites between the cases when you focus on Florida's guardianship laws/powers.

    By Anonymous Ceci, at 2:23 PM  

  • From my understanding i feel that there is some type of treament over in mexico that is not accetable in the US. any body have any informantion.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:08 PM  

  • Very cool blog you got! I just added you to my bookmarks!

    I have a great article resource you might want to check out.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:03 AM  

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