• Report:  #3088

Complaint Review: Charzuks Campbells and Baragiolas - NM AZ

Reported By:
- Tempe, AZ,

Charzuks Campbells and Baragiolas
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Subject: Close Friends Bilk NM AZ Senior

Re: Stephen Homer Stansifer

Sixteen years ago this month, action was taken that caused the life of a friend of mine to end. Since I retired, not a day goes by that I do not think about him. Friends of his at the hospital said that he was administered the process of Terminal Sedation on orders from former tenants and their wives, who were posing as members of his immediate family. Information that I have gathered over the years strongly substantiates this accusation.

My friend, Homer Stansifer was a wealthy man and getting his money and vast property holdings were the motive.

Homer and I became friends in 1957, shortly after his wife passed away. He needed someone to talk to, and rented me a room in his home. After I left he continued this practice and there were seven of us; me, James Hruban, John Charzuk, Roger Campbell, Eddie Baragiola, Dana Shelly, and Michael Lebeck.

Over the years the seven of us remained in contact with Homer, he considered us his friends, he referred to our families and us as his "adopted kids", and we called him "Uncle Homer." Homer needed surgery and Linda Charzuk, wife of John, volunteered to take him to the doctor and subsequently to the hospital. He allowed her to fill out his medical forms at the HMO clinic and the admission form at the hospital. He asked her to list his first cousin, Mary, as the person to have medical power of attorney. He said she was only a telephone call away and she would make any life or death decisions on his behalf, should the need arise. Linda listed herself as having medical power of attorney for Homer unbeknownst to him. She was also in a position to list herself and anyone else as a relative, who would become relevant when Homers' doctor demanded a consensus of the relatives for Terminal Sedation to honor the will of the family.

At the hospital, the Charzuks, Campbells, and Baragiolas listed themselves in the visitor's book as family and told the receptionist to restrict visitors to them, who were immediate family. Close friends, who were insistent, were allowed to visit Homer. Those listing themselves as family also introduced themselves to the doctors, nurses, and hospital staff as family.

Helen Patterson, a close friend and tenant for forty-three years visited Homer every day. She was the first to tell me that Homer's life had been taken. She was crying and said, "They killed Homer." One of the physicians recognized Helen as a member of Homer's family and asked if she agreed to end Homer's life. She said no and he said Homer's physician, Dr. Tice, would make the final decision.

Linda Charzuk and Mary Kay Campbell, a registered nurse, were quite open in asking that Homers life end. Homer only had three living relatives; Mary Ligon, a first cousin living in Ft. Meyer, Florida; Virginia Schwertfeger, a first cousin who was mentally impaired and a second cousin, Tom Schwertfeger who lived in Denver, Colorado. They were not notified that Homer was in the hospital and there was no one there to oppose their actions.

Helen Patterson went to visit Homer at the hospital on August 19, 1984. He was making excellent progress. Homer was tired of the hospital and wanted out. The doctors said that he could easily be transferred to a surgical recovery center then, if he could afford it. Homer had $584,508 cash deposited in three bank accounts and a healthy income from the many homes and apartments that he rented. He owned 59 units. Mostly furnished single-dwelling homes. Five vacant lots in an exclusive custom built home area, Sunningdale and several furnished apartments. Free and clear of mortgage. He had the money and had given Linda Charzuk check-writing privileges in a joint account to transfer him out of the hospital.

While Helen Patterson was at the hospital on the 19 August, Homer had ordered Linda Charzuk out of his room for the third consecutive time when a nurse arrived. Homer told the nurse that he was fully capable of making his own medical decisions, that Linda was no longer his friend and to keep her out of his room. Homer was loud and angry. Helen said that the nurse and Linda stepped outside of Homer's room and into the hall and Linda told the nurse, "Don't pay any attention to what Homer has to say. He is irrational, I want him isolated and sedated until I can get with the family and we decide what to do with him."

Professor Ernest Lange was the next to tell me that Homer had been killed in the hospital. Professor Lange, from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque was renting a room in Homer's home during this time. Professor Lange said that on the evening of the 19 August 1984, Linda Charzuk called a meeting with the Campbell's, Baragiolas, and with her husband, John, present, to decide what to do with Homer. Professor Lange said that Linda started the meeting by referring to Homer and saying, "I hate him, I can't stand him, I want him dead and if he comes out of the hospital alive, I will never see him again." She had found out he was not going to leave her any of his property. He was only prepared to forgive her and her husband the $65,000 loan that he had made to them.

