( T.B. RENROE< I PRESUME ) In memory of T.B. Renfroe
By Paul Morantz
© October 2010

In l971, my last year in law school, I was talking on campus with some friends about the TV movie we all watched the prior night—Brian’s Song. It seemed the whole campus was talking about it. It was a story of Brian Piccolo, a white running back with the Chicago Bears, and his friendship with teammate black star runner Gail Sayers, thought my many to be football’s greatest running back. Their friendship, sparked by Piccolo’s wit, was special despite the fact they competed for carrying the ball and Sayers was far more gifted. When Sayers got hurt Piccolo helped Sayers with his rehabilitation knowing that Sayers would take back Brian’s starting role. Finally, Bear’s legendary coach George Halas started them in the backfield together but Piccolo developed cancer and died at the age of 25.

The movie ends saying the story was not about his death but about the way he lived. I said to my friend Rick Walker, who was dating my former college sweetheart, Bonnie Lockrem, “I am 25 and if I died tomorrow they would have nothing to say about how I lived.’

After that, things it seemed picked up. The next year I would be a public defender fighting a wicked judge (See Pink Justice) and would have my first story published in West (See Behind the Movie).

Still in 1974 I lived in an old $90-a-month apartment in Culver City necessitated by needing a yard for two border collies and a garage for a 1972 1800es Volvo. The unit was so downtrodden I saw nothing gained by buying furniture for it. It was better to save and wait until I owned a home to decorate with quality items. So I took what others threw out elsewhere with the garbage and made it my couch and rocking chair. I didn’t bring dates home. Yet things were looking up. My story on surf singers Jan and Dean was to be published in Rolling Stone and the magazine had a party for me in San Francisco. There was interest in making a movie out of it. Still, I was 29 and had very little. I had script ideas and I was getting money from magazine writing assignments (they didn’t pay much) while doing some law for my brother Lewis. I had money saved from working as a Public Defender as I had lived at home. But my father passed in l972 and my mother sold the house.

Then it all changed in a direction I never would have suspected.

It started with a phone call to my brother from his high school friend and then liquor store operator, Myron Rosenaur, who’s store was on a corner at Fifth and Main downtown. A nurse at a light mental nursing home in the Valley—Golden State Manor– broke a rule by allowing one of the “skid row alcoholics” to make a phone call. The nurse did it because she knew the rule itself was illegal. And because the skid row alcoholic asking– T.B. Renfroe—also called “Arky” because he was from Arkansas– had charm. He called Myron because the store operator looked after the skids, collecting their social security money, watching their things and in turn getting their business.

T.B., an old timer, 57, claimed he was being held prisoner in a mental ward nursing home in Burbank called Golden State Manor. Myron called and the nurse who answered, Mary Williams, was giving credence to his claim. I called her and arranged for an evening phone call as she was afraid at the convalescent hospital someone might listen in.

From a safe phone, she said a man named Chuck Weldon brought skid row types to the facility and they were being told by administration they were serving jail sentences there. Calling the courts she confirmed Weldon was in Div. 80 allegedly counseling elderly alcoholics arrested on the streets for being drunk. She said she didn’t think anything was wrong with T.B. except he drank.

I didn’t take it seriously. I felt there must be an explanation. Maybe the court sent them there on probation. And they did not know probation was voluntary and they could leave and choose to be sentenced. I decided to drop it.

But on the next day I read the Los Angeles Times over morning coffee. If I had not done that my entire life would have continued on a writing course. In the Times there was a story about the arrest of a pharmacist for hiring a hit man to knock off the administrator of Ranchos Los Amigo Hospital because he was going to testify the pharmacist had tried to bribe him to refer long term patients to certain nursing homes. If that could happen—old or injured people were being shuttled about as if valued items– I decided to give nurse Mary Williams another call.

We met. She was a pretty girl, blond, young and cared about her patients–A rare combination. Right away I was disappointed she was married. She would also prove to be very brave. There would be talk that skid row alcoholics were delivered to a chain of about 9 homes involving the same or similar owners and some said they had connections to a Philippine Mafia. She understood if something turned up she might have to quit her job on a day’s notice for safety. She also decided to stay until then, looking for evidence. She also knew what we were doing might be dangerous.

