Mom, 70, used secret cellphone to escape from dementia unit where she was wrongly locked up bu two guardians accused of misconduct

 A Florida woman who was wrongfully deemed ‘incapacitated’ and locked up in a dementia unit under the care of two guardians accused of misconduct has revealed how she used a secret cell phone to escape her ‘heartbreaking’ three-year ordeal. 

Jan Garwood, 70, was placed in professional guardianship in 2017 after she was injured in a car crash while mourning the death of her son.

She was later placed in a locked unit of the Palms of Longwood Assisted Living Facility in Seminole County and stripped of her right to live independently, including her ability to vote, and ability to control her money and property.


A judge initially entrusted guardian Rebecca Fierle to take control of Garwood’s affairs. However, she later resigned from the position in July 2019 after she was accused of causing the death of an elderly man under her care and the remains of nine wards were found in her office.

Garwood said her repeated pleas that she was capable of looking after herself fell on deaf ears, and the court soon after assigned another guardian to take care of her, who later sold her home and all of her possessions without her permission.

When the second guardian allegedly refused to help her get her rights restored, Garwood said she knew she needed to take matters into her own hands.

‘There shouldn’t be anybody that should be able to have 100 percent control over anybody’s life,’ she told ABC Action News.

Jan Garwood (pictured inside Longwood) said her repeated pleas that she was capable of looking after herself fell on deaf ears, and the court soon after assigned another guardian to take care of her

Jan Garwood (pictured inside Longwood) said her repeated pleas that she was capable of looking after herself fell on deaf ears, and the court soon after assigned another guardian to take care of her

A judge initially entrusted guardian Rebecca Fierle (right) to take control of Garwood’s affairs. However, she later resigned from the position in July 2019 after she was accused of causing the death of a man under her care

A judge initially entrusted guardian Rebecca Fierle (right) to take control of Garwood’s affairs. However, she later resigned from the position in July 2019 after she was accused of causing the death of a man under her care

In the state of Florida, a court is permitted to appoint someone – referred to as a guardian - to make decisions for another person – known as a ward - if that individual is found to be incapacitated by a panel of medical professionals.

The guardian and their attorney are then paid from the ward’s assets for their services. Guardians can be paid anywhere up to $92 per-hour, while their attorneys can receive more than $400-per-hour in some instances.

Over the last several years, dozens of instances of exploitation or abuse have been uncovered in Florida’s court-ordered guardianship program.

Such instances have included guardians selling their ward’s homes, cars and other various other kinds of properties well under market value and without conducting appraisals beforehand.

In some instances, court records observed by Action News showed patterns in which homes were allegedly sold multiple times in the same day, benefiting associates of the guardian, but not the ward who they took an oath to represent, the network said.

Guardians were also found, in some cases, to be seeking ‘Do Not Resuscitate Orders’ on their wards without alerting judges or informing family members.


One such case involved Rebecca Fierle, Gardwood’s former guardian, who was arrested earlier this year following the May 2019 death of one of her former wards.

Fierle was charged with aggravated abuse of an elderly person and neglect of an elderly person in relation to the death of Steven Stryker, 74, who she allegedly sought a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order for without court permission.

Stryker reportedly didn’t want the DNR order, reportedly stating as such several times, however Fierle ordered doctors to ‘not perform any life prolonging medical procedures,’ according to a release from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Investigators said Fierle also demanded that the elderly man's feeding tube be capped, on May 9, 2019. Just days after, Stryker choked to death while at the hospital.

During a subsequent search of her Orlando office, police reportedly found the cremated remains of nine of her wards on display. Police declined to provide further details as Fierle is still awaiting trial, but the ashes were later returned to the wards' families.

Fierle was charged with aggravated abuse of an elderly person and neglect of an elderly person in relation to the death of Steven Stryker, 74, who she allegedly sought a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order for without court permission.
Steven Stryker

Rebecca Fierle (left) was charged with aggravated abuse of an elderly person and neglect of an elderly person in relation to the death of Steven Stryker (right), 74, who she allegedly sought a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order for without court permission

Jan Garwood (above), 70, was placed in professional guardianship in 2017 after she was injured in a car crash while mourning the death of her son. She was later placed in a locked unit of the Palms of Longwood Assisted Living Facility in Seminole County and stripped of her right to live independently

Jan Garwood (above), 70, was placed in professional guardianship in 2017 after she was injured in a car crash while mourning the death of her son. She was later placed in a locked unit of the Palms of Longwood Assisted Living Facility in Seminole County and stripped of her right to live independently

Her guardian, who wasn’t named in the report, sold Garwood’s home (above) without her consent while she was under her care, along with all her belongings and furniture

Her guardian, who wasn’t named in the report, sold Garwood’s home (above) without her consent while she was under her care, along with all her belongings and furniture

Garwood didn’t divulge to Actions News her direct dealings with Fierle, though she told the network the guardian appointed to replace her, who wasn't named, took ‘complete control of her life’.

