The family of an 86-year-old Cheney man who died this week had recently asked a judge to protect him from Carole DeLeon, the Stevens County foster mother who had been imprisoned for her role in the dehydration and starvation death of a child under her care.
Robert Bland’s son and grandson were concerned about his close relationship with DeLeon, which began two years ago after Bland’s wife of 65 years died. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office confirmed it is investigating his death.
His family said Bland had lived on a 150-acre farm near Clear Lake for more than three decades.
Bland met DeLeon, 61, sometime after March 11, 2010. That’s when DeLeon was released from prison after serving half of a seven-year sentence on felony charges of criminal mistreatment of a child.