Mary gave me a list of names of suspected victims– Patients who had lived on skid row and who said after released from jail for drinking were brought to Golden State by a man named Chuck Weldon. She also brought documents from Renfroe’s medical file. Of interest, a visiting psychiatrist wrote he could not see why Renfroe was being held there merely because he drank. And the referring party listed on the admission form was Louise Jones, herself. Ms. Jones (think of the nurse in one Flew Over The Cuckoo Nest”) was the administrator of Golden State Manor. I did not think it likely she was hobnobbing in skid row and making referrals. More than likely the use of her name as the referral was to identify the category of the patient; to mark Renfroe as one of a special group whatever that group was.

I knew then a lawsuit loomed. Mary smuggled a retainer agreement for T.B. to sign. She was tell him to keep quiet and be patient; that one day I would appear. I would come for him. I made a Xerox of the psychiatrist note and most importantly a copy of the admission sheet. I told Mary Williams to put the original back in the file. I envisioned subpoenaing Ms. Jones to deposition with an order to bring Mr. Renfroe’s file. And I assumed (correctly) Ms. Jones would bring a version that did not have her name as the referring person.

Mary gave me the telephone number of a former bookkeeper fired by Ms. Jones. For her protection the bookkeeper kept photocopies of Golden State checks made payable to Chuck Weldon. They were for $125 or divisible by same. They were the payola for the bodies. $125 a piece. Then MediCal and/or Medicare was billed for the care. Their social security money was taken. Health care providers—pharmacists, doctors, portable x-ray technicians—serviced the patients and some kicked back a piece to the nursing home (a crime). From my investigation I concluded kick-backs were standard in the nursing home industry. If you wanted to be the one called to provide for a patient, you kicked back or a competitor would be called who would. Competition arose, and eventually one could get more business by rather than kicking back, producing bodies from which to bill the government.

That is why the pharmacist I read about in the Times had tried to bribe the Ranchos Los Amigo administrator to send long term convalescing patients to certain nursing homes. In turn for the human bodies, the pharmacists would get the drug business for all the patients.

For a month I investigated. I found Marshalls working at LA County Jail who overheard Weldon tell the victims just released from county jail to get in his car because they had to go to nursing homes to serve the balance of their sentence. Docket court sheets showed sentences, generally 2-days, and some had notations that the defendant was to be released to Weldon. I found nurses who said when the skids complained they were given thorazine. I got the release dates of the alcoholics on Mary William’s list from county jail and Mary Williams matched them as the arrival dates at Golden State Manor.

I interviewed counselors in Div 80 (drunk court). It seemed that charities lined the back wall wanting to help the alcoholics escape their revolving door life style. Generally the drinkers would be picked up in a stupor, given two days in jail to dry out and then released before returning following the next binge. The voluntary charity people offered counseling to break the cycle. Alcoholics Anonymous was there, a Mexican-American group and I am sure Synanon probably made an appearance. I asked these people who Chuck Weldon was and was told he was from Senior Citizen’s Council which gave help to old people.

I approached Weldon and asked for his card. I said I heard of his good work and my family needed to get help for an alcoholic Uncle. “Do you mind if I ask a few questions?” Weldon said he belonged to Senior Citizen’s Council but his card had no address. I would find the organization did not exist except for an answering machine.

The case I put together was that skid row alcoholics after being released from jail were being kidnapped through force and/or fraudulent representations they had to serve time in nursing homes and sold for $125 to a chain of nursing homes who would control them on Thorazine while billing the state. In court sometimes the Judge asked the skids to speak to Weldon, the suggestion being if they sought help they would get a lighter sentence. Privately, Weldon told them they could serve time in prison or a nursing home. Some skids said they never saw Weldon in court but when released from jail were taken to his car. Doctors, Pharmacists and X-ray technicians were assigned to treat, bill the state, and some kick backed to the homes. Nursing home doctors who made their livings making the rounds and billing stayed quiet less they disturb the golden goose. One doctor—Stanley Soho—worked from his condo, making rounds at homes and billing, requiring no real overhead expense.


Finally I was ready to get my client out. He had no idea of how I thought of him every day. I knew when I would demand Renfroe’s release the files of other patients brought by Weldon to Golden State would be likely shredded or altered and the victims all would be let loose in hope they would disappear into the wind. So I went first to the Department of Health. I laid out the case and the evidence . I said I could not delay any longer as I had a client I had to get out. I invited them to go with me as they could seize all the files belonging to the names on Mary Williams list for which I had matching records showing they were released from jail on the same day they arrived at Golden State. This way the records would not be destroyed. I might still not get access to them under the law, but the state would have the records for any prosecution it pursued.

