Perspective is everything.
The issue regarding longtime Hamlet resident John Richard Ogden, comes down to two possibilities.
The first is that a manipulative younger woman and her husband are taking advantage of a 78-year-old man who has experienced a loss in mental faculty, vision and the ability to care for himself physically. The situation has evolved over the past 18 months to the point that Ogden went from a nest egg of roughly $600,000 to a bank balance of $13.06 —with medical debt at least $6,000.
The second is that a retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant is on his own after his wife of 55 years passed away in 2011 and is living his life the way he wants. Perhaps it is that Ogden’s family, including daughter Rhonda Ogden Nelson, simply wanted Ogden’s life savings for themselves instead of him investing the money in land, a house and a high-end dog breeding business with people he’s known for less than one of his 78 years after meeting them through a family member in a Rockingham area church.
As of Friday, Ogden had 10 days to appeal the decision of the Cobb County Probate Court, where Nelson, of Nashville, Tenn., petitioned the Cobb County Adult Protective Services to move Ogden out of the home he shares with Senia Coffey Tauiautusa, her husband Danny and their six children. The court appointed a legal guardian and conservator to take control of Ogden’s finances, which includes nearly $7,000 in monthly income from military and Social Security payments, and to move him .
Is it a case of elder abuse or man living out his final years as he sees fit?
The case for John Ogden
Ogden retired from the Air Force and moved to his wife’s hometown of Hamlet in 1975, where the couple purchased their home at 900 Henderson St. Margaret Bruce Ogden died March 28, 2011. Prior to his marriage, John Ogden had been a devout Mormon but his wife had different beliefs. So he stopped going to church, and didn’t try to begin again until she died.
“She wouldn’t have anything to do with it,” Ogden said of trying to get his wife to attend a Mormon church. “She had her own beliefs.”
Further, Ogden told the court he “was trying to get her to go all during our marriage.”
An experienced and successful day trader, Ogden invested in the stock market and once had assets worth nearly $1 million. According to court testimony, the market slipped and Ogden’s value was cut almost in half. It was then, Ogden said, he decided to invest in something else.
That something else became an opportunity to purchase 10 acres in Jasper, Ga., from Senia’s grandmother for $40,000. He contracted with Southland Custom Homes to build a 6,500-square foot house. Ogden told the court he’d live in a basement apartment; he prefers that because it would be the coolest part of the house and have easy, first-floor access.
After his only daughter, Rhonda Ogden Nelson, attempted to takeover his finances through a guardianship petition, initiated by Nelson, here in North Carolina. Ogden decided he’d had enough. Through church, he met Richmond County residents Jimmy and Dawn Blue. According to court documents, Ogden later met their daughter, Jennifer Tucker, and her sister, Senia. Ogden moved to Smyrna, Ga., into a house with Sienna, Danny and six of Senia’s seven children.
By his own choosing, he didn’t speak to anyone in his family, or his friends, for at least eight months.
“I decided it was time to get out of Dodge,” Ogden told the court, “so I just dropped out of sight until things cooled over and maybe we could get together and heal. I wanted to be myself - be my own guardian, do my own business and not be bothered with court cases.”
Ogden agreed to pay for the land, house and the vast majority of the family’s monthly expenses — including up to $4,000 in food for nine people — while Senia and Danny, both of whom are unemployed, agreed to help Ogden manage his finances, ensure bills were paid on time and take him to medical appointments.
Ogden purchased two 2011 Lincoln vehicles, a Navigator for Senia and a MKS for himself. However, an earlier accident this year forced Ogden to the conclusion that, with cataracts and impaired vision, he shouldn’t be driving.
Ogden indicated he has complete faith and trust in his current caregivers.
“She’s done everything,” Ogden said of Senia. “She’s taken care of everything — the finances, signs checks and makes payments.”
And of his family: “Well, I think they just want control of the money and me.”
He visited Nelson on July 4, 2012 and they had a falling out. Court records show that Nelson’s husband told Ogden to leave and never come back. Ogden left, and spent that night in his car in a grocery store parking lot.
Ogden has overseen a $40,000 investment in the breeding of high-end English bulldogs as well. He said employees of this new business venture include Sienna and her husband, though no money has yet been made.
The new home’s location sits adjacent to a proposed reservoir. Ogden estimates his investment of $467,000 could be worth up to $1 million when the reservoir is completed —which could prove to be a sound investment.
The case against John Ogden
There is no more money. The idea that family members like Rhonda Ogden Nelson want access John Ogden’s money is ludicrous because, well, it’s all gone.
Nelson tells the story like this. Her father began attending the Mormon church in Rockingham shortly after the death of his wife in March 2011.
