tv America Tonight Al Jazeera March 1, 2016 2:30am-3:01am EST
station if necessary but back on the ground he'll continue to be the focus of study for researchers who are charting the next frontiers of human kind in space. tom ackerman, al jazeera. >> lots of more news when you want it, aljazeera.com. more information on our top stories. always there for you. >> thanks for joining us on "america tonight." i'm joie chen. our report begins with a nightmare scenario so bizarre it seems impossible, that something like this could happen in america. vulnerable people especially the elderly destroyed by a system that is supposedly designed to protect them.
more remarkable than anything is how the state plays a role in essentially robbing people of their assets at a time when they most need them. at issue here is what's called guardianship and the people in charge are the wards of the state. "america tonight's" sheila macvicar brings us a tragic story that began with a knock at the door. >> just like that, my overwhelm life was shattered. >> with that knock, rudy and rennie north were about to embark on a 22-month ordeal, one that would deprive them of freedom. >> she never said it was anything other than we have three choices. one: i can call the police. two: i can put you in a psychiatric ward.
three: you can go to a assisted living facility. >> reporter: the woman at the door was april parks, appointed by a judge in las vegas to serve as the north' private guardian. unknown to the north and their family a doctor and physician assistant providing in home care had declared the couple unable to care for themselves. then a judge who never met the couple, signed off on the parks are owner be conclusion. >> i elected to go to the third option. going to assisted living. >> instead of two or three weeks, the couple wound up here lakewood terrace, outside of las vegas.
sure there was some sort of mixup, confident they would be back home in no time. >> i felt this would just blow over. i didn't have any idea what was going on. none whatsoever. >> what was going on, what has been going on for years across clark county, home to las vegas and surrounding communities, elderly people declared incompetent, thrown into guardianship, their lives and their finances, now chromed by a -- controlled by a court b court-appointed guardian. more than 8700 are now in guardianship, the result of laws passed in 2005 that were supposed to help people unable to care for themselves but are now being used by some to prey on them. >> i thought there was so absurd so stupid that there was no way this should be true. >> sudan roberts is the publish
ever the neighborhood voice, a monthly paper catering to retired people. >> it is a racket, going on for years, grab as much money as you can from these people. this is a multimillion dollar business in which everyone is getting a piece of it. the lawyers getting a piece of it. the private guardians are getting a piece of it. people who do estate sales they're grabbing some. >> nobody phoned you? >> nobody phoned me. >> julie north is the north's only surviving child. she also lives in las vegas. she says she had no idea what had happened to her parents. >> i didn't know what happened. i panicked. >> she found a note on her parents' door. >> in case of emergency call april parks. i found april parks and she phoned me back about a day or so
later. and was very nice. very matter of fact. yes i have your parents. and i was outraged. i said don't you know this is the united states of america? that people have their civil and constitution rights? what are you doing? >> reporter: if you're wondering why authorities didn't simply contact the north' daughter, you can find the answer in the paperwork filed by april parks. exhibit 1 written by the same physician assistant who declared renee north unable to care for herself. quote, the daughter is unable to care for the patient due to drug dependency issues of her own about the court was offered no background to substantiate this. >> it is always something against a family member. we're all the pieces of garbage
and they all come out smelling like roses. >> reporter: almost immediately belshe objected to the guardian. >> a lot of papers, a lot of going down to family court and paying objection he and petitions. >> fees for the attorneys, they came out of rudy and renie's guardian controlled bank account. at the assisted living facility rudy said he asked april parks what would happen to the couple's possessions. >> she said don't worry, they're going to be held in safekeeping. >> eight others were being held at the same assisted living facility. and they told a very different story. >> what did these people say to you? these people also on the wards? >> they said to me they're going to sell them. don't listen to her. >> all of the north' possessions
were sold at an estate sale. a lifetime's worth of antiques, furniture, artwork, sold rudy says for pennies on the dollar. >> so when the guardian comes in the guardian then has the right to sell your parents' belongings in order to do what? >> to take care of them. in their best interest, which is a bunch of bull (bleep) nothing done is in the ward's best interests. it's only done in the guardian's best interest. >> what did you think? >> i said i can't believe this. we're going to court. she said you can't go to court because you don't have any money. you can't afford a lawyer. >> reporter: when the north became parks's wards they had money, lots of it. where did it go? in the first year alone court documents showed april parks billed rudy and renee north
20,000. a monthly trip to the bank $60 each. opening mail, $130 each. every month, the bills added up. a 15-minute call from the ward about money, that called cost the north s $20. rudy and renee north were two of april parks' wards. 155 wards under april parks. she was billing all of them every month. one was elizabeth indig's mother. >> my mom had fallen down the driveway and she was rushed to the hospital. she was getting better to the point where they moved her into a rehab facility. and then all of a sudden, out of the blue one day, i get a phone call from this woman named april parks. >> and what did she say? >> oh my god she was very angry.