And so on a Monday, at 6:30 in the morning, I drove down the 405 Freeway—destination Golden State Manor in Burbank. There were few cars on the road that early to which I am thankful because I know I made a strange sight. Dressed in my best suit, driving a beige 1969 VW Bug, my left arm hung out the window, my hand a fist, I sang, “Here I come to Save the Day…”

I met with the health investigators outside the home and we entered together. It was a real pit. Many of the patients were mental and were crying out behind bars. What a place to be falsely imprisoned. We were taken to Ms. Jone’s office where we had to wait for her arrival. She was blond, heavyset and appeared as mean as she had been described. Most of all she was extremely nervous. An investigator explained that they were there to get copies of patient files and I was there to see about my client T.B. Renfroe. Three times Ms. Jones asked me for my card forgetting I gave it to her each time she asked. The investigators said they were there to copy some files and handed Ms. Jones nurse Mary William’s list.

“What about Mr. Renfroe?” she said to me.

I responded, “Why is he being held here against his will?”

She stated he was not and he was free to leave.

“Good,” I said. “Then he leaves today with me. Go get him.”

Minutes later a short, thin, balding man in old clothes, with a smoker’s cough and walking cane, entered the room. I offered him my hand and said,

“T.B. Renfroe, I presume.” (footnote 1)


We left together. I drove him back to the Los Angeles Street Hotel where he stayed. The other victims I located by checking occasionally the Los Angeles County jail population. Seven—The magnificent seven– asked to join the lawsuit. I learned the names of other victims. I found that many were sent to different nursing homes all around Los Angeles and as far as Long Beach. Each nursing home was owned by a different corporation but when you examined the corporate officers and directors you found the same people involved. In this case the key principal appeared to be Emanuel David. The Department of Health did not even know that the nursing homes were actually a chain and I coped the corporate records to show them the common ownership. The corporate records were in their nursing home files which they let me search.

In those days, it appeared from my investigation, that the practice was to purchase a nursing home building through a corporation. Each nursing home had a break even population number–The amount of patients needed to pay all costs. After that, each patient was profit. It also seemed to be a practice of the industry for the owners to fleece the corporations and then file bankruptcy for the corporation. A new corporation would then purchase or lease the building and start again. Sometimes the same people became owners of different homes that operated at the same building through different corporate entities at different times. Salaries were horrible. It was not unusual to find orderlies with criminal records and/or on probation and placed there for employment by their probation officer. Theft was common. Cleanliness was not.

When I was in law school I had seen a movie called “Z” which was about a political assassination in Greece. A prosecutor uncovers evidence that the political party in power was responsible, and despite those people being his employers, he filed accusations against each and ordered their arrests. It was a true story–One that ended in tragedy and the death of that prosecutor. But from the moment I saw that film I knew I was that prosecutor. I would be someday the man who would file those accusations.

There were some attorney friends who tried to talk me out of it. They said the system would not like this type of lawsuit because it was unusual and that insurance companies would probably try to make an example of me in order to discourage trying to make them pay for criminal acts. There would be so many defense firms if I sued that would work me so hard how was I going to make money? Would a jury give a lot of money to a skid row alcoholic under any circumstances, fearing they might just drink themselves to death?

But I thought of the prosecutor in Z. I thought of my childhood heroes–Serpico and Davy Crockett. Crockett said “be sure you are right and then go ahead.” So what other criteria should I consider? It was a challenge to say to the jury that these are people too and are entitled to the same compensation as anyone else in similar circumstances. Further, I already knew that these people were not the down and out that the public conceived. They had their own social structure downtown and were extremely sharing individuals who took care of each other. In their world, to go on a binge and sleep in the streets was status. It was also occasional, the rest of the time they lived in apartments. They were as cognizant as anyone else when sober, just like anyone’s granddaddy, but generally they shared some horrible life experience that made living a normal life or life with their past family impossible. Efforts to return them to their family usually resulted in finding them back downtown more drunk than ever. In their own world they were not unhappy although mistreated and often mugged for their money.