Over the weeks before Homer entered the hospital, she had volunteered to, and she was helping Homer with his bookkeeping. Now she was the only one with a complete knowledge of his assets. Professor Lange said that he did not intervene to stop them because he did not feel the doctors would honor their request since they had requested his death on two previous occasions. He had temporary renal failure and the nephrologist intervened.

A day or two after surgery, the nephrologist announced that Homer had suffered renal failure. He said it was quite a common occurrence after major surgery. Homer would need dialysis maybe once or twice or he would die. Linda Charzuk started screaming "Let him die, Let him die." The nephrologist said, "Let Homer decide for himself." Homer nodded "yes" he wanted dialysis. Homer readily returned to normal kidney function. However, unknown to me, Linda had two attending physicians who had agreed as early as 11 August or sooner to Terminal Sedation for Homer but they could not carry out her wishes, since Homer was not actually their patient. They felt Homer had been dumped on them and they were resentful. Dr. Tice, the chief surgeon who operated on Homer left on vacation immediately after surgery and legally he was the person to make that decision.

Dr. Tice had not intended to leave so soon after surgery but Homer's blood count from blood loss that they had to give him two whole blood transfusions delaying surgery by five days. On Dr. Tice's return from vacation, Linda and Mary Kay Campbell approached Dr. Tice saying Homer had lost the will to live. "They could see it in his eyes" and they asked for Terminal Sedation under the recently signed right to die law. Dr. Tice asked Homer and soon found out that he had not lost the will to live. Dr. Tice adamantly refused the Terminal Sedation request.

After the 19 August incident, at the hospital in the morning, Linda Charzuk approached Dr. Tice asking for Terminal Sedation because he should honor the will of the family. Dr. Tice demanded a consensus of the relatives thus the purpose of the 19 August evening meeting when they agreed to ask for Terminal Sedation. Eddie Baragiola told Professor Lange they called Dana Shelly and his wife to let them know what they were doing. The Shellys agreed with their decision. For their permission, the Shellys received much less than the others but did receive $100,000 cash from Homer's will.

After the 19 August meeting, the three families, Charzuks, Campbells, and Baragiolas, appeared before Dr. Tice claiming to be family to give a consensus of the relatives for terminal sedation of Homer. They stated that none of them was prepared to take care of Homer and he would be a physical and financial burden to the "family." Professor Lange asked how they could possibly claim to be relatives of Homer. They said that they considered themselves members of Homer's Extended Family.

Homer was never on life support nor was he terminally ill, in an irreversible coma or decisionally incompetent. He was no more dependant than anyone under the circumstances. In the hospital, you are at everyone's mercy. Dr. Tice said Homer had a very realistic hope of recovery and could lead a normal, healthy life and that the recovery rate on his surgery was quite high. He also stated he would experience a quality of life that he had not enjoyed the past year, because of his need for surgery.

My wife, son and myself stayed at Homer's home on the 24-26 July, 1984; he was doing everything I do plus driving his pick-up truck all over Albuquerque as well as managing his 58 units and maintaining his home. He outlined his will to me, telling me my son would be in his will and he was. My son received $10,000 and because of this, the "Extended Family" expected me to go along with their devious plan.

When I visited him in the hospital on the 11 August, Homer confirmed to me that he had finished his will as outlined to me. My son, Joseph was left in the will but the "Extended Family" sure stole a lot of money from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque as well as Homer’s sisters sorority, and his cousins, and Mr. & Mrs. Prickett, whom he had forgiven a $60,000 loan, but it was for the money that his life was taken.

Homer waited until the last minute to do his will but I wasn't concerned as he said he would have his trusted friend, Paul Robinson, an attorney, do his will. The Charzuk woman, Linda told Homer that Mr. Robinson was not available and she took the will to her next-door-neighbor, Larry Reecer who was the lawyer of record. I called Paul Robinson and he said that he was indeed available and honored to do Homer's will. When I was in Albuquerque I heard that Roger Campbell had told a tenant that he would have to sell one of his rental properties to pay Larry Reecer the cost of his share of doing Homer's will. I then checked with Mr. Lebeck. This was four and one half months after Homer's death. Larry Reecer had not been paid and the estate had not received a bill from Mr. Reecer.

