Wednesday, November 11, 2015



By Cash Michaels
[Originally published in the Winston-Salem Chronicle 11-11-2015]

            A Winston-Salem woman alleges that her late cousin, Napoleon Wilson, was taken against his will by Forsyth County Dept. of Social Services (FCDSS), and physically abused while the department served as his guardian. His family could do little about it, she alleges, because they were blocked from seeing him several times, and the Forsyth County Clerk of Superior Court held proceedings without informing them regarding his welfare.
          There is still much to be known about the Napoleon Wilson case that is buried deep in the files of FCDSS – files that are not public record even years after his death.  But this much is clear – as in a previous case The Chronicle has reported on involving the Forsyth Clerk’s Office, orders issued in an effort to establish a legal guardianship of Mr. Wilson by FCDSS, and uncovered by The Chronicle, were not legal at all, because they were not properly entered into the court record, as mandated by North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure which directs clerks to file-stamp and initial all orders they issue prior to filing.

            For Sandra Jackson, Mr. Wilson’s cousin, the revelations are still painful years after his passing, because she believes that her elderly loved one, like many others, was targeted, and then trapped by a system where his legal rights were violated, his personal well-being and estate corrupted, and there was little Wilson’s family could do to advocate for him until the day he died.

            And Ms. Jackson believes that this has been happening to many others, for many, many years. Based on The Chronicle’s preliminary investigation of numerous files from the Forsyth County Clerk’s Office, she may be right.

            There are two versions of what happened to Napoleon Hall Wilson, 81, of Winston-Salem in August 2005 – one through interviews, the other through public documents.

            Mr. Wilson was a proud military veteran and widower who was known for being industrious, fiercely independent, and kind. He owned property and had been successful in business. His family respected his generosity and work ethic. They believed that in his waning years, Wilson’s advanced age required family care, management and companionship.

            According to documents, Napoleon Wilson was seen much differently by psychiatrists at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (WFUBMC), social workers at FCDSS, and ultimately, Theresa Hinshaw, then an assistant clerk in the Forsyth County Clerk of Superior Court’s Office.

            In an August 23, 2005 letter to clerk Hinshaw, Dr. Joseph Williams of the Dept. of Psychiatry at WFUBMC, wrote Wilson “…was admitted to the adult psychiatric unit on August 18, 2005 after law enforcement became concerned about his mental status.” Dr. Williams went on to state that “…the patient had called 911 several times complaining of the garbage collectors in his community trying to do harm to him.” Dr. Williams also wrote that Mr. Wilson, “…had demonstrated increased agitation, confusion and memory loss over the course of the past month,” adding that Wilson’s “caretaker” indicated that he had not been keeping up with his medications.

            The letter maintained that Wilson had had dementia since 2000 and a history of seizures that bring about a “…state of psychosis.”

            “Because of these mental and cognitive limitations, it is our opinion that Mr. Wilson is not capable of conducting health, personal and business affairs in a responsible manner,” Dr. Williams continued in the August 2005 letter. “Therefore it would be in his best interest to have a guardian appointed to oversee these decisions.”
            “There are no known family members available to do this,” Dr. Williams concluded in the letter to asst. clerk Hinshaw.

            By Williams’ own admission, Mr. Wilson had been in their care at the psychiatric unit since August 18th, allegedly brought in by law enforcement, but by the time the doctor wrote that letter on August 23rd, no family members living in Winston-Salem had been contacted by either the hospital or police, even though Wilson’s “caretaker” was familiar with them.

            Six days later, that notarized letter, entered on August 29, 2005, was used in a “Petition for Adjudication of Incompetence and Application for Appointment of Guardian or Limited Guardian and Interim Guardian” to the Forsyth Clerk’s Office.

The documents show the petitioner being a “Maryanne Keller” of “UCBH - Risk Management.” That petition lists Wilson as “an inpatient in the facility named above,” and his address as “Sticht Center,” referring to the J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging and Rehabilitation, part of the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

The petition goes on to state that Wilson “…has dementia, paranoia and agitation…” referring then to the “attached letter’ from Dr. Williams.
Page two of that petition notes that Mr. Wilson “lacks capacity” for all indicated areas of “independent living,” adding that “caretaker lives w/him.”
Finally, under a section titled “Recommended Guardian(s),” it is written that if the caretaker is not interested, “…then FCDSS.”

A receipt shows that a “Maryanne Keller” paid the required $40.00 filing fee.

On that same August 29, 2005 date, clerk Hinshaw issued a notice for a Sept. 15, 2005 hearing on the incompetence petition, and “Order Appointing Guardian Ad Litem,” a clerk-appointed attorney who is supposed to legally advocate for the patient. That document, which is not file-stamped as entered, showed that attorney Fred P. Flynt, III was appointed.

If Mr. Wilson did not want attorney Flynt, he had the legal right to hire his own attorney to represent his interests in that Sept. 15th hearing. By all accounts, Wilson had the means because he wasn’t indigent.

Another “Notice” on the incompetency hearing for appointing a guardian dated August 29th, 2005 only lists the caretaker’s name and Winston-Salem address – the address Napoleon Wilson reportedly lived at – as being formally notified to “…appear and offer evidence as to whether the Respondent (Wilson) is an incompetent adult and a guardian should be appointed.

The caretaker is not a relative, yet her name is the only one listed to appear.

 It is now eleven days since Napoleon Wilson was brought in to the hospital, according to Clerk of court records, and yet there is still no documented effort on the part of law enforcement, the hospital, the Clerk’s Office, or later, according to Wilson’s cousin, Sandra Jackson, the guardian ad litem supposed to be advocating for him, to locate any family in the area.

Ms. Jackson, now in her 50’s, not only lived at the same address in Winston-Salem then as she does now, but has also been an employee of the city’s sanitation department for over 27 years. In addition, she was already a guardian of an adult family member at the time, meaning her records were already on file at the Clerk’s Office.

But more importantly, Ms. Jackson told The Chronicle, the caretaker in question, was actually a woman named “Sarah (The Chronicle is withholding her last name),” Napoleon Wilson’s girlfriend of several years who was known very well by Jackson, and communicated with her often. Wilson and Sarah were living together years after his wife had deceased.

So why didn’t any official, from any of the institutions involved, ask Sarah if Mr. Wilson had family in the area and how to contact them? Sandra Jackson says that in fact, they did know, because Sarah did tell at least the hospital since she had to be in contact with doctors about his medication.

“She told them he has a niece who could take care of him,” Ms. Jackson told The Chronicle, noting that she had always thought of Mr. Wilson as an “uncle,” and referred to him as such, even though they were actually cousins.

In fact, on Sept. 15, 2005, Ms. Jackson says she accompanied “Ms. Sarah,” to the Forsyth Hall of Justice, Room #243 as directed, but when they got there, they were told that the special proceeding had already taken place, and FCDSS had been appointed guardian of person for Napoleon Wilson.

Sandra Jackson says that what happened next was nothing less than a horror show, with her being denied being able to see her cousin for three months, taking pictures of his injuries from alleged abuse at the all-white facility he was being kept at; and ultimately being denied her application to become his guardian.

The ordeal, she believes, allegedly contributed to his death.
In Part two, Ms. Jackson tells her side of the story, and why she believes that FCDSS and the Clerk’s Office allegedly conspired to work against Napoleon Wilson’s family.