What I had not considered was that the prosecutor in Z was murdered. Davy Crockett died. Serpco was shot. What I focused on instead was that these crimes were committed because the bad guys never in their wildest dreams ever believed that these street characters could ever rise up together and sue them or become a force in there being arrested. It had seemed to them like the perfect victimless crime. Who would care? James Blackburn, 72, when he entered the home made a run for it but when climbing a fence they shot a needle of Thorazine into his rear. It was all written down in the nursing notes. But no one who read them had cared. I was going to show them that the public would care. The legal system would care. I was 29. I could spare a few years. I made some money writing, I had use of my brother’s law office paying him a piece of my income, and attorneys hiring me for assistance in some of their cases.

As stated, I had cheap rent in a $90 Culver City apartment with a yard for my dogs and a garage for my Volvo. As I said above, I found a couch being tossed out and put a sheet over it. I found a rocking chair that could be stitched up. Even a mattress for a bed was someone’s throw away. Obviously I had to have a lot of excuses why girls were not coming to my apartment.

But when it came time for the skids to testify my place was the perfect comfort for them to live in so I could go over their testimony and see to it that they did not drink. They were not bothered by the furniture. I could do this. And one day, I thought, I might tell other lawyers they could to.

…..And so I plead my complaint. Like the prosecutor in “Z” I named the conspirators in my pleadings. And I went after those who’s negligence was also responsible, including the Judge in Div. 80 who never checked Weldon out and the Los Angeles County Sheriffs who turned them over to Weldon, various doctors and anyone else who could have or should have stopped it along with those who did it intentionally to profit thereby.

Unfortunately, one of the nursing homes located in Baldwin was incorrectly named by me and a facility of that wrong name did exist. It caused a lot of turmoil for the innocent nursing home. By law I could not be sued for this because it was part of the pleadings. But I was bothered and learned a lesson to check facts carefully. I offered to write a letter certifying the innocence of the wrongfully named nursing home.


Weldon himself was a former nursing home operator. After going out of business one day he saw what was going on in division 80 and realized he could make contact with the elderly, the ones who would be eligible for government money for their care, by making up that he worked for Senior Citizens Council. The evidence supported that he went to a portable x-ray technician who enlisted the assistance of a pharmacist to make the deal with Louise Jones on the behalf of the Emanuel David homes. The pharmacist and the technician for their part got to service the patients at the David facilities. Weldon got $125 a body. Unfortunately for the technician, at his meeting wherein the conspiracy was discussed with Weldon, also present was his wife and his secretary/girlfriend. Because the girlfriend was present the marital privilege could not apply and because of later discovery of the girlfriend the wife chose to take the stand and waive the privilege against testifying against a spouse.

I convinced a judge to allow me despite the physician-patient privilege to inspect all the files of all the suspected victims we had put together at all the David facilities. I argued that if there is evidence of crimes in the records it would not be protected by the physician privilege, the privlege should not apply where patient not there voluntary and held against his will. To this date I am not sure I was right as to the law, but the court allowed me to review all the files and present to the court those pages I believed proved the conspiracy and the court would decide which, if any, were admissible. Not too surprising, there were many smoking guns. Nurses and orderlies never understanding the illegalities were rather free in the nursing notes quoting the victims as saying they wanted to leave, describing escape attempts and shots of Thorazine, even quoting the administrators as saying that the skids were all there under court orders and could not leave.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, led by ex news anchor Baxter Ward, used the case for political mileage to launch the largest investigation of its time into the nursing home industry and I suddenly had my 15 minutes of fame as the supervisors would have me explain the conspiracy to the television cameras while they demanded in the background investigations start into the entire nature of the nursing home industry. Behind the investigation push was an assistant to Baxter Ward, Lance Brisson, the son of famed actress Rosalind Russell. For close to a decade Lance and I stayed connected and I would source him when I discovered something new and threatening.

Los Angeles Times followed the case and ironically assigned it to Narda Zacchino who I had known by meeting her earlier when she was married to her first husband and named Narda Trout. We had met at a journalism party and she read a draft of my Jan and Dean story and gave suggestions for re-write (See Jan and Dean; Behind the Movie). Truth was I had a crush on her but she was married.

I also received my first telephone threats on my life. Several of them. So did my brother. It was like honey to a bee. It just made me investigate harder.