After nearly three years in the guardianship program, Garwood said she knew she’d have to take measures into her own hands to secure her freedom again.

Using a phone one of her children helped smuggle into her room, Garwood took to Facebook to pen a plea for help, writing: ‘somebody please help me … I have a guardian who is controlling my life.’

Guardianship reform advocate Hillary Hogue responded to her call and visited her at the facility, before later putting her in touch with attorney Vito Roppo to appeal her case.

According to Garwood’s attorney, Vito Roppo (above), the home was sold for ‘substantially less than what [it was worth]. We also know the house was never placed on the market.’

According to Garwood’s attorney, Vito Roppo (above), the home was sold for ‘substantially less than what [it was worth]. We also know the house was never placed on the market.’

‘I filed a motion to be appointed as her counsel at her request, and I put in there that I thought she should be re-examined,’ Roppo told ABC.

However, the attorney of Garwood’s guardian reportedly fought back against the motion, threatening Roppo he would face personal financial sanctions if he proceeded with the request.

Roppo ignored the alleged threats and a judge later granted his motion, ordering a doctor to re-evaluate Garwood’s mental capacity.

The doctor gave Garwood a near perfect score, writing in their evaluation: ‘In my expert medical opinion and with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, I conclude that Janice Garwood is not incapacitated … she is fully capable of handling and executing her own personal, medical, and financial day to day affairs.’

The judge finally released Garwood from her guardianship in late August.

‘I never gave up that eventually, sooner or later, something would have to happen that I’d be able to get away from hery,’ Garwood told ABC.

However, after her release, Garwood said her nightmare ordeal continue, when she discovered her guardian had sold her home without her consent while she was under her care, along with all her belongings and furniture.

In her re-evaluation, a doctor gave Garwood a near perfect score, writing: '‘In my expert medical opinion and with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, I conclude that Janice Garwood is not incapacitated'

In her re-evaluation, a doctor gave Garwood a near perfect score, writing: '‘In my expert medical opinion and with a reasonable degree of medical certainty, I conclude that Janice Garwood is not incapacitated'

Using a phone one of her children helped smuggle into her room, Garwood took to social media to pen a plea for help, writing: ‘somebody please help me … I have a guardian who is controlling my life.’ Guardianship reform advocate Hillary Hogue responded to her call
Garwood pictured with Hilary Hogue

Using a phone one of her children helped smuggle into her room, Garwood took to social media to pen a plea for help, writing: ‘somebody please help me … I have a guardian who is controlling my life.’ Guardianship reform advocate Hillary Hogue (shown right) responded to her call

According to Garwood’s attorney, the home was sold for ‘substantially less than what [it was worth]. We also know the house was never placed on the market.’

Roppo said the proceeds made in the sale were placed in a trust that Garwood cannot access.

‘When you lost a house like that, you lose your memories,’ Garwood told ABC, adding she raised her children in that home, and cared for her elderly parents in it prior to their deaths.

As for what happened to the rest of her possessions, Roppo said that remains a mystery.

'It’s very scary to think that we’re in the United States, and this is happening to us,' Garwood told ABC

'It’s very scary to think that we’re in the United States, and this is happening to us,' Garwood told ABC

Garwood’s guardian reportedly billed her to place the items in storage, however the company listed on the charge receipt say they have no personal property of hers in storage.

‘I have – or had – I’m still keeping my fingers crossed, over 300k worth of furniture, jewellery and collectibles,’ Garwood told the network of her missing possessions.

Garwood is now living in her friend’s garage while Roppo attempts locate her belongings and get her access to the account containing the proceeds from the sale of her home.

She said despite effectively emerging from the guardianship program homeless, she’s incredibly grateful for her newly discovered freedom.

'It’s very scary to think that we’re in the United States, and this is happening to us,' Garwood told ABC.

Roppo, meanwhile, said he has arranged for Garwood to receive her Social Security check instead of her guardian.

‘You lose more rights in a guardianship, in most guardianships, than you do if you go to federal prison,’ Roppo said.

Mom, 70, used secret cellphone to escape from dementia unit where she was wrongly locked up bu two guardians accused of misconduct Mom, 70, used secret cellphone to escape from dementia unit where she was wrongly locked up bu two guardians accused of misconduct Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 05:03 Rating: 5

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.