County's custody petition on hold

Investigation ordered to decide if woman, 88, is fit to live in home alone

April 26, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County judge will await a report on conditions inside an 88-year-old woman's Parkville home before deciding whether she should be removed from it.

Circuit Judge Kathleen G. Cox said she needs an investigator to visit Leocadia Thomas at home before she rules on a petition for guardianship filed by social workers with the Baltimore County Department of Social Services.

Thomas was arrested Nov. 16 after police said she and her daughter blocked a neighbor's car as it was leaving the dead-end street in front of her home in the 8800 block of Victory Ave. and refused officers' orders to let the car pass.

Police say Thomas has fiercely guarded her end of the narrow, state-owned road over the years, confronting delivery trucks, neighbors and other motorists. She maintains that the road is private property.

County social workers applied for guardianship Feb. 13 after Thomas was arrested a second time for not appearing in court for the first charges, and her thin, unkempt appearance alarmed medical personnel at the Baltimore County Women's Detention Center, where she was held 43 days before being released.

Dorothy B. Hewlett, a detention center nurse, told Cox yesterday that it took eight hours to coax Thomas to take a bath after her arrest. "Some of her clothing I had to peel off her body because it had been there so long," she testified.

Dr. Charles William Hicks III, a psychiatrist, testified that Thomas' dementia is severe enough that she is unable to care for herself.

"I think it puts her in some degree of danger," Hicks said.

Thomas did not testify, but she occasionally blurted out comments that were easy to hear in the small courtroom.

"All lies," Thomas said, as Hicks testified.

Stephen Levitt, a county social worker, testified that Thomas wouldn't let him into her home. He said that he interviewed her on her doorstep but that she couldn't remember the circumstances of her arrest in November. She also didn't recognize him in follow-up visits, he said.

Levitt said that she rejected offers of having a nurse or health aide visit her home periodically, having him help find an assisted-living facility or having Meals on Wheels deliver food.

"She wants to be left alone," he said.

Thomas' daughter, Karen A. Thomas, testified that she makes sure her mother eats three meals a day and takes her medication for an overactive thyroid.

Thomas, who lives next door to her mother, also was charged in the confrontation with police in November. The charges were dismissed April 4.

Cox asked a Circuit Court investigator to visit Thomas' home and report back at a hearing scheduled for May 3.

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