Lost Hope

Paul Hewitson has spent the Last two years in a place he calls hell.

He thinks that's why his memory is a little faulty today. That, and maybe all the formaldehyde.

Hewitson's first marriage resulted in three daughters — and a divorce in 1969. He met his second wife, Phyllis, at Good Sam. She ran the medical records department.

Phyllis couldn't have children, Hewitson says. So they had cats and dogs and a boat and trailer at Apache Lake, where they loved to fish. His other passion was gardening. A framed photo collage of his homegrown honeydew and Swiss chard now hangs over Hewitson's bed.

Amy Silverman
Paul Hewitson spends almost all of his time in his room at the North Valley Care Home.
Amy Silverman
Paul Hewitson spends almost all of his time in his room at the North Valley Care Home.

From an early age, Hewitson drank. Never at work, he insists.

"I did my drinking at night, and sometimes in the morning. I can't deny that," he says.

His driver's license was suspended for years, due to repeated drunken-driving arrests, and Hewitson admits his alcohol problem grew worse in the last decade. In later years, he suffered from depression and possibly some bouts of alcohol-related dementia, according to court documents.

In 1999, Phyllis was diagnosed with lung cancer. Six months later, she was dead.

Hewitson had so much trouble dealing with his wife's illness that she spent her last days in Nebraska, with family.

After her death, Hewitson hit bottom — literally and figuratively. Drunk one day in March 2000, he tripped on his cowboy boot while coming down the stairs of his home and smacked the kitchen doorway, fracturing his shoulder.

He hadn't kept in close touch with his children over the years. They had moved to Canada with their mother, Marilyn, shortly after the divorce. But Steacey Roy, Hewitson's eldest daughter, had moved to Phoenix a couple years earlier with her husband and children. Roy and her family lived with the Hewitsons for a short time, her father recalls, and then the relationship began to deteriorate. Eventually, Roy moved out.

But Roy and Hewitson kept in contact. After Phyllis died, she was the only family he had. Roy took charge while her father was in the hospital. He agreed to give her power of attorney over his finances, so she could pay his bills while he was ill.

She didn't stop there. Hewitson didn't know it, but his future was already being decided in a courtroom.

In the spring of 2000, Paul Hewitson was not a well man. According to two different medical reports taken by physicians in the hospital, he was diabetic and likely had suffered small strokes in the recent past. He was diagnosed with brain damage from his years of drinking, labeled as forgetful and paranoid. Both doctors said he couldn't live without assistance.

These reports were the basis for Roy's petition for temporary guardianship of her father. She filed the papers in Maricopa County Superior Court while he was still in the hospital.

The first indication that Hewitson's life was about to change came in the form of a hospital visit from a man named Martin LaPrade. LaPrade introduced himself as Hewitson's attorney.

Hewitson was confused. He hadn't arranged to hire a lawyer.

"I didn't have any reason for an attorney. I fell down in my own home," Hewitson says.

Nonetheless, there he was. LaPrade was friendly and helpful, Hewitson recalls, and he remembers the lawyer's advice well. He says LaPrade told him that Roy didn't need to have power of attorney over his finances, that the bank could take care of Hewitson's bills.

And then, Hewitson says, LaPrade warned him against letting Roy become his legal guardian. He says LaPrade told him he wouldn't even grant custody to his own wife.

LaPrade says he doesn't remember such an exchange. In fact, in a recent interview, he told New Times he doesn't remember much about the client, to whom he hasn't spoken in months.

Soon, Roy was attempting to get permanent custody. And LaPrade was supporting her effort.

Hewitson spent a month in an alcohol rehab program in Chandler after he left the hospital. While Hewitson was in the rehab center, he received a visit from a clinical psychologist who performed a neurological examination.

The psychologist wrote that Hewitson had limited insight and that she thought his promises to stay sober sounded rehearsed. She noted that he had trouble concentrating and other cognitive difficulties, but added that it takes at least four months of sobriety to regain losses from chronic drinking. Hewitson had been sober only two months at the time. She did agree with the guardianship, but not with Roy's idea of putting Hewitson in a home with severely demented people.

"Regarding residential placement, the options the daughter has explored . . . frankly sound geared to a proven recidivist and/or very demented population," the psychologist wrote. "He is nowhere near that level cognitively or socially, and secured dementia settings, or secured geriatric homes, strike me as overly restrictive."

A few days after Hewitson came home in May 2000, Roy called and told him she wanted custody. He told her no. Then LaPrade called.

The lawyer agreed with Roy, which puzzled Hewitson, since he says LaPrade had warned him against allowing Roy to have custody.

But LaPrade now said he should do it, and Hewitson wanted to trust his lawyer. He wanted to be in charge of his own destiny as well. He said he wanted to go to court. He remembers that LaPrade told him it was just a formality, not to bother.

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