In l975 I was so occupied with this case that my writing was reduced to just a few stories. There were about 7 defense firms that I was fighting and all the attorneys assigned to the case had more experience than me. In some battles, I was taken advantage of but I learned quickly. In the 2 ½ years the case took I estimate I attained 10 years of experience.

Louise Jones came through for me. When she showed up for her deposition she only had a photocopy of the admission sheet and her name had been whited out. Even a piece of the form underline for signature was gone from the white out. I couldn’t help smiling as I asked her what she thought might be on the original, knowing I had a copy in my briefcase with her name on it. The trap had opened, shut and she had no way out. She nervously smiled saying she had no idea why part of the line was missing while her lawyer Frederick Seitz was even more excited because he knew from the way I was acting I had something.

.Seitz was a good lawyer but was almost as obsessive to find a way to defeat the case as I was to win it. He was assisted by John Lauteman who did most of the work and was probably the best lawyer on the case. John worked on it so hard that unlike the other defense lawyers he knew I had put together the case and knew they were in trouble. Still he did at top job for the defense. Seitz so hated me that as a joke at a defense meeting the other defense lawyers arranged to have him served with a deposition subpoena that he appeared in my office with his files. They laughed while he had a temper fit.

I heard personally from Dr. Stanley Soho. He told me on the telephone he had information to prove all the others guilty and would so testify if I dismissed him from the suit. If I didn’t he would lie and testify the others were innocent. I told him no deals and if he lied I would go after him for perjury. He was dumb enough to send me a written note on his offer, but at deposition he denied the note was his and testified as seeing no evil. He was heavy-set, soft skin and seemed to be without social skills. I imagined he could not conduct a doctor’s office and making a living going from nursing home to nursing home may have been his only option. He seemed non-athletic and I assumed he was teased as a boy. He seemed arrogant and I assumed he lacked serious friends.


What I didn’t know yet was in 1975 there was a preview for my life to come. In September of 1975, Patty Hearst, having been chauffeured for awhile by basketball star Bill Walton, was arrested by the FBI, defiantly giving a clenched-fist salute to the media and describing herself on the booking report as an “urban guerrilla.” 68% of those surveyed about Hearst believed she should be sent to prison; two-thirds thought she joined the SLA voluntarily and half thought her kidnapping was a fake. A jury would eventually find her guilty. Few understood brainwashing, especially its ability to create a “crusading terrorist.” Certainly I did not and like everyone else read the stories and listen to the commentaries with great curiosity. How did a kidnap victim become holding a weapon at a bank robbery or firing bullets into the wall of a liquor store? I didn’t know it then but I was was two years away from being able to answer those questions. And that only happened because I took this case.


I needed an expert who could review the files and state that the amount of Thorazine being applied was so excessive that it was not for therapeutic reasons but to control. An organization that was operating as an information source on medical abuses referred me to Dr. Lee Coleman in Berkeley. Coleman was my man. Although a psychiatrist he was definitely against psychological abuses and anti-use of antidepressants. He believed pills were a mistake and one had a better chance of feeling better talking with a best friend then a therapist. He was irritated with his profession and was so irritated with what had happened to the alcoholics he agreed to help even though he had never been an expert in a case before. We had a mutual admiration for each other. We both knew the other was in for reasons more important than money. We would be paid in the end, but there were easier ways to make money.

The defense wanted an expert who could say regardless of any wrongdoing there was no damages as the victims were better off in nursing homes than the streets. They wanted someone with experience with alcoholics and found Dr. Keith Ditman who had experimented in the 50’s giving LSD to alcoholics to see if it would get them off of alcohol. As he became more familiar with the drug, he switched and became a critic of LSD. He testified for the defense of Leslie Van Houten as to how so much LSD would make her vulnerable to be injected with new beliefs, as crazy as they may be, by Charles Manson. Not yet having any affinity for Ms. Van Houten we got his Manson trial testimony for no other purpose than letting the jury know in our case that he had testified on behalf of a Manson co-defendant.

But what I would later learned about the choice of 2 experts (see below) has always left me with wondering if this was all part of some divine plan, that these things did not just happened by the role of dice.

By this time I was down to about $500. Sanford Gage and Steven Cooper, a partnership, came to the rescue with financial support and legal guidance in return for 50% of the attorney fee recovery which was a percentage of settlement and/or judgment. Mr. Gage was one of the best tort trial lawyers in Los Angeles. He taught me a lot. He filed a second case as a class action on behalf of the other victims we knew of but never found.

