A tape, more documents emerge in case

A tape, more documents emerge in case
November 25
00:00 2015

By Cash Michaels

For The Chronicle

Editor’s note – This is Part 3 of The Chronicle’s examination of what happened to elderly Winston-Salem citizen Napoleon H. Wilson, and how he was allegedly abused while under the guardianship of the Forsyth County Department of Social Services, and allegations that his estate was illegally mishandled under the auspices of the Forsyth County Clerk of Superior Court’s Office.

This examination is part of a larger series of stories by The Chronicle probing growing evidence of mismanagement at the Clerk’s Office dating back at least a decade, that may have resulted in “the pattern and practice” of assets and properties of elderly or disabled African-Americans being squandered, and black families being hurt.

More disturbing documented evidence has come to light in the case of Napoleon H. Wilson, an 81-year-old Winston-Salem native who was allegedly tricked out of his home in August 2005 by Forsyth County Dept. of Social Services (FCDSS), illegally declared incompetent and a ward of the state by the Forsyth Clerk of Superior Clerk’s Office weeks later, and not allowed to see his family for months, even though there was no evidence of any abuse to justify it.

And in the meantime, Mr. Wilson’s property and assets were being sold off by a local attorney, allegedly not legally authorized to do so, to pay for expensive care at an all-white assisted living facility, something a recently discovered March 2006 taped interview with Mr. Wilson reveals he did not want.

When Napoleon Wilson’s funds ran low, his family and documents reveal, he was transferred to a less opulent nursing home facility, where his death certificate indicates he died on Dec. 9, 2007.

During Mr. Wilson’s time in the custody of FCDSS, Sandra Jackson, his cousin, documented his alleged physical abuse with pictures of a gash on his forehead that attendants said he got “hiding under a bed,” bruises on his arms and legs, and a dramatic weight loss caused because the medication given to him made the elderly man’s throat too sore to swallow food.

If there was one fact that seems consistent upon The Chronicle’s review of new documents and tape recordings associated with the Napoleon Wilson case, it’s that FCDSS and the Clerk’s Office did little, if anything at all, to involve or encourage Wilson’s family in his care and affairs after he was taken. As a result, they had little say about his wellbeing and despite demanding answers, were ultimately helpless to do anything to help him.

In the end, they all suffered, with Mr. Wilson the most.

It was Oct. 31, 2005, over two months after their “Uncle” Napoleon had been taken away, that his distraught family met with FCDSS. His niece, Gladys Romane Wilson-Toure, was designated as the “family contact person” for status updates. None of them were allowed to see Mr. Wilson or know where he was, or what was happening to him. His family weren’t getting straight answers, they say, except being told to apply for Mr. Wilson’s guardianship, even though a FCDSS director had already been appointed and could not be removed by law unless the Clerk so ordered.

Ms. Wilson-Toure lived in California at the time, and could only contact officials immediately by phone or email about her uncle. But those attempts became very tense, frustrating and ultimately fruitless.

In a November 15, 2005 letter to Wilson-Toure from FCDSS, her role as family contact member was terminated due to “ … issues with communication and issues of mistrust.” From that missive, FCDSS cited that Wilson-Toure allegedly became “emotional” about no one being allowed to see her uncle, his mail from family being “monitored” and “forwarded … if appropriate,” and FCDSS refusing to answer questions from family members who were not at the Oct. 31st meeting, as reasons for the termination.

“This clearly indicates that the family contact system agreed upon … will not work,” the terse FCDSS letter stated.

In an emailed response to that FSDSS letter on that same day, Wilson-Toure countered that her numerous calls and messages were never returned, and no new information about her uncle was forthcoming from FCDSS since that Oct. 31st meeting.

“If anything, I’ve endured and encountered only “stress” in my various attempts at getting any kind of report on my Uncle Napoleon Wilson’s physical or mental condition,” she wrote, adding that “ … the setup in which you have for my [uncle] seems prison-like.”

Only after the niece’s outraged reply did FCDSS, six days later, send a letter to all of Mr. Wilson’s family members, informing them that he was “still adjusting,” he was receiving “assistance” with his various personal and medical needs, and “We will let family visit when and if it is best for Mr. Wilson.”

Ms. Wilson-Toure told The Chronicle that no other family member was designated contact person afterwards because “no one cooperated” with the stringent restrictions placed on access to their loved one.

Meanwhile in Winston-Salem, Mr. Wilson’s cousin, Sandra Jackson, was meeting the same brick wall with the Clerk’s Office that Wilson-Toure was hitting with FCDSS. Her questions were rebuffed; she was told the family had no legal rights; and even her money to pay the filing fee to petition the removal and replacement of FCDSS as guardian (which was ultimately denied) was returned to her immediately after she paid it.

