JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch sent state “bodyguards” to intimidate her stepmother during an ongoing legal feud over control of the attorney general’s 88-year-old father and family assets, an attorney for her stepmother says.
Fitch’s stepmother, Aleita Fitch, claims the attorney general sent officers unannounced to her home, the family farm and the hospital where Bill Fitch, the attorney general’s father, was being treated. They took money, firearms and personal belongings from the house without permission, Aleita Fitch claims.
Ray Hill, Aleita Fitch’s attorney, told The Associated Press that he doesn’t know if the bodyguards were highway patrolmen, but it’s a clear abuse of power if they were.
“I think Lynn’s probably allowed to have these guys with her when she goes places,” Hill said Thursday. “But I think everybody will agree she’s not allowed to use them to facilitate her own personal business.”
Michelle Williams, Fitch’s chief of staff, declined to comment.
“We consider this a private matter between two private parties and we’re going to let the courts decide,” she said.
Department of Public Safety spokesman said officials were busy with hurricane relief, but would look into whether she used patrol officers for personal business.
The story was first reported by The Clarion Ledger.
According to Marshall County Chancery Court records, the legal battle between Aleita Fitch and Lynn Fitch began April 1, after the attorney general moved her father from an Oxford hospital in late March without his wife’s permission to another hospital before finally transferring him to a nursing home. Aleita was not able to visit her husband for 78 days and didn’t know where he was.
“It has crushed her,” Hill said.
Lynn Fitch said in court documents that she did not want her stepmother knowing where Bill Fitch was being treated because Aleita Fitch is emotionally and verbally abusive.
John Mayo, the attorney general’s lawyer, said the decision was made after consulting her father’s physician. A hospital staffer filed a vulnerable adult complaint against Aleita after voicing concerns about her mistreatment of her husband, the lawyer said.
When Lynn Fitch visited her father in the hospital, “he appeared confused, delirious and malnourished, had limited mobility, and was generally unable to care for himself,” the attorney general’s lawyer wrote in a court document.
She said Aleita Fitch, 80, failed to tell her and her sister about a stroke and heart attack their father had in January. Bill Fitch also was diagnosed with dementia, and that was not disclosed to his daughters.
Lynn Fitch said that shortly after her father’s stroke and heart attack, Aleita Fitch “had Bill ‘sign’ a revocation of their pre-nuptial agreement.”
Bill Fitch had signed papers in September 2020 granting Lynn Fitch legal authority to make health care and financial decisions for him.
Aleita alleges that Lynn Fitch showed up to get Bill with state law officers and coerced him into signing an advanced healthcare directive and durable power of attorney. Later that month, Bill Finch revoked the power of attorney but not the health care decision-making ability.
The stepmother says the attorney general and patrolmen visited Aleita Fitch’s home and took about $2,000 in cash, went through her father and stepmother’s personal belongings and removed all firearms, court records allege.
Aleita also says that Lynn Fitch has been making business decisions for her husband, including the decision to shut down operations at Fitch Farms, a hunting retreat where guests can stay in the home of Confederate general and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Bill Fitch purchased the Forrest home in Hernando, moved it 40 miles (64 kilometers) to Fitch Farms and restored it.
Lynn Fitch said in court documents she doesn’t seek sole control over her father’s finances but wants a conservator appointed to prevent Aleita’s “squandering and endangerment” of her father’s assets. She said her stepmother allowed the liability insurance covering Fitch Farms to lapse, preventing further hunting excursion business.
Hill said a hearing Sept. 9 court hearing could determine who will act as Bill Fitch’s conservator.