When the case went to trial in l976 Sanford also handled the voir diring of the jury where each counsel tries to establish rapport with the jury before the trial starts. Sanford was great. Seitz had a problem as he had a thick German accent and he was defending people that arguably comparisons to certain Nazi activities could be made. Sanford also made the decision that I would be the one to make the opening statement to the jury as no one else involved would have my passion for the case.

It helped that the defendants were there as I begun my speech as I could point at them as I described what they did. I felt just like the prosecutor in “Z” as I described their lack of humanity in trying to profit from what they thought were discarded human beings, but were in fact people with the same rights of others.

The judge Augsut Goebel, the same who allowed me access to other skids nursing home records, decided to hold a hearing to determine if there was a proof of a conspiracy before letting in testimony against one defendant as against all. Unless there was a conspiracy evidence of a statement of one defendant would not be admissible as to others. It would he hearsay. Judge Goebel could have let it in subject to a motion to strike if we failed in proof but he chose this means instead. This was a hearing that would be out of the presence of the jury and would mean the witnesses would have to testify twice. It also meant the defense bill would double. But after we proved the conspiracy, the defendants one by one lined up to settle. The jury never heard the case. The settlement included the class action which was probably a good thing because while Sanford had so far been getting it through the system there was the danger of it being dismissed as a class action because the proof of damages would be individual to each person and not the same as to the class, usually a prerequisite for permission to so proceed as a class action and represent parties not present.

* ** *

Following settlement, we had to have the settlement agreements signed. Then the checks had to be signed by the various recipients and the attorneys and deposited in a client trust account. When the checks cleared the clients would receive their money in separate checks.

When T.B. Renfroe signed his check I told him the next time I saw him I would be bringing his money. We would find a better apartment for him to live in and buy him some new clothes. And we were going to try to keep him from drinking. When the civil case had started trial I found TB in the hospital going through the DTs because he wanted to be sober for his testimony not so much to win his case, but to do it for me.

I knew he was doing it for me. I was like his Grandson. The kid who had come and gotten him out. He had become family to both me and to nurse Mary Williams. Mary in fact had an agreement from her husband to take Arky into their home and care for him for life. I said I was in.

But instead I never saw T.B. Renfroe again. When I came back to his hotel with his money he had been missing for several days. I checked the jails and the hospitals. Finally, I found him in the morgue.

Narda Zacchino published a large photograph of Renfroe on the front page of the LA Times with an accompanying story that said he was the skid row alcoholic who launched the largest investigation into the nursing home industry in its history.

Not many downtown street occupants get obits when they pass; few people at all get one on the front page. Renfroe did that.

And in not too long of a time, a son, Lonny Dale Renfroe showed up from out of state to collect his father’s settlement. T.B. had never mentioned to me he had a son.

The Times gave me an 8X10 of the photo which still hangs on my wall. At a birthday party in l987 groupies for the backyard band used the photo for a drug tray. I threw the band and the groupies out.

* * *
I decided maybe I had more to give as a lawyer that as a writer and I took a job at a small litigation firm in Beverly Hills, the Law offices of Donald H. Cohen. With my proceeds I purchased my first home in Pacific Palisades, a small 11,000 ft.² house with a nice backyard in $100,000 purchase price. I made new friends. I met a girl, CBS was making a movie on my Jan and Dean story. Then my old Culver City neighbor referred a man to me who’s wife had entered Synanon and was not allowing him to contact her.

Narda would continue writing about me as her next assignment was Synanon.

John Lauteman was contacted about by Synanon and wanted to know about my relationship with Narda as she had written about the nursing home cases. He said I had good rapport with the media and not to underestimate me as I was a tireless investigator. John later joined my firm where we worked together. Later, after I left, he gave up law and became a real estate tycoon.

Ironically, the defense expert for Golden State , Dr. Ditman, had given LSD to Charles Dederich from which Mr. Dederich claimed the insights from the experience led to his founding of Synanon. Ditman even testified to such on cross examination in the Leslie Van Houten trial for the Manson murders.

