INTRODUCTION: There are many ways a person can be
killed. A slow killing, a slow death, is obviously the most painful.
Every horrifying word you are about to read is well documented—so well
documented, that a libel suit against the writer, would serve no purpose
other than to further publicize and justify the telling of this story.
You will probably not read this story in
a local Santa Barbara newspaper. For in truth, it takes courage for a
paper to even report an on-going atrocity when it involves local people
and local businesses—and this story is truly the proverbial ‘tip of the
iceberg’. This manner of Elder Abuse stretches far beyond Santa Barbara
County and is a growing national concern. I strongly suggest everyone
who reads this, should view the website of the National Association to
Stop Guardian Abuse (NASGA) listed below.
This story begins in March, 2008 when I
first began visiting John and Peggy Figg-Hoblyn. They were living a
rather carefree life, in an old RV donated to them by a friend. Unlike
most people I know, they had no debts and lived fairly comfortably on
the $1600.00 a month they received in combined Social Security checks.
They enjoyed each day to the fullest, doing the activities that John
enjoyed most: hiking as much as ten miles a day, including long walks
around Lake Cassitas; frequent visits from friends; reading the bible
aloud in a strong, clear voice; attending the church of their choice
every Sunday and remaining remarkably healthy and vigorous on what one
doctor and a world renowned nutritionist, Patricia Bragg, called, an
ideal organic diet.
There are hundreds of people in the Ojai
Valley who marveled at the sight of this 82 year old man and his 73 year
old sister/companion of 45 years as they were observed hiking for miles
at a time, with full back packs. When John suffered a Urinary Tract
infection and was admitted to the Ojai Community Hospital, the attending
doctor and one of the lab technicians were amazed at the strength of
John’s heart and his overall great physical condition. In his report,
the doctor mentions talking to John. I mention this because John is
sometimes slow to speak and one might think he is unable to
communicate. Nothing is farther from the truth and especially if he
gets angry or hears something he doesn’t agree with. John laughs
readily at anything humorous. At age 82, John had never had a flu shot,
never taken a psycho-tropic drug. With the help of his sister and
friends, John was on a daily exercise regimen in addition to his
rigorous walking regimen.
John earned a doctor’s degree in botany
at Stanford University and served as an instructor there for a few
years. Along with his friend, Jon Lindbergh, second son of the renowned
aviator Charles Lindbergh, he was a member of several important
John’s father, Francis Figg-Hoblyn, was an early
pioneer in the Carpinteria area and the first Principal of the
Carpinteria High School. Francis, his wife and three children lived on
his property on Rincon Hill overlooking the ocean. Upon his death,
John, Peggy and sister Anne, inherited five lots on the Rincon Hill. A
short time later, under the laws of Eminent Domain, the Figg-Hoblyn
properties were purchased by the state of California for the extension
of Highway 101 thru Santa Barbara County. John, Peggy and Anne never
received full payment due from the state’s acquisition of the
Upon the death of their father, John also
inherited 2,000 acres of prime agricultural land near the ocean in
south-western England—an area often called the English Riviera. The
estate includes historic buildings and working farms generating yearly
revenue. Although John was established as Squire of this property, he
had considerable difficulty actually establishing true ownership, due to
a law firm having lost some of the Will papers of Francis. In their
frustrating 45 years of legal struggles to attain clear ownership of the
English estate, John and Peggy operated as a legally filed Partnership,
which reflected John’s desires for sharing the inheritance with Peggy.
During those 45 years, John and Peggy
continued to gather knowledge on organic farming and established the
first Farmer’s Market in Santa Barbara. In 2006, they moved to Ventura
County, settling in the Ojai Valley and still holding onto their dream
of receiving their rightful inheritance—the English estate. That dream
became a nightmare in February when a niece, Katherine Auld, who had
little contact with John and Peggy over the years, suddenly filed a
Petition, seeking to become Conservator of John. Her contention was
that John and Peggy were destitute (a lie) and that John was in poor
health and lacked the competency necessary to make decisions. Despite
the fact that John and Peggy had been living in Ventura County for at
least two years, the suit was filed in Santa Barbara Probate Court.
John resisted accepting service for the court appearance initially, but
reluctantly accepted service when visited by a court appointed attorney,
John and Peggy appeared at the hearing to deny the claims of Katherine
Auld and Probate Judge McLafferty rejected Kathleen’s Petition. Seeking
to help John and Peggy, the writer gathered up several documents that
had been stored by Peggy and delivered them to attorney Barnes. It was
agreed that the Bank of America, acting as Conservator of the Estate,
might have the financial standing necessary to finalize John’s ownership
of the English estate. Attorney Barnes suggested that John be placed in
the care of Senior Planning in Santa Barbara, but the idea was
immediately rejected by John and Peggy. Included in the files I brought
supplied Attorney Barnes was the Partnership Agreement between John and
Peggy, as she felt any matters of the estate included her. The Bank of
America was duly appointed as Conservator of the Estate, but attorney
Philip Marking, representing the Bank of America Trust felt that based
on conversations with attorney Barnes, John was not competent to reveal
his intentions regarding the estate and without any hearing of
competency, it was decided that Marking’s client, Suzanne McNeeley of
Senior Planning, could be appointed Interim Conservator of the Person as
soon as she could acquire the proper licensing. Despite objections from
Peggy’s attorney and John and Peggy, Judge McLafferty, refused to hear
medical evidence relevant to John and without competency hearing or any
hearing and unknown to John and Peggy, appointed Kathleen Auld, Interim
Conservator of the Person (John) on August 10th., one day
before John was to be released from the Ojai Community Hospital after a
three day treatment of a Urinary Tract infection
On August 11, before John could be
released by his doctor, Suzanne McNeeley arrived at the hospital with a
letter of authority from the secretly appointed Interim Conservator of
the Person, to remove John to a facility in Goleta, California. John
protested vigorously as did Peggy and a friend who had arrived to drive
John and Peggy home. Peggy and the friend followed the vehicle carrying
John to Goleta and continued the protest until told by the facility
administrator that John would be staying there ‘from now on, but he had
also reserved a permanent room for Peggy’. The Guron Guest Home in
Goleta was the first of what is now three incarceration ‘homes’ for
When it was pointed out to Judge
McLafferty that the attorney for the Conservator of the Estate was also
the attorney for the Conservator of the Person, an obvious conflict of
interest and totally illegal situation, he found no conflict of interest
nor any reason to have considered medical evidence proving that John was
competent enough to make decisions. In retrospect, this was not
surprising and merely a repeat of the Patricia Rosen case (aired in
March on channel 17 in Santa Barbara) or the Victoria Starkey case, to
be aired soon on channel 17. In that case, Victoria Starkey’s mother
was moved 33 times, with authorization from Judge McLaffery, to keep
her away from her daughter. Her mother died of gangrene in a nursing
facility after being physically abused several times.
John Figg-Hoblyn has been incarcerated,
with all loss of normal freedoms since August 11, 2008. There is no
daily exercise regime, in fact he is encouraged to sit in a wheel chair
instead of walking. His diet is not the one recommended by his doctor.
Peggy is not allowed to take pictures of John. He is not free to go
where he wants, do what he wants—not even go to church. Since August
11, 2008, he has had a daily diet of psycho-tropic drugs to keep his
mind dull and his energy level reduced. John’s life has been ruined.
He has the same privileges of any inmate on death row—where John
actually sits right now. He is angry, frustrated and more and more
going silent and limp.
A team of experienced health care workers
had been awaiting John’s return home to the sub-standard mobile home
provided by the Trust. The beautiful home that had been leased for he
and Peggy was negated by the Band of America Trust after having promised
him and Peggy in front of witnesses that he was certainly entitled to a
nice residence. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have come into the
Trust from the English estate. Much of it has gone to the attorneys.
Most of the rest has been spent to keep John away from those who care
about him. John has little in clothes and when he gets a radio or other
possession, it seems to disappear. Several federal laws have been
violated by Suzanne McNeeley in her role as Conservator of the Person.
Several California codes have been violated by McNeeley. The attorneys
for the Bank of America have violated state and federal laws. The Bank
of America Trust has proven totally untrustworthy.
John’s court appointed attorney should be disbarred for the harm he has
brought to John.
The only evil doer who won’t be held responsible is Judge McLafferty
himself. He will answer to a higher authority.
There is a second victim in this story.
Separated from her brother and witnessing the daily torment of John has
taken a great mental and physical toll on Peggy. Every day without fail
her whole focus is on getting from Oak View to Santa Barbara to provide
what comfort she can to a man who has lost his freedom. She returns
home every evening with the pain of that day’s visit, only to repeat the
same ordeal the next day. She watches her brother and companion of many
years suffering the slow death, the slow killing. The pain of watching
his pain and his constant appeal to go home is heartbreaking Perhaps she
wonders if he ever asks himself, “What did I do to deserve this?" In
the beginning that question was in his eyes. Now there is only despair
in his eyes. What a horrible way to finish the golden years.
Diabolically, it is his new found money that keeps him
incarcerated. His golden years ruined by his own gold. Both
John and Peggy have offered to give all their inheritance to the Bank of
America in exchange for John’s freedom. However, Darlene Freeman, in
charge of John’s Trust at the bank will tell you John is better off.
This is what she told me. Wonder what she’d say if it was her father or
mother instead of John? The moral: Be careful whom you put your trust
It is the fervent hope of the writer that everyone
with a heart who reads this will consider this question: What can I do
to bring this evil abuse of the elderly to an end?
Update: John Figg-Hobyln died
Sunday, June 12, 2011. May his soul rest now
that his suffering is over. Our deepest sympathies to
his widow, Peggy, and his good friend, Ron Libert.
Guardianship abuse and conservatorship
abuse IS elder abuse!