A reader writes … By Jean Hutchinson Schmitt

August 20, 2001

If I should ever find myself in the same situation as Edna Martin was the last years of her life, I would hope someone who really knew what was going on in Imperial County would get me out of here. Or shoot me.

Let me explain.

Between 18 months and two years ago I reported to Gilbert Otero, our often absent district attorney, that some vultures were sucking Edna dry — one in particular. Over the years I had been successful in weeding out crooked Lulu Belle Memorial Animal Haven managers — but never soon enough. Con artists are skillful in making older people believe they have their best interests at heart.

Even though the manager of a North County trailer park wrote Edna a long letter and drove to her office to show her how much a couple had stolen, Edna would not believe the woman was bad because she was so good with cats.


Otero told me much later that the county had some money to deal with elder abuse and Edna's case would be investigated. Hah! The "investigator" never got in touch with me. I finally called him while he was driving west from Yuma. He changed the subject to say a white Cadillac (or Lincoln, I can't remember which) was following him. I asked him what the license number was. He didn't know. He didn't bother to call me after this but I reached him at the County Courthouse. He said he had been in court two days testifying. I asked him who the judge was. He didn't know.

So much for Gilbert's investigators. Do you suppose this guy is somebody's relative? I asked Joe Beard, the assistant DA, to return all of Edna's files that I had, including her trust, that were in Mitch Driskill's office when I learned Driskill represented Edna's sister I had Edna's power of attorney, which was filed with the county recorder.

The instructions were for this "investigator" to drop off the files at the federal court in El Centro, where my husband would pick them up. Instead, he carried them around in the trunk of his car for over a week. I called the "investigator" at his house to ask him what he had done with my files. He said he still had them but now the white Cadillac-Lincoln was parked in the street outside his house. I told him again if he would get the license number, I could find who owned the car. This, apparently, was beyond his comprehension.

Finally, Joe Beard had to send Ron Pegues to Brawley with my files. This little scenario is a fair representation of the kind of investigation coming out of the DA's office these days.

I behaved more respectfully than I usually do with most lawyers and bureaucrats when Chris Collins, the DA's elder abuse lawyer-investigator, finally came to our house. I am always friendly with Irishmen — in the beginning. I am not feeling friendly anymore. Collins, Gilbert and Joe Beard won't return my files or my calls. Don't let these men tell you I call too often. I leave messages with three wonderful, on-the-job staff members; Melissa, Connie Noeta and Alicia.

I was the person who filed the complaint. I had the documents to back up my complaint — courtesy of Dolores Provenico, the county recorder. I know where all the bones are buried, yet these three men behave as though I don't exist.

Now poor Edna is dead, her estate is a mess and none of the people running the show is anyone Edna wanted to carry on for her. She wanted me to be her conservator but I told her she needed a younger person who would be around for awhile. I did agree to be a trustee and Dr. Kenagy and I are on the board of directors for Lulu Belle.

On July 30, (Edna died on July 28.) Driskill's secretary telephoned me to ask for my mailing address because I was a trustee for Edna and they wanted to send me notification of a hearing or paperwork of some kind. I gave them my husband's office address. On Aug. 1, Driskill's office called again to say I was not a trustee. I told the secretary I wanted this in writing. Driskill has refused. It goes without saying he does not return my calls, either.

I must confess I used a small sting during my first conversation with the secretary when I told her I didn't know I was a trustee.

I had asked Lois Robertson in county Social Services for help in this matter. She asked a bright and competent female attorney in San Diego to come to El Centro to talk with Edna, her accountant and me. When I arrived at Edna's house they told me a man named Eddy wouldn't let them in the house. I am fearless and when Eddy Mejorado refused to allow me to see Edna — I was her oldest friend (47 years) — I told him if he raised a hand against me I would call the El Centro police. Chief Loera and Capt. Madueño have always been there for Edna and me. Mr. Mejorado waited out in the yard without my having to call the police.

John Lenderman told me Mejorado asked him to change Edna's trust — which he did. I believe it was to substitute someone else's name for Edna's original trustee. Thank God Edna never signed it.

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