Family and Friends
Last summer I blogged about a really bad situation that my mentally disabled grandson, Nicholas, got into. Even as I wrote the piece, I didn’t realize how much danger he had been in, nor did I realize the extent of the trauma visited upon him.
Essentially, he was held captive by a group of people, true scum-of-the-earth, in Cornelia, Georgia. Trash that they are, they robbed him, intimidated him, brainwashed him and threatened him: “This is the knife I’m going to kill you with,” one of them told Nicholas, brandishing a blade in front of my grandson.
Luckily, before the threat could become reality, five people were arrested and jailed, due largely to the efforts of Nicholas’ mother. Very recently, the legal fates of the five were determined through plea bargaining negotiations with the Habersham County District Attorney’s office.
The ringleader of the group, a sociopathic witch—-my opinion, not a clinical diagnosis—-by the name of Kristina Baggerly, was sentenced to two years in jail followed by eight on probation. My guess is she’ll bust probation, since she already comes with felony baggage. One can only hope.
Kristina, an inveterate liar, fabricated a number of falsehoods to keep Nicholas in check. She told him there was a warrant out for his arrest, that his family would have him committed to a mental institution if he returned to them, and that his grandmother—-my wife—-had fallen, cracked her head, went into a coma and died.
The first time Nicholas’ mother, Betsy, met Kristina, Kristina’s hand was in a cast. Only later did Betsy find out that was because Kristina had broken her hand whacking Nicholas on the head because she thought he’d tried to phone his family. Thank God, my grandson has a hard head. (This can be taken both literally and metaphorically.)
Brandon Kent, the piece of garbage who waved a knife at Nicholas and told him he was a dead man, got 10 years probation, a $1000 fine, and loss of his 4th Amendment rights. Loss of those rights means his vehicle and/or home can be searched at any time without cause.
Brandon also threatened Nicholas’ aunt and cousin, and they are understandably frightened now that he’s “free.” In my limited dealings with Brandon, he came across as a classic bully. He seemed the kind of person who would intimidate someone he viewed as inferior or weaker, but who would back off if confronted or challenged by someone stronger or smarter.
Daniel Sosebee, wonderful human that he is, tossed lighted matches at Nicholas. (I saw the burns on his arms.) Daniel got 12 months probation.
Jessica Meeks, for her part in the match-tossing incident, also got 12 months probation. She probably should have received more: She also dumped hot ashes from a barbecue grill on Nicholas.
Charges were dismissed against Carolyn Meeks, Jessica’s mother. Nicholas agrees with that outcome, saying Carolyn actually tried to help him.
As a group, the four remaining individuals are liable for $3000 restitution to Nicholas. Chances are he’ll never see it. These are people, I suspect, who are essentially unemployable.
Nicholas is living with his mother in Mexico now and understandably isn’t too excited about returning to the U.S., except as necessary to renew his visa. He says Kristina is still “in his head,” telling him to do things he shouldn’t be doing. And he’s frightened that Brandon is going to come after him. He doesn’t sleep well and frequently has an upset stomach. Basically, he’s got a version of PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
All considered, the perps got off lightly. But I also understand the DA’s side of the issue. Their office is inundated with cases and thus will strike plea bargains whenever it can to clear its judicial calendar. And I was reminded by the DA that his office represents the state, not individuals. Not Nicholas.
Nicholas and his mother could bring civil suits against the “Cornelia Cretins,” but suing zeros only gets you zeros.
-March 22, 2012-
IMAGE: Mug shot of Kristina Baggerly, from the studios of the Habersham County Sheriff’s office.
Although I’m a novelist, I sometimes find real-life events more unbelievable, and yes, even more horrifying than fiction.
Consider what happened to my grandson, Nicholas.
Nicholas is 28 years old, mentally disabled and hearing impaired. For all that, he’s friendly, outgoing and high functioning. High functioning means he’s able to hold a job, care for himself and interact with people, many of whom don’t immediately realize he has significant limitations.
Nicholas was 13 when his father died. His mother left the country a few years after that. From that point on, my wife and I were Nicholas’ de facto parents.
Early this year, Nicholas was living in an apartment in metro Atlanta with another disabled young man and a 24/7 overseer. Nicholas had a job at a high-end deli. He found the work rewarding and was doing quite well.
But his tendency to be outgoing and everybody’s friend, while his greatest asset, is also his greatest weakness. His friendliness coupled with his below average IQ makes him unusually gullible. It’s a characteristic easily exploitable by the wrong people. And boy, did he run into the wrong people.
Nicholas, though handicapped, harbors the same hormones and desires we all did in our twenties. He thought he’d fallen in love. The girl, the Lorelei of his life, and several of her friends, convinced Nicholas, against our advice, to leave his closely monitored environment and move with them to a small town in northeast Georgia.
When he left–in the eyes of the law he’s an adult and can make his own decisions–it happened to be on the same day his rather substantial social security disability (SSDI) check arrived, and the same day the group signed a lease on a house.
That was a red flag to us and all the people who knew and loved Nicholas. But not to Nicholas. He was finally free and independent, or so he thought.
We did some research on the girl he’d met. It turned out she had a criminal past and, we soon discovered, a mouth that would make a drunken sailor blanch. Her cohorts were characters straight out of Deliverance.
To make a long story short (and I will someday make it much longer) Nicholas during the next two months became the victim of intimidation, brainwashing, and abuse, both mental and physical. The group he was living with confiscated his SSDI check, stole his property, took out loans in his name and virtually severed his contact with the outside world. Most frightening of all, they took out life insurance policies on him.
Since communication with us had been cut off, we didn’t know exactly where Nicholas was living. We desperately wanted an address. We hired a private investigator and filed a missing person report with our local police. Neither effort bore fruit.
It was only after his mother, miraculously reentering his life after a decade of absenteeism, his aunt and a friend literally snatched Nicholas from “captivity” that the true peril of his situation came to light.
To free Nicholas, his mom engineered a not-necessarily-by-design sting operation involving–what else?–money, to obtain the address where Nicholas was living.
But all did not go smoothly, and the rescuers were briefly held at gunpoint by the town police who initially thought them kidnappers. As I said, I’ll write a much longer version of this someday.
Things were quickly sorted out, however, and the bottom line is this: Nicholas is safe and spending time with his mother. Five people, including his faux fiancée, are in a northeast Georgia jail (or out on bond) charged with a long list of serious felonies including theft by extortion, theft by taking, aggravated battery, fraud, and terroristic threats and acts.
So much for true love.
PHOTO: My grandson, Nicholas.