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Caregiver’s money use probed

Authorities investigate finances in case of elderly woman rescued from filth, hunger

The investigators who rescued a 105-year-old woman in late May from a squalid Kettle Falls, Wash., home are now looking into whether the woman’s care provider was also improperly using her money.

Stevens County Sheriff’s Detective James Caruso said he and other deputies on Tuesday again searched the home where on May 26 they found Frances Swan, who has since turned 106, begging for food in a house that was filled with trash, rotting food, dogs and feces.

John H. “Herb” Friedlund, 78, faces a single count of second-degree criminal mistreatment for his care of Swan. He also has been charged with five counts of animal cruelty after neighbors reported several starving horses at a different property.

“Basically, the search warrant covered financial paperwork, records and journals,” Caruso said. “We are looking at it from the angles of criminal mistreatment and animal cruelty. But we also have to look at the financial end, as to whether he was doing anything inappropriate with her money.”

Two former care providers said when they worked in the home that Friedlund took over control of Swan’s checkbook and that they both turned Friedlund in to state Adult Protective Services as early as 2004.

However, the state Department of Social and Health Services denied a records request last week by The Spokesman-Review seeking documents regarding any investigation into Friedlund. Department spokesman John Wiley said in an earlier interview he could not confirm or deny the existence of any investigation into the Swan situation, although court records show that a state investigator met with Swan on June 6.

Since that time, Caruso said, a Spokane-based court-appointed guardian has been assigned to keep track of Swan’s affairs.

Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said Swan remains at the Buena Vista Nursing Home in Colville.

“We’ve had continuing contacts with her,” Rasmussen said. “She’s improving and healthy and cooperating with the investigating authorities.”

News of her situation angered and saddened two former care workers who said the Kettle Falls house at 180 E. 10th Ave. was very clean when they provided care for Swan.

Eva Louttit, now of Shoreline, Wash., said she worked in the home in 2004.

Friedlund “treated (Swan) with total disrespect. She was actually afraid of him way back then,” Louttit said.

Friedlund would withhold medications and feed Swan “stuff I wouldn’t eat or feed to anybody,” she said. “I called the state and complained. But (Swan) wouldn’t say a thing against Herb while Herb was there.”

Until her sister called and read a news account of Friedlund’s arrest over the telephone, Louttit, 68, said she just assumed that Swan had died.

“I was very, very upset,” she said. “You’d think the state would have more of an insight into things. That’s what blew my mind. They discovered the starving horses, but we had been trying to get the state to do something about Herb for years.”

Dalia Lyons, 50, of Colville, said she worked in the home in 2004 and 2005 and three times reported Friedlund to Adult Protective Services.

“She had a beautiful place. We kept it pretty,” Lyons said. “I kept crying when I heard about it.”

Both Lyons and Louttit said Friedlund paid them with checks in Swan’s name.

“Herb would use her checkbook and go to Walmart. He would come back with sleeping bags and VCRs, you name it,” Lyons said. “He kept the bills hidden way up on a grandfather clock.”

Caruso said he found paperwork indicating that Swan’s late husband, Severt Swan, was the postmaster in Boyds, which is across the river in Ferry County, in the 1920s. “She told me she was a part-time mail carrier, too.”

Friedlund has no family connection to Swan. It appears, Caruso said, that he befriended Severt Swan before his death in 1991. Efforts to reach Friedlund, who was released after posting a $25,000 bond, were unsuccessful.

“The investigation is continuing,” Caruso said. “Right now we have a lot more questions than answers.”


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Then and Now: Comstock Park

James M. Comstock, born in 1838 in Wisconsin, arrived in Spokane in time to witness the great fire of 1889 and start Spokane Dry Goods with Robert Paterson. It became the Crescent, Spokane’s premier department store for a century. He also worked in real estate and owned other businesses. He served a term as Spokane mayor, starting in 1899. James Comstock died in 1918.