After Homer's death, I called the District Attorney's office in Albuquerque and spoke with Diane, a prosecutor and I asked for an investigation into Homer's death. Since there were millions of dollars involved, she referred me to a Lt. Connelly, Albuquerque Police Department, and the head of the White Collar Crime Division. Lt. Connelly was very cynical and said; "They kill old people in the hospital every day. I wouldn't waste my time investigating this case." When I insisted, he repeated himself. When I told him that I wanted to explain the situation at the police station, he said, "If you come to the Police Station, I will not see you and I will make sure that no one else sees you." He never even asked Homer's age, Homer was an active seventy six-year-old man.

I then called two prominent criminal defense lawyers to ask if they would investigate Homer's death. The first lawyer had much the same attitude as Lt. Connelly, he said that Homer should have expected what happened to him. He said, "Of course they killed him and of course they altered his will to inherit his money, otherwise there would be no reason to kill him." He also stated that I should have expected what happened to Homer. I wasn't raised that way. The lawyer was not interested in taking the case. The second criminal defense attorney said that he would do a complete and thorough investigation of Homer's death and look in to the will. The second attorney wanted $2500. I did not have that much money at the time but more importantly, I did not know of Dr. Tice's demand for a consensus of the relatives and I had no conception of Terminal Sedation. Had I known a fraction of what I have since learned, I would have borrowed the money.

Eddie Baragiola told Professor Lange, he and other extended family members were told the day and the hour that Homer would be dead. After Terminal Sedation had been administered to Homer and he was lying in the hospital being forced to poison him with his own body fluids. Homer would not be dead for several days. Linda & John Charzuk rented a truck, went to Homer's home, and removed all of his furniture and personal possessions. Professor Lange said that they didn't even leave him a pot to boil water in and even took the dirty little throw rug in the kitchen. When I heard of this invasion, I called the cousin's attorney in Florida and they were ordered to return his belongings. These were not nice people. Homer was dead. Linda Charzuk spent $424.05 on funeral expenses on Homer. Mr. Lebeck was the lead attorney for the estate and represented Linda Charzuk. He was quick to acknowledge to me that Linda Charzuks actions caused Homer's life to end but he added, "I think that she removed him from the Intensive Care Unit too soon." Mr. Lebeck was at the hospital and he knew Homer was not in I.C.U. However, by asserting that Homer was in I.C.U. He gave Linda Charzuk and the others the legal cover that they needed. As I found out, he was also covering himself, since he was at the hospital giving advice and direction to those posing as family members.

Mr. Lebeck had appraised Homer's property for his will. He deceived Homer into signing some papers in the hospital while Homer was groggy from the drugs he was coming out from under. Elaine Maddux, a friend of Homer's, arrived as Homer was signing the documents for Mr. Lebeck. Homer asked Elaine what he had signed but she could not tell him as Mr. Lebeck turned and hurried away with papers in hand. The documents, signed by Homer, through deception would be no good to Mr. Lebeck if Homer were to come out of the hospital alive. I talked with very prominent, high profile attorneys. I hired Mr. Verne Payne who had just recently retired as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Mexico. It was because of Mr. Payne's compassion and concern for the relatives that the cousins were able to contest the will.

The cousins were not listed in the will and received nothing from the will. For purposes of notification, the first cousins were listed as second cousins and thus, in the eyes of the law in the State of New Mexico, not legally qualified to contest Homer's will. One must be a minimum of a first cousin to contest a will. Mr. Lebeck was quick to acknowledge to the lawyers and judges that Linda Charzuk caused Homer's life to end. Mr. Lebeck pointed out that she had medical power of attorney and had merely removed Homer from I.C.U. prematurely. There was no obvious reason for the lawyers and judges not to believe Mr. Lebeck.

There was so much money involved I don't think that anybody really cared how Homer died. Homer's will showed him leaving $2,563,902.00 but it could easily have been $5,000,000.00. The property was grossly under appraised. When the cousins agreed to a settlement and elected to receive cash, the property was sold overnight. One would have thought it was a fire sale. Lyman Sandy was my son's court appointed attorney. He told me that he would file my concerns about Homer's death and the will and asked the Judge to investigate both of them. He did not do this but instead told Mr. Lebeck and the two men threatened to keep my sons inheritance unless my wife and I signed a release, saying we had no interest in the case other than my inheritance. We refused and they kept the money.

