EDWARDSVILLE — A judge and a court-appointed lawyer on Monday sought details of Leann Singleton's daily existence during a hearing intended to be the first step in the court's decision to decide the future of the 33-year-old severely disabled adult.
The hearing resulted from Belleville News-Democrat articles that reported that Leann, who is developmentally delayed, unable to see, hear and has cerebral palsy and cannot walk on her own, is under the care of 50-year-old Rose Goode, who was substantiated in 2006 by state investigators for abusing and neglecting her.
But during previous guardianship hearings the court was unaware of this investigation, and of a half-dozen calls to a statewide hotline that resulted in investigations where no abuse or neglect was found, according to confidential reports by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Human Services.
The newspaper also reported that registered sex offenders had been allowed to hang out at an East Alton home where Leann lived.
Sitting in a wheelchair with a well-worn Winnie the Pooh toy in her lap, Leann rocked back and forth while her guardian and former stepmother Goode was questioned under oath. Goode testified that Leann spent most of her time sleeping or sitting in a chair at a home in East Alton. For breakfast, she had cereal and a glass of powdered milk.
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.
At Monday's hearing, Goode testified in a hearing before Associate Judge Steve Stobbs that she and Leann must move from Goode's daughter's house at 211 Silver in East Alton, just across the street from where she lived for years with Leann's adoptive father, Jimmy Singleton at 196 Goulding. Goode's daughter, Jamie Cunningham, once was Leann's state-paid caregiver.
Goode said her daughter asked her and Leann to leave within two weeks.
Granite City attorney Derek Filcoff, who recently was appointed by Stobbs to represent Leann as her guardian ad litem, questioned Goode in detail about why Goode and Leann needed to move. The Department of Children and Family Services took custody of Cunningham's son after an allegation of neglect 2 1/2 years ago, Goode said, and the caseworker told Cunningham that Goode was a threat to her son and to other children.
"I've never done anything to my grandson," Goode said under oath.
In 2011, Cunningham asked the court to give her an order to keep her mother away from her because she feared Goode would sexually attack her or Leann as they slept, according to Madison County Circuit Court documents. That was the same day Stobbs gave Goode sole guardianship of Leann without knowing about the order of protection that had been sought by Cunningham.
Goode had alleged a few months earlier that Singleton had threatened to cut the heads off family members, including Leann, while they were living at 196 Goulding Ave. Stobbs knew about this request and awarded Goode sole guardianship of Leann. Singleton, who denied Goode's allegation, attended Monday's hearing but did not testify and later declined to comment.
Under questioning, Goode stated that she loved Leann and wouldn't hurt her.
"I would take a bullet, an ax, a hammer to stop anyone from hurting her," Goode told the judge.
Filcoff questioned Goode about Leann's daily care.
Goode described waking Leann, dressing her, giving her a breakfast of cereal and powdered milk, then sitting her in a living room chair with a stuffed toy. She would sit there until lunch time when Goode would take her to the bathroom and feed her lunch. She would then return to the chair until dinner. After dinner, Goode said she would put Leann in pajamas, turn on her radio and put her to bed.
Stobbs asked why Goode removed Leann from the William BeDell Achievement and Resource Center in Wood River in October 2011, where Leann had attended since she was a small child.
Goode responded that she took Leann out of the school for a trip to Alabama and Tennessee so she could visit relatives and get Leann "out in nature." Goode said she returned to Illinois in March, but did not return Leann to the day training program. But she said Monday that she intended to do so now.
"If I get to keep (Leann), I'm putting her in William BeDell five days a week," she said.
Before Leann was removed, school officials called the state's hotline, complaining that Leann wasn't kept clean and Leann's lunches consisted of expired food, according to copies of OIG investigative reports obtained by the BND.
Leann receives about $700 a month in disability payments, Goode said. Goode also testified that she herself receives Social Security disability payments.
Also on Monday, Stobbs ordered OIG investigations, including the names of the persons who reported the abuse or neglect allegations, to be turned over to Filcoff, but to remain under seal. He also ordered Leann's medical records to be turned over to Filcoff.
Another court hearing was scheduled for Feb. 6 when Filcoff will turn over his full report to Stobbs.