In court testimony, Ogden acknowledged he and David Williams, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints near Rockingham had a close relationship. But he rebuked Williams in court testimony when he was told that Williams had contacted Nelson with concerns that Senia was taking advantage of him.
“Everything that I do is confidential and he’s not supposed to let that out,” Ogden said.
Nelson said her father was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1990. She initiated the first guardianship petition when she learned Ogden was no longer taking his medication, but “we dropped the guardianship process due to the fact he was back in treatment and taking his medications and doing well in early 2012,” Nelson said in a sworn affidavit.
Nelson said Ogden met Senia Coffee Tauiautusa, 34, through Jimmy and Dawn Blue while attending the Mormon church. She billed herself as a “nutrition therapist” and convinced Ogden to go on the “Garrison Method.”
“He lost 80 pounds in a very short period of time,” Nelson said. “His doctor became very concerned and advised him to stop.”
Nelson contacted her father in June 2012. Ogden told her he was “dating” Senia at a time she was married to Danny, an immigrant from Western Samoa.
“In August 2012, my father … disappeared (in) North Carolina,” Nelson said. “After he disappeared, I tried calling him and left messages and sent him emails with no answers.”
Late that summer, Ogden traveled with Senia and her family to Utah. Bank records show that $9,735.50 was spent at two Walmart stores over a two-day period. Ogden told the court he could not remember what was purchased or who made the purchases.
Ogden has said in court testimony that he is allowed to use the house phone any time he wants and regularly checks his email; however, in further testimony, Ogden acknowledged that Senia checks his email because he can’t see the computer screen well enough.
Over a series of actions, Ogden began to add Senia to his bank accounts or transfer much of his assets into an account with only Sienna’s name.
The story changes. At first, Ogden “was to marry their mother, Dawn Blue, who is currently married and living with her husband, Jimmy Blue,” Nelson said.
Then Ogden went to live with Jennifer Tucker, Sienna’s sister, in Georgia. Jimmy Blue is Senia’s stepfather. Soon after, Ogden moved in with Senia and Danny. Though Ogden told the court he has his own bedroom, “he, in fact, sleeps in a chair in a common living area,” Nelson said in her affidavit. This information was obtained through an Adult Protective Services investigation.
As for Ogden’s claim that Nelson and the rest of his family is simply out to control his money, Nelson dismissed that idea. Her family doesn’t need the money; she currently works as a flight attendant and her husband is a retired commercial pilot. Their own financial security has allowed them to rack up nearly $30,000 in fees for attorneys and a private investigator with one goal: to rescue Ogden.
Sienna, Nelson said, “is absolutely everything my father, in his right mind, detested.”
On Friday, Probate Judge Kelli L. Wolk appointed the Georgia Department of Human Services as guardian and county conservator Jerry A. Landers Jr. as conservator “because such appointment is in the best interest of (Ogden),” according to the judge’s final order filed with the probate court.
Wolk found Ogden as a “kindhearted man” who previously left his financial affairs to his wife, Margaret. Wolk also found that Ogden unknowingly signed over joint interest to Senia on the Jasper property and home. According to Wolk, Ogden also seemed surprised that part of his monthly income of about $7,000 was not being deposited into either of the two accounts he had established.
“Mr. Ogden does not know where the missing income is going and was unaware that it was not being deposited until told by the emergency conservator,” Wolk wrote in her findings.
During the three-day hearing, Ogden testified he had planned to marry has many has five different women since his wife’s passing, and “he also, apparently, intended to buy a house for a 17-year-old girl in North Carolina to help her ‘get out of her stepparents’ house.’”
Regarding the aspiring bulldog-breeding business, “as many as six dogs have died under the control and care of Mr. Ogden and Senia,” Wolk determined, including four that died in summer due to the heat. Ogden described how they “were so weak that they could not lift their heads to drink water,” Wolk wrote.
“The negligence and malice in the treatment of the dogs indicate either a clear incapacity or a depravity which is completely inconsistent with how Mr. Ogden has lived his life and presented himself throughout the hearings,” Wolk wrote. “The court refuses to accept, given his behavior and demeanor exhibited throughout these proceedings, that he is a depraved individual.”
Wolk concluded that, conditions aside, an investment “leading to a loss in excess of 25 percent of principal shows a complete lack of understanding of the investment and business as well as a complete inability to manage the ‘property.’”
Wolk noted that Senia, subpoenaed to testify, pled her Constitutional Fifth Amendment right not to testify.
Ultimately, Wolk found, Ogden “is in ndeed of a guardian and/or conservator by reason of mental illness and the inability to make reasonable decisions concerning himself and his property. Such need appears to be permanent.”
Nelson was awarded guardianship. Ogden has 10 days to appeal the decision.