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"Debbie, my wife, started doing his grocery shopping, but he wouldn't fix food on his own. Then we began having him to our house to eat, and having Meals-on-Wheels delivered. That's the Alzheimer's part."
There was also the financial part. Norman Butler finally had to be moved into an assisted-care facility. That costs $1,900 a month. All but $200 of that is covered by his Social Security check. But medications cost another $400.
"And," says Doug Butler, "Dad still owns the house, so we have property taxes, insurance and utilities to pay on that. We plan to rent the house because now we're burning through what capital he had left."
There was the legal part. Doug Butler has hired attorneys in three states to pursue legal action to recover as much of his father's wealth as possible. Butler also created a website, butlervsaenger.com, on which he posted financial records, photos, and documents of legal proceedings as they developed.
One of the lawyers' first actions was to petition courts in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas to issue restraining orders to prevent Saenger's relatives from spending money she'd sent them or selling assets they had already bought with that money. The courts in Mississippi, Louisiana and Prairie County, Arkansas, where Shannon Wiggins resides, complied. The court in Phillips County, where Mark and Rosemary Lumpkin live, and Doug Butler appeared in April when his lawsuit was filed, did not.
Calls to attorneys for Wiggins and the Lumpkins were not returned. A visit to the Lumpkins' home, in the tiny town of Ratio, about 30 miles southwest of Helena, was brief. When this reporter introduced herself, Rosemary Lumpkin said, "We're not talking to you."
A visit to Shannon Wiggins at the Hazen Police Department, where she's employed, didn't last much longer. "I'd love to talk to you," she said, "but not while we've got this lawsuit." She advised speaking with her attorney. When told that her attorney was not responding, she replied, "That's not my problem."
The Lumpkins and Wiggins responded to Butler's legal actions with legal actions of their own. They demanded a jury trial and argued that Butler's claim should be dismissed for several reasons, including that he was "not entitled, under Arkansas law, to any of the relief sought."
They also counter-sued, claiming that Butler had published false statements about them on the Internet, "including statements indicating that they had somehow stolen money for him and/or the trust" in an attempt to damage their reputations and interfere with their businesses.
For the Butlers, the past 16 months have also carried an emotional part. "My son is 16 years old now," Butler says, "and he's sick to death of Shea Saenger. He is so tired of hearing about her and hearing about Dad and hearing about these lawsuits — and he's tired of it. It's been a year and a half, but if we have a conversation at home, it's hard to have one that's not related to this."
"It's been hard," he adds. "Doing it all at the same time ... it's been hard."
There have been moments of satisfaction, however. The civil judgment in his family's favor was one. Another one — a big one — came three weeks ago, when Shea Saenger pleaded guilty to mail fraud in a federal court in Seattle. In a plea agreement, she admitted that she had "knowingly devised a scheme or plan for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses" and had "used the U.S. Mail to carry out or attempt to carry out an essential part of the scheme."
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