My expert Lee Coleman, ended up liking being an expert witness and made that a part of his profession. And later I found that the organization that referred him to me and later used my photo and quotation on a brochure was the Church of Scientology. Coleman and I would meet again but on opposite sides involving the Center For Feeling Therapy (see Escape from Center for Feeling Therpay).

I heard soon again from Stanley Soho. He was accused in the media of malpractice by his patient’s kin and sued for defamation. The defendant learned of me and I filed not only an answer that said what she said was true but a cross complaint for malpractice. It did not make Stanley’s day.

In l986 Soho made two important changes. First, he bought the practice of Dr. Milos Klvana, a home birthing advocate who was sentenced in February, 1990, to 53 years to life in prison after being convicted of nine counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of eight infants and a fetus. The charges were Klvana proceeded with high-risk deliveries–and bungled them–despite knowing that he did not have the skill or the equipment to perform them safely at his obstetrical clinics in Valencia and Temple City. Klvana was accused of keeping his patients away from hospitals–and quality care–because he didn’t want his substandard care to be discovered by medical authorities. Politicians blamed the the medical board for not stopping him earlier as evidence was gathering.

The same year Dr. Stanley Soho went under an operation to become Dr. Sandra Soho. In 1990 she was charged with two felony counts of illegally prescribing controlled substances. In 1991 she was charged by the State medical authorities of deliberately addicting patients to painkillers and profiting from their frequent need for new prescriptions. It was claimed in trial she illegally prescribed more than 5,000 pain pills to two women over a six-month period She was charged that she got her patients addicted to painkillers and wrote prescriptions that enabled one patient to buy up to 900 codeine pills. It was contended she made out prescriptions for codeine-fortified painkillers without giving patients thorough examinations to determine if the drugs were necessary
* * *
I helped the District Attorney’s office start a nursing home task force explaining to deputies the type of crimes to look for. I took on a few other nursing home cases but decided I did not want this area as a specialty. It was too depressing. The victims often could not testify and you were dependent that hopefully those who wrote in the nursing notes were honest. I had no idea of having any specialty.

I never saw Mary Williams again but I would have loved to. Too few angels like her have occupied this earth and way too few have been in my life. To this date, a cardboard Mighty Mouse is on my door in remembrance of that drive over the 405 to Golden State.

Frederick Seitz and I became friends. He thought of me as a misguided but a crusader. He stayed with his firm Murchison and Cumming. In 2001 he was on the losing side of of a 21 million jury judgment, the 89th highest judgment in history.

Sanford Gage is now a top mediator hired by parties to reach settlements.

This was not my first case with Judge Goebel. Earlier I was defending a young man charged with selling drugs to an undercover officer. I thought we had a good defense. A lot of people lived at the house and some were selling and were going to admit. My client lived there but witnesses said he was at a fair that evening. All the house occupants were long hair. Goebel told me to tell my client if he plead he would get probation but if convicted he would serve maximum. I was upset because that would cause an innocent man to plead guilty. I let Goebel know my displeasure.

Years later when we held a reunion party for all the participants. Judge Goebel said he respected me but I needed not to treat Judges like they were the enemy. He passed not long after that. And my client who had plead guilty and got probation was later convicted on another drug charge and served time.

If the nursing home Golden State Manor still exits it is under a new name. Later a nursing home in Sylmar chose “Golden State Manor” as its new name. It is doubtful the owners know the name’s history.

In 2007 in a case I was shown written evidence that an assisted living facility in Beverly Hills was not, on a daughter’s orders, allowing a sister to visit her mother and told employees to tell a police inquiry, if any, the mother was not there. When I tried to notify the Health Department of the fraud I recounted the above story of Golden State Manor to establish creditability. But instead of the past cooperation I could not even get a meeting. Investigators, I found, now were assigned to various homes and usually did lunch with administrators.

Rancho Los Amigos has remained a leader in Rehabilitation Medicine for five years.


Today Lance Brisson is Chief Operating Officer of Winner & Associates, a company that provide strategic communications services and has been involved with decision making in many of the world’s major events from space shuttle Challenger accident to Stem Cel research. He has been with the company for 21 years

* * *

The practice of everyday law seemed to involve too often trivial matters. Working for the dollar was not enough. Because of my journalism background I was fast and that was cheaper for my clients. But sometimes I found my bills were changed to the time normally expected for the work and not the shorter time spent. I changed the billing back.

