EDWARDSVILLE — Leann Singleton can't hear a judge's questions, ask for her lawyer's advice or walk to the witness stand unassisted to testify.
The 33-year-old East Alton woman, who is developmentally delayed, blind and deaf, likely was unaware of the circumstances surrounding an Aug. 4, 2011, decision by Madison County Associate Judge Steve Stobbs that affected all aspects of her life, which included being left for hours most days in a living room chair with little to do but hold onto a doll or stuffed animal.
On that day in court, Stobbs granted sole guardianship of Leann to her former stepmother, Rose Goode, 50. He didn't know that Goode and Leann's adoptive father, Jimmy Singleton, 69, had been cited in 2007 by the Office of the Inspector General for the Illinois Department of Human Services for neglecting her. Goode also was cited for physically abusing Leann.
On Wednesday, Stobbs appointed a guardian ad litem -- a lawyer who will represent Leann's interests to the court -- after learning of the plight of the 90-pound, 4-foot-8 woman through stories in the Belleville News-Democrat.
Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis wants to make sure judges who determine guardianships have all the information they need to decide what is in the best interests of a disabled person. On Thursday, she announced the formation of a special committee to assure that happens.
"I have appointed Judge Stobbs the chair of a committee to assemble all the key players that could effectuate policy initiatives that would enhance the delivery of pertinent information for these types of cases," Callis said.
At the time Stobbs appointed Goode to be Leann's sole guardian, the court record did not include six other OIG reports and reports detailing nearly 100 emergency police calls from 196 Goulding Ave. in East Alton, where Leann liveswith Rose and Jimmy.
According to the reports, transients often were allowed to pay to live in the damp basement of the home, while other men convicted of sexually abusing children regularly showed up to watch television in the same room with Leann. There also were several requests for orders of protection filed by one family member against another.
In a 2006 petition to the court for guardianship of Leann, Goode is listed as Leann's "mother," even though Jimmy Singleton and Rose Goode divorced in 2010. Leann was adopted in 1979 as an infant by Singleton and a previous wife.
In a phone interview Thursday, Goode said while she is not Leann's mother, she has been a mother to her.
"I love Leann. You guys want to tear my feelings for Leann apart," Goode said. "You guys don't care about people's feelings about keeping Leann with people who love her."
Jimmy Singleton could not be reached for comment.
Stobbs directed Granite City attorney Derek Filcoff, the guardian ad litem, to investigate all aspects of Leann's case, including whether she would be better off living at a home for severely disabled adults or remaining with the family she has known for years.
As her guardian ad litem, Filcoff's duty is to protect Leann and bring to the attention of the court reports like those made by the OIG that could factor into who should be her guardian. Stobbs granted Filcoff power to subpoena state and local records.
Stobbs is prohibited by Illinois Supreme Court rules from discussing an ongoing legal matter before him. Filcoff could not be reached for comment.
A series of stories beginning in June in the News-Democrat brought attention to the failure of the OIG to investigate the deaths of 53 disabled adults who had been the subject of calls to a statewide hotline. Former Inspector General William Davis resigned and Gov. Pat Quinn issued an executive order directing state officials to revamp the agency.
Issues presented to a task force from the governor's office included finding ways to coordinate various agencies for the good of disabled adults who live in private homes. This includes supplying information to judges who decide guardianship cases.
Guardian ad litems are routinely appointed to protect the interests of the disabled in probate court. However, in Leann Singleton's case, Jimmy Singleton and Rose Goode's lawyer in 2006 asked that the ad litem be waived and another judge approved that request.
Thomas Kennedy, a Clayton, Mo., attorney who practices in Illinois, has handled hundreds of probate cases and trains other lawyers in probate matters, said it is unusual for a guardian ad litem to be waived.
"I think in my experience that in only about one in 10 cases is the guardian ad litem waived. They serve a real purpose," Kennedy said. "There are cases when you would have a guardian ad litem waived, such as when the interests of the person and the guardians don't conflict, the relatives don't object and it's an unnecessary expense."
A physician's report must also be filed within 90 days of the judge considering guardianship, Kennedy said. That report should state the person's disability, diagnosis and prognosis, his opinion on whether a guardianship for the disabled person is necessary, and whether that guardianship should be in total or limited.
When Stobbs granted guardianship of Leann to Goode in 2011, he was aware of an order of protection against Jimmy Singleton. That document alleged that Singleton threatened to cut off the heads of all persons at 196 Goulding, an allegation he has denied.
But Stobbs didn't know that Goode's daughter, Jamie Cunningham, filed for an order of protection against her mother the same day in the same courthouse. The application stated that Cunningham, who once served as a state paid caregiver for Leann, feared that Goode would sexually attack them and Leann as they slept. The order was rejected. Goode has denied those allegations.
Reports from the seven state OIG investigations and local police reports indicated that registered sex offenders were allowed to hang out at the Goulding Avenue house, and as many as a 10 transients at one time have rented sleeping spaces in the basement and living room.
One East Alton police report, taken during a routine wellness check on Leanne, quoted Goode that a man once came to the house and "wanted to have sex with Leann," but a registered male sex offender, who happened to be visiting, chased him off. Goode could not identify the man for police, according to the report.
Leann would be placed daily in a chair in the living room, often with a doll in her lap, and left for hours, according to the OIG reports and to people who once lived at the Goulding Avenue home. School officials at The William BeDell Achievement and Resource Center in Wood River, where Leann once attended the day training program, and Goulding Avenue residents have accused Goode of failing to keep Leann clean.
In one OIG report, Goode stated that Leann, who needed assistance in the shower, was reluctant to bathe. The residents also accused Goode of inadequately feeding Leann. An OIG hotline call from school officials stated that the lunches Leann brought consisted of expired food.
Leann was removed from the school in October 2010, three months after Goode received sole guardianship.
As for the accusations in the OIG reports, Goode said they are not true, and the publicity about Leann has made it difficult for her to go anywhere in the neighborhood.
"There's nobody hurting her. I wouldn't let anybody hurt her," Goode said. "I love Leann."