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Mommy Dearest

The fight between socialite Judi Wolf and her brother has turned into the mother of all family feuds.

Now the conservator is discussing selling Letty's house. Her trips to the hairdresser and the symphony have been curtailed. "And she tells me that they're talking about cutting her cable television," John says.

Letty wasn't allowed to go to a friend's house for Thanksgiving, because John was going to be there. She spent the Christmas holidays without her son. She wasn't allowed to attend Passover services this past spring.

And then came Mother's Day.
Even those who love Letty acknowledge that she has gotten much worse since a guardian was appointed to watch over her life in April 1996. But although several psychiatrists agree she suffers from dementia, they disagree on the severity.

One side says John makes his mother worse. But the other points out that Letty isn't upset by her son. She's upset that the guardian won't let her see John and has put strangers in her home. She's upset with Judi for putting the whole plan in motion.

Although they are disappointed in Judge Stewart and the system she represents, Letty's supporters--her friends and neighbors--are far angrier with Judi Wolf.

But Judi, the guardians and psychiatrists brought in by the court suggest that John is the problem. He's certainly high-strung; he can't say the words "Save my mother" without bursting into tears. But John swears he's telling the truth "on my father's grave and Jesus's blood."

"As is often the case, the adult siblings, sadly, are not always in total agreement about the long-term care of the elderly parent, who, in this case, has been diagnosed by medical doctors and geriatric psychiatrists with 'serious dementia requiring 24-hour care,'" Judi wrote in response to Westword's request for an interview.

"If I had to choose one over the other," counters neighbor Watts, "I'd pick John. He's always been there for her."

In the furor over what John wants and what Judi wants, little attention seems to be paid to what Letty wants. She says she wants to remain in her home and to see her son. But the court has decided that the latter, at least, is not in Letty's "best interests."

There is no evidence that John has ever mistreated his mother or exploited her--even if she chose to help support him financially. Could Letty's situation have been any worse, her supporters ask, if John and the Densts had been allowed to look after her?

Both sides are waiting for the judge to set a hearing date. At that hearing, a permanent guardian could be appointed--and John could be ordered to stay away from his mother forever.

In the meantime, John sits at home, waiting for Letty to call, wondering what plea for help will come next. His mother calls to complain that Florence Jones has threatened to have her locked up in a mental institution if she contacts the police again. She calls to say that she's prevented from attending her own court hearings, that Judi says there's no need for her to go, "but I want to."

"Look at what they do to us--they take our freedom away," she says. "This is cruelty. I can't stand it.

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