The practice of law, taking cases with earnings as the goal, was something I found I probably could never do. And the practice of law would dissipate forever in 1977 when my old neighbor referred to me a man who Synanon held his wife. (See Escape from Synanon I). He told the man how I got all the skids out of the nursing homes and was probably the lawyer to get his wife out of Synanon. Dave Mitchell, after winning his pulitzer, would later say Synanon had come off its Hearst victory and me off of the nursing home conquest and we both squared off each thinking each was unbeatable.

Death threats would became a continual way of life for two decades.

• *………………………………..*………………………………………….*

Some stories never die. In January of this year I received communications from Renfroe’s grandson and granddaughter.

Neither of them knew Arky. But when their father Lonny died in October of 2009 they found in his things Narda’s Los Angeles Time’s front page story declaring T.B. as the skid row alcoholic that launched one of the largest investigations ever into nursing homes which featured his photo.

Each had a real interest in knowing what their grandfather was like and it was a pleasure to tell them.

* * *

footnote 1

At Golden State Manor with the state investigators, I was meeting the man who had consumed my thoughts as I investigated to prove he was kidnapped and falsely imprisoned. So at the moment of introduction to T.B., I thought of the famous line reporter Henry Stanley made to Dr. David Livingstone when he found him in Africa in 1871. Livingstone had been on an expedition to find the source of the Nile River. But afters years, the world heard nothing from the explorer. Rumors had it Livingstone was captive, lost or dead. Finally George Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald, hired newspaper reporter Henry Stanley to find Livingstone. When he succeeded he uttered in disbelief and relief, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.”

Stanley was an orphan who as a youngster was maintained at a workhouse in Wales, shipped the Atlantic at age 15 and later went back to dry land in New Orleans. A local merchant became a father figure to him and he took the man’s name – Henry Stanley. He went on to fight in the Civil War before working his way into a career in journalism.

Stanley led an expedition of about 200 men into Africa on March 21, 1871. Eight months later, on November 10, 1871, he approached Ujiji, a small village on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, and found his man. In his own words he recounted:

“We are now about three hundred yards from the village of Ujiji, and the crowds are dense about me. Suddenly I hear a voice on my right say, ‘Good morning, sir!’
“Startled at hearing this greeting in the midst of such a crowd of black people, I turn sharply around in search of the man, and see him at my side, with the blackest of faces, but animated and joyous, – a man dressed in a long white shirt, with a turban of American sheeting around his woolly head, and I ask, ‘Who the mischief are you?’
‘I am Susi, the servant of Dr. Livingstone,’ said he, smiling, and showing a gleaming row of teeth.

‘What! Is Dr. Livingstone here?’

‘Yes, Sir.’

‘In this village?’

‘Yes, Sir’

‘Are you sure?’

“’Sure, sure, Sir. Why, I leave him just now.’

“In the meantime the head of the expedition had halted, and Selim said to me: ‘I see the Doctor, Sir. Oh, what an old man! He has got a white beard.’ My heart beats fast, but I must not let my face betray my emotions, lest it shall detract from the dignity of a white man appearing under such extraordinary circumstances.

“So I did that which I thought was most dignified. I pushed back the crowds, and, passing from the rear, walked down a living avenue of people until I came in front of the semicircle of Arabs, in the front of which stood the white man with the gray beard. As I advanced slowly toward him I noticed he was pale, looked wearied, had a gray beard, wore a bluish cap with a faded gold band round it, had on a red-sleeved waistcoat and a pair of gray tweed trousers. I would have run to him, only I was a coward in the presence of such a mob, – would have embraced him, only, he being an Englishman, I did not know how he would receive me; so I did what cowardice and false pride suggested was the best thing, – walked deliberately to him, took off my hat, and said,

‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’

“’Yes,’ said he, with a kind smile, lifting his cap slightly.

“I replace my hat on my head and he puts on his cap, and we both grasp hands, and I then say aloud, ‘I thank God, Doctor, I have been permitted to see you.’

“He answered, ‘I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you.’

And that is how I felt about meeting T.B. Renfroe and somehow those were the words I spoke. “T.B. Renfroe, I presume.” But if anyone, including Mr. Renfroe, got the humor of it, no one displayed it, certainly not Ms. Jones, except, perhaps myself, as I found the excitement of the rescue hard to ignore.

Unfortunately, I was now hooked.