EAST ALTON — Leann Singleton's life changed dramatically in just a few minutes Friday.
The 33-year-old woman, who is blind, deaf and cannot walk unassisted because of cerebral palsy, was removed by court order from her home on Silver Street and the custody of Rose Goode, 50, her former stepmother and guardian.
As a result, she went from being forced to sit in a living room chair for as many as 12 hours a day, to a likely future of residence in a state-regulated group home, adequate medical care and a return to regular attendance at a school for the severely disabled.
Madison County Associate Judge Steven Stobbs signed an order Wednesday granting custody of Leann to Rene Butler, the Madison County public guardian.
Granite City attorney Derek Filcoff, who represented Leann during a court hearing Monday that resulted from ongoing coverage in the News-Democrat, was on hand at 2:30 p.m. when an ambulance and police cars came for Leann.
During the hearing Goode testified that Leann started each day with a glass of powdered milk and cereal and then was helped into her chair where she sat until lunch. She was then returned to the chair until about 8 p.m. when she was sent to bed.
Goode is divorced from Leann's adoptive father, Jimmy Singleton, 69, of East Alton, but remained Leann's guardian until Wednesday. Goode recently moved to a house around the corner from 196 Goulding Ave., where Leann spent her days.
The BND reported that Leann's living situation at 196 Goulding Ave. placed her in potential danger for years. Police reports showed that two registered sex offenders were allowed to hang out at the house and that more than 90 emergency calls to the local police department were made from the residence.
Police reports showed that Jimmy Singleton regularly rented the basement of the house to as many as 10 transients at a time. Jimmy was substantiated for neglect and Rose for abuse and neglect by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Human Services. Neither has been charged criminally in connection with Leann's care.
During Monday's hearing, Goode also testified she was being forced by her own adult daughter to move from her current residence on Silver Street in about two weeks.
"She handled it very well," said Filcoff of Leann's removal from the home on Friday. He said Leann is likely to go to an assisted-living home near Alton with a total of three or four residents. He said court rules prevented him from commenting further.
Stobbs' order, based on a report by Filcoff, mentioned the William M. BeDell Achievement and Resource Center in Wood River, where Leann attended until 2011. Goode said in court she removed her from the school because, "She (Goode) had issues" with people who were calling the state hotline with concerns about Leann.
"This court finds that the guardian (Goode) does not have suitable and stable housing for the ward and has not provided the proper level of professional services as are appropriate for the ward, considering the nature of her disability," Stobbs stated in his two-page ruling.
According to confidential state reports obtained by the newspaper, calls to a state hotline operated by the OIG's office resulted in seven state investigations of Leann's living conditions. But none resulted in her being removed from the home.
One report in 2006 substantiated Goode for neglect and abuse of Leann, although Stobbs was unaware of it when he granted sole guardianship to Goode in 2011. The other six reports did not result in a finding of neglect or abuse.
Third Judicial District Chief Judge Ann Callis in Madison County has formed a task force headed by Stobbs to make sure judges in guardianship cases have all the information they need to make proper decisions.