THE KILLING OF JOHN FIGG-HOBLYN:
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 expeditions.
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 Figg-Hoblyn properties.
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, Steve Barnes.
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 John.
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 in?
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?