DHS seeks conservatorship in Linda Cressell’s case

Published 10:00 am Sunday, July 26, 2015

Linda Cressell

Linda Cressell

Where’s Linda?

That’s the question many have asked since Linda Cressell left the hospital in late June.

Cressell, 62, had been living on Stoney Creek in a small rundown home. Unable to care for herself or the house, her living conditions had become deplorable. She had been without water since late last December when the water pipes in the house froze and burst.

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Her living conditions were unknown to most since Cressell led a reclusive lifestyle. They were made known when Louie Greene, a local retired businessman, accidentally stumbled onto Cressell at an Elizabethton business, and noticing her disabilities offered to help. When Greene later visited Cressell’s home and saw her living conditions, he promised Linda and himself he would try to get her some help. For several days, he went from one agency to another, sharing Cressell’s story and trying to get something done on her behalf.

Soon after Greene met Cressell, she was admitted to an area hospital for treatment of a chronic medical condition. Greene visited her there almost every day and, aided by a friend, bought her some clothing and other personal items. When Greene returned to visit her June 26, hospital personnel told Greene that Cressell had been discharged that morning. No one seemed to know where she had gone.

After her discharge, Greene made several inquires to various agencies, but his calls went unanswered.

After Cressell’s story was printed in the Star the weekend of June 21, several people called, many of them offering to help and wanting to know her whereabouts.

We now that Linda is living at an area nursing home. Earlier this week, the Tennessee Department of Human Services filed a conservatorship suit in Carter County Chancery Court against Cressell.

According to the Tennessee Annotated Code, a conservatorship is a proceeding in which a court removes decision-making powers and duties from a person with disabilities (called a “ward”) who is age 18 or older and lacks capacity to make decisions in one or more important areas. The court transfers the decision-making powers and duties to a person, people or entity (called a “conservator”) who exercises these powers and duties on behalf of the ward.

The ward’s decision-making powers and duties may be removed in whole or in part. The remedy imposed by the court must be the least restrictive alternative available to adequately protect the ward and the ward’s property. A conservator is required to make decisions in the best interest of the ward and as ordered by the court.

The conservator is accountable to the court. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, the conservator must report to the court annually concerning the status of the ward and the financial activity of the conservatorship. The conservator is also required to obtain approval of the court before performing certain activities.

Cressell’s conservatorship hearing is scheduled for Aug. 6 in Chancery Court.

Upon hearing the news, Greene said the conservatorship is no doubt in Linda’s best interest. “She definitely needs help in caring for her personal needs, and even feeding herself. I witnessed that first hand at the hospital as she was unable to hold a fork and feed herself,” Greene said.

“I’m glad Linda is finally getting some help, and I’m confident her needs will be met and that she is being taken care of at the nursing home,” Greene added.

Cressell has a disabled right arm and partially disabled left arm, therefore, she is unable to clean her house or do the least menial of tasks, including bathing and feeding herself.

A telephone call to a sister and brother-in-law living near Wytheville, Va., this week, revealed they knew about Linda’s disabilities, but not so much about her living conditions.

The brother-in-law said they sometimes talked to Linda by phone when a business acquaintance would call them for Linda on her phone. Cressell had no phone and was unable to use one, according to a neighbor, Gary Osborne, who befriended Cressell on numerous occasions by calling taxis, carrying her water, and mowing her lawn.

“We haven’t had much contact with Linda since she moved away more than 20 years ago, but we have talked with her from time to time. She has always been a private person and never talked much about herself or her living conditions,” the brother-in-law said.

According to court documents, Anna Holly has been appointed guardian for Cressell and will report to the court on behalf of Cressell.