she says my name is april parks. i'm an officer of the court. the state has given me guardianship over your mother. i'm coming to your house to get the keys to your mother's house. >> control of the house, the bank accounts, and everything. all of in dig's mother's possessions too were sold. >> i sent in some friends to see what was going on. and the friends reported back to me that they were auctioning off her clothes. even a bra that still had a price tag on it. her night gowns. her shoes. she -- my mom is not dead. you're auction off all her clothes? really? it just seems to me they just come in and use the ward like their personal atm. it's unbelievable. it's all about money. and they are making huge money.
>> in dig's mother lived in this house in a gated community outside of las vegas. in dig said parks failed to pay the homeowners association dues and the home went into foreclosure . purchased for $320,000, the home sold at auction for $22,000. indig said when she complained, parks cut off visits to her mother. >> she said sorry, you can't visit her so that -- i begged i pleaded but nothing was working. i just think she was demonstrating that she did have the power not olet me see my mom. and that i better toe the line. >> our calls and e-mails to april parks and her attorney went unanswered. we also left messages for john reyes, the official who declared
her unable to care for herself. parks finally withdrew her objection to julie bellshe taking care of her parents. >> she didn't withdraw objections, she had drained them of all their money. >> i thought i had enough money to last me forever. >> now? >> now i have nothing, nothing. >> bellshe and her parents are now in court asking for some sort of rest city tooutio tooutio restitution for their ordeal. they little with bellshe and her money. parks also faces a police investigation and the chief justice of nevada supreme court has convened a commission to reform guardianship in the state. >> the money's gone before you even know what hit you. you never knew what hit you
until you got that knock on the door saying come with me. >> sheila macvicar, al jazeera, las vegas, nevada. >> next we turn from exploitation of the elderly, to who is best equipped to serve the seniors? >> next, his sacrifice and his suffering. a man who stood to give everything for his country and how he was left for nothing. and hot on "america tonight's" website. can muslims find their footing in modern fashion? at aljazeera.com/americatonight.
making.that happen, is with so many much us getting older and living longer, "america tonight"'s christof putzel found a surprising helping hand. >> it's tough getting old and things start happening like the collarbone i tripped and just broke it. >> reporter: ann is not sick or disabled. she's aging and the new hampshire winter shows little for the elderly. >> four or 75 years ago i found myself not being able to do everything. >> the 63-year-old lives in a cabin built by her father. the simple task of keeping the pipes from freezing it's overwhelming. >> i have no water in the winter and the heat is primarily the wood stove. >> she'll be in good shape now. >> so you need to have somebody
out there that can be of some help. so having these guys come over and stack the wood has been a godsend. >> she will need more i think by the end of the winter, yeah. >> reporter: these guys aren't a couple of college kids on winter break. dwight shank is 67 and larry davis is 53. >> she's here by herself, out in the backwoods and everything. it's important for us to get a good supply of woods for her. >> are you expecting a lot of people around your age group? >> i expected 65 or older. >> suddenly one day you're old, you didn't know it before but at 65 you're old. >> susan mcwinie morse came up with the idea 12 years ago. >> everybody needs a little bit of help sometimes and eventually
some of us will need a lot of hem a lot of the time. >> why is it important that the model is involved in seniors helping seniors? >> we simply understand each other. i think all of us are a little afraid of being pandered to, of being dumbed down. taking my elbow and helping me across the street because i have white hair. i'm going to say sonny cut that out. you know? >> be she says they need something more to do to keep them off the streets. retirement can be a little -- boring. >> the working world essentially stops at 65 and you have 30 more years to go. >> bobby and tuck gilbert are retired. >> before we reached our 80s, we were beginning to need help. >> they bought a home that would be easy to age in and they've
stopped lifting heavy things. but there is only so much you can plan for. bobby's giving her husband cooking lessons just in case. >> i've never liked cooking and i'm not very good at it. bobby takes special efforts to keep me learning how to cook. if i'm alone, if she's in the hospital or in a nursing home i don't like the idea of living alone. >> and he won't be alone thanks otheir shared community but for all the benefits there are drawbacks. >> i actually got quite involved with one of our members on a whole variety of things. i was working with her on her computer and on her exercise machine and sometimes we would just chat for a bit. i very much enjoyed her. and she had a sudden death. that probably hit me as hard as anything recently, aside from my own family members. >> not part of the job
description. >> it was not, no. >> it just happens. >> it's there. >> but dwight says he has no regrets. just being part of her life, part of the community, being able to help was worth it. christof putzel, al jazeera, jaffrey, new hampshire. >> next here a reminder of sacrifice and the courage that carried him through a hard battle at home. eera america.