I flew to Albuquerque to check Homer's file and to talk with his friends to learn more about his death. The files were unavailable to me. The will received a date stamp on the front page and then his file disappeared. Out of total frustration in August of 1985, I hired Mr. Raymond Morgan, and attorney from Tempe, Arizona to find the files for me. When Mr. Morgan went to the courthouse, the clerks at the courthouse told Mr. Morgan that Homer's file was unavailable. It was lost. Mr. Morgan immediately went to Mr. Tom Ruiz, the clerk of the court and demanded the file. An employee of the court had been paid to remove Homer's file from public record and had the file in her personal possession. Mr. Morgan came with one-half inch of files on the case. He said that Lyman Sandy and Mr. Lebeck demand for a release were nothing less than extortion and he brought back a check for $5000 for my son, which was partial distribution. The others in the will had received their partial distribution, the first week of May 1985.

I did so much to expose Homer's death, but with so many people at the trough, feeding off Homer's money, I stood little chance of getting a hearing. I received an accounting of the will, which certainly gave me a greater understanding of what was happening. Legal fees exceeded $230,000.00.

After Homer's death, total management of all of Homer's properties was turned over to Lebeck Enterprises. On 31 July, 1987, I hand delivered a letter to Honorable William W. Deaton at a hearing. He was the judge handling Homer's will at that time. I outlined my accusations and Homer's intention to leave $1.8 million in property to the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque along with others. He read my letter and I asked that both Mr. Lebeck and Mr. Minzner (attorney for the cousins) read it. The three of them read the letter. The judge said "I don't understand" but then dismissed me, saying that the letter would be placed in Homer's file. I do have a copy from the court stamped, Exhibit A Document.

I contacted Ross E. Zumwalt M.D.; chief medical investigator, Office of the Medical Investigator, State of New Mexico and asked for an investigation into Homer's death. I was very much encouraged by the response I received from Dr. Zumwalt. He let me know that he was legally restricted and could not open Homer's file to investigate his death without a legal referral.

Dr. Zumwalt let me know that the file is available and can be seen if I can find a persistent attorney willing to take the necessary legal steps to obtain Homer's medical records and interpret them. Dr. Zumwalt said that he regretted that he could not be of any direct assistance in this serious matter, but he did offer the services of himself and his staff to reasonable assist and independent primary investigator of my choosing. "I need to put this matter in the hands of an attorney" I said to myself. Dr. Zumwalt's assistant, Tim Stepetic told me, that it was not necessary that the attorney be from Albuquerque. I was told that with today's data and information transfer systems, the location is no longer important. What is most important is that one finds an attorney who is motivated to work on your behalf. I was also told that an attorney is necessary to get through the legal steps for the review, that this review can be conducted anywhere, not necessarily Albuquerque.

Terminal Sedation is a horrible way to die. Those on death row who are executed are treated much more humanely. They receive a lethal injection or the electric chair, their bodies go into convulsions and on average die in five minutes. Patients given Terminal Sedation are heavily sedated and are deprived of food and fluids. Their bodies are in a constant state of convulsion. The patient is constantly flailing the air with their arms and gasping for breath. This is what the patient is subjected to for three to ten days. This is the legal way that they have to kill people in the hospital. A "prime candidate" is someone who is unable to communicate (such as someone in a coma or a persistent vegetative state). Not someone like Homer, who had survived surgery and was well on his way to recovery.

Helen Patterson said "If Homer had gotten out of the hospital and gone home, on 19 August, 1984, he could have survived on his own." All of Homer's life, he was healthy as a horse with the exception of minor colds, never had the need for a doctor. The fact that he had not established a doctor/patient relationship made it easy for the Extended Family to victimize Homer and his surgeon.

Homer spent most of his life in Albuquerque. He had many friends and knew many prominent people. I am sure that they would like to know what happened to him. Homer lived just two houses away from Mr. George Maloof and his family. Homer lived in that home 27 years. I want the people responsible for Homer's death to be exposed and held accountable.

Thanking you in advance for your time and consideration. I would truly appreciate any help you can give me.


Joe Hill

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