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The Case of Carl DeBrodie: The Guardians

Part two of a three-part series

The Case of Carl DeBrodie The Guardians

FULTON, Mo. - Before 31-year-old Carl DeBrodie's body was found encased in concrete, he was part of a lifelong custody battle.

Some key players in Carl's life say the legal struggles could have been avoided if Carl hadn't gone into Second Chance, the group home where he was last seen.

ABC 17's Deborah Kendrick got her hands on court documents that uncover more about what went on behind the scenes, including a possible conflict of interest.

Early Years

In November 1985: Carl DeBrodie was born to Carolyn Summers. Carl lived with his mother, who has mental limitations, until Carl was about 12-years-old. Carl went into the care of Mary Martin, through the foster care system.

In September 1999: Cole County Circuit Court appointed Mary Martin to be Carl's legal guardian when he turned 14-years-old.

In November 2003: Carl turned 18 and he became his own legal guardian.

In November 2006: Martin cared for Carl until he was 21. It was nearly two years later in 2008, when Carl was declared a incapacitated and disabled adult from Callaway County Court. So Karen Digh, the public administrator was appointed his legal guardian. 

Legal Battles

In 2009: Martin petitioned the Callaway County Court to be named as Carl's legal guardian. The court held hearings on April 2010, but she was denied. It was that same year, Christmas Eve at Martin's when Martin claims Carl was abused. An investigation was done and found no one to be responsible. It was noted in documents that Carl sometimes "harms himself."

By 2010: Carl was living at Second Chance. Carl's former guardian ad litem, Jana Oestreich, visited Carl that year and states that she saw "tremendous positive change." A guardian ad litem is court appointed to represent the best interests of a child, or incapacitated adult. In an appeal opinion by the Cole County judge, Oestreich said Carl was "happy, healthy, robust, cozy and comfortable."  Oestreich testified that when she visited Martin's home, it was "very chaotic," and "there is a lot of traffic inside of Martin's home with different children, different family members."

In August 2011: Martin petitioned the Cole County Court to adopt Carl when he was 25. It was December of 2011, when Mary Beck, Carl's appointed guardian ad litem during the adoption, made a visit to Martin's home. Beck said Carl appeared to be comfortable and familiar with his residential home and had access to the entire house. Beck stated in her guardian ad litem report, "Carl got his own drinks, letting the dogs out and interacting with family members." Beck stated neighbors and friends who were present enjoyed Carl's company not because they were being paid.

It was in front of Beck that Carl asked his 'Dad', Mary Martin's husband, if he (Carl) could stay at his childhood home. "His father hugged him, but told him he would have to leave and assured him that he was doing everything in his power to ensure that Carl could be a part of the family more often."

May 2012: Six months after the guardian ad litem's report of Carl being calm and loving at the Martin's (home). Carl was observed having an extremely opposite reaction to the mention of the Martin's name.

During a visit in May, the report noted there was a continuous presence of Sherry Paulo, the assistant director of Second Chance homes and Vickie Cole, the house manager of Second Chance homes. It was noted during the visit Carl was very "distraught, crying, screaming and shaking his head "No" when Martin's name was brought up. It was concluded that both Paulo and Cole "exerted immense influence over Carl's response to the Martin's name at the idea of adoption."

It was also in May that the Cole County Court ruled to deny the adoption to Martin because: consent of the adult was needed; no credible evidence was presented to support a finding that Carl knew the legal significance of a decision to consent to the adoption; Carl's legal guardian, Karen Digh, declined to give consent and declined to seek authority for consent.

In 2014: Martin appealed the courts decisions but she was denied. In 2014, that was the last time Martin saw Carl.

Testimonies

Sherry Paulo: a staff member and "qualified disability professional." Paulo testified that Martin and her husband were not denied visitation but they needed to be supervised.

Karen Digh: Carl's legal guardian. Digh stated when Carl returned from visits with Mary he exhibited strange or distressful behaviors.

Mary Martin: Carl's former guardian. Martin stated Carl "needed an advocate and needed somebody to watch out for him the rest of his life." Martin stated she did not want Carl living at Second Chance and believed he was being overmedicated.

Mary Beck: Carl's guardian ad litem. Beck stated that Carl really valued the role of his biological mother and Mary Martin in his life. Beck recommended that the court grant the adoption.

During a visit to Second Chance Beck asked Carl if he wanted to continue living at Second Chance or if he wanted to live with the Martins. Carl pointed to the ground and said "here." Beck asked Carl the same question when he was visiting at the Martin's Carl said, "Here. Home."

Conflict of Interest

The question on the minds of several people in the community, "Why wouldn't someone who has cared for him for years not be allowed to adopt him."

"Why would someone resist in giving guardianship or adoption to a family that had cared for him for 13 years and were in love with him, who had the financial means to take care of him," Beck said.

Beck states a financial tie and conflict of interest existed with the Public Administrators office and Second Chance.

"This is my guardian ad litem report to the court so it's not confidential information. There was a financial tie between Karen's office and Second Chance homes," Beck said.

In the report it states, "The legal guardian's deputy was working at Second Chance while working as a deputy to the Callaway County public administrator, which is a noteworthy conflict of interest. The deputy was very much in favor of keeping (Carl) DeBrodie institutionalized."

"It's a real conflict of interest to have a facility for incapacitated adults to have a financial tie to a main worker in the public guardian's office," Beck said.

Second Chance Finances

According to a financial document that ABC 17 News obtained from the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Second Chance was bringing in an average of $592,000 each year from 2009 to 2017. This brought the total to more than $5 million over the nine year span.

Investigation

ABC 17 News checks in daily on the investigation. So far, no arrests have been made in the disappearance and death of Carl DeBrodie. 


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