on the street where america's homeless veterans live, while efforts are make it better we met an american hero who found himself in need in his 90s. >> reporter: it's been said the greater the obstacle the more glory there is in overcoming it. by that measure 96-year-old james blake ley has led a remarkable life. despite a lifetime of service to god and country. >> how long have you been here? >> i don't remember. >> until recently he was living here inside an abandoned trailer on the streets of brooklyn. >> there were days and nights that i said it's very easy to die. easy to die but to live --
>> reporter: it wasn't the first time he'd known hardship. as a child he grew up in the deeply deeply segregated south. >> we were in the south we weren'tfully man to anybody. we were christian people. we were hung. we were shot. it was so terrible, that's what drove me out of the south into the navy. you could say jump out of the frying pan into the fire. because the navy was segregated. >> reporter: back then, opportunities for black sailors were limited. most ended up as cooks , mess men. >> there were not a white face in the
messmen branch they were all men of color. >> dispute institutional segregation blakeley said they were afforded a measure of respect. >> i was not mistreated. those officers are educated and as they say, you don't -- you don't mess with the foal who's fellow who answer going to cook your food. he put a spider in your dumpling. >> blakeley was there the day world war 22 began. world war ii began. >> it started, we were all up on the main deck. it was an entertaining group they call the ink spots. ♪ i don't want to set the world on fire ♪ >> there was a song they were singing, "i don't want to set the world on fire, i just want
to start a flame in your heart." about that time, there was an announcement, all men, man your battle station, this is not a drill. >> it was december 7, 1941, pearl harbor. >> jches fighter >> japanese fighters and bombers were coming in from all over. direct hit on one of those boats boats. set fire higher than either one of these buildings here. i knew right there, they weren't planned. >> it was then that blakeley went from being a messman to being a trained fighter. >> there was no segregation there. you had a job to do and you did it. >> over the next four years,
blakeley took part in battles throughout the south pacific including iwa jima where the allies suffered 26,000 casualties. >> war, war is hell. >> reporter: it was during the war that he decided to become a man of god. the horrors of war reinforcehis belief in the dignity of all people. >> i am going to treat man, i don't care where he's from, what color he's from, what language he speaks, i'm going to treat him like i want to be treated. >> like many of the greatest generation, reverend james blake
ley came home to a new life. >> i bought a home, on the g.i. bill, paid for it completely. completely approximately. >> for nearly 50 years he worked on the brooklyn waterfront, and lived in this house. and on 2010, on the pretense he was receiving a low internet loan he signed over ownership of his home to his grandson who then forced him out. >> before i learned, it was too late, i signed some papers i didn't know what i was signing because i had no legal representation. but i had money in my pockets. to eat, but that wasn't the problem. >> at age 92, he suddenly found himself homeless living in his car on the streets of a rapidly gentrifying brooklyn. later that same year blakeley says while asleep in his car he was car jacked, beaten and thrown in this gutter.
>> they beat me up. >> took your car. >> yeah. >> no no no, it wasn't safe. >> herbert sweat, himself a veteran of vietnam is a member of black veterans for social justice. sweat worked with his organization to get blakeley placed in an apartment they managed for the city of new york. sweat and blakely have since formed a bond. >> just to be here today with a person who has been in the same boat that i have been in and looking like me, i have come to terms that we did away we had to do. and we're here today, so that we can love, respect, and honor each other. >> now, off the streets, with the help of fellow veterans, blakely says he is proud of what he and his fellow messmen have overcome.
>> i got a friend now, his son is an admiral. you couldn't be nothing but a busboy. we paved the way. we black fellows out of the south. we paved the way. ♪ i don't want to set the world on fire ♪ ♪ i just want to start a flame flame in your heart ♪ >> you are a member of this nation's greatest generation, your combined word list is as follows, world war ii victory medal. >> james edward blakely, from hero to homeless and back again. >> pearl harbor survivor. >> lisa fletcher, al jazeera. >> that's "america tonight." please tell us what you think at aljazeera.com/americatonight.
you can talk to us on twitter and facebook. come back we'll have more of "america tonight" tomorrow. european police chiefs are to meet hoping to avoid repeated scenes like these. welcome. coming up in the next half hour. new concerns that the ceasefire in syria could collapse following a series of violations. the u.s. presidential hopefuls step up their campaigns ahead of super tuesday. plus. >> reporter: i'm in venezuela where the government has re