Ms. Wilson-Toure wrote a letter to the Clerk endorsing Jackson’s efforts, but to no avail.

When Ms. Jackson did get to see Mr. Wilson at the facility, he was in poor shape and spirits, with evidence of alleged abuse. She was determined to get him out.

Then on February 20, 2006, the family received a letter from Winston-Salem attorney Bryan C. Thompson titled “Napoleon Wilson, Incompetent.”

As The Chronicle has previously reported, attorney Thompson was the Forsyth Clerk of Court’s apparent go-to guy when it came to serving as a guardian of a ward’s estate, handling business matters dealing with property, assets and taxes. It has been confirmed that Thompson was present at Mr. Wilson’s very first Sept. 15, 2005 Clerk’s special proceeding, where Wilson was assigned a guardian ad litem, found incompetent, and an FCDSS director was appointed guardian of Mr. Wilson’s person, handling his health and other nonbusiness needs.

All of the above from that hearing are confirmed by supporting court documents, even though some were not file-stamped into the court record as required, rendering them, according to established state appellate court opinion,  “legally invalid.”

Attorney Thompson was there, and at subsequent meetings, in the capacity of estate guardian for Mr. Wilson, but as indicated previously, there is no court documentation in Wilson’s recently certified file from the Clerk’s Office proving Thompson was ever appointed.

In fact, in that February 20, 2006 letter to family members, Thompson does not state his status as the estate guardian at all. Instead, he just informs Mr. Wilson’s family that Wilson’s “expenses exceed his income” and “pursuant to Orders of the Forsyth County Court” his principal assets have been depleted, and Wilson’s “real estate holdings” will be sold by Thompson to cover any further deficits.

“I have personally discussed this course of action with Mr. Wilson,” attorney Thompson concludes his letter.

Sandra Jackson saw the letter, knew something was wrong, and on March 2, 2006, went to see her cousin at the expensive all-white facility with a tape recorder, determined to prove to the world that her cousin Napoleon was not incompetent.

“No, I don’t want to be here,” the voice of a frail, elderly man who Jackson identifies as “Uncle Napoleon” (her personal reference to her older cousin) is heard saying on the tape The Chronicle has reviewed. “I don’t want to be here one minute.”

At one point during the 12-minute recording, Mr. Wilson talks about how he was told by an attendant that he had “killed his wife.” He becomes upset, saying that his wife had actually died of breast cancer (which Jackson confirms), so why would they accuse of him of such a thing. Mr. Wilson also says he was told he’s “never going to get out of here.”

“They don’t want you to because they want to do all they can as far as taking your property,” Ms. Jackson replies, then adding that attorney “Bryan Thompson” sent out letters saying he talked to Wilson about “selling your property.” Mr. Wilson says he told Thompson no. He wanted his property to go to his family, and his female friend Sarah, who he says he wanted to marry.

As a subsequent recording The Chronicle has reviewed reveals, Sandra Jackson carried Mr. Wilson’s message with her to the next heated meeting at the Clerk’s office. She and family members lobbied hard to have the incompetency order appealed and have more access to Wilson, but were denied.

Napoleon Wilson died at age 83 on Dec. 9, 2007 at another, less expensive nursing facility he was moved to. To determine heirs to the remainder of his estate, the Forsyth Clerk’s Office appointed a local attorney to serve as  “public administrator” in 2008, months after Wilson’s death.

Documents show that attorney to be Bryan C. Thompson.

Even today, family members like Sandra Jackson and Gladys Romane Wilson-Toure have questions about fees and commissions charged by Thompson in his handling of their loved one’s assets and properties, amounting to be in the six figures, records showed. And because of the absence of court documents in the Clerk’s file proving Thompson’s authority to have legally served as Mr. Wilson’s estate guardian, there are outstanding questions there as well.

In a previous story regarding allegations about attorney Thompson’s actions as an estate guardian, Molly Whitlatch, an attorney representing him, told a local newspaper, “ … all of Bryan Thompson’s actions were accounted for and approved by the court …”

Forsyth Clerk of Superior Court Susan Frye, who was not in office in 2005 at the time of the Napoleon Wilson case, has previously said regarding allegations that the Clerk’s Office had a “pattern and practice” of “fraud” regarding the mishandling of guardianship cases, “ “Everything was handled in a professional manner. All laws have been followed. There was no fraud.”

Napoleon Wilson’s family, over 10 years later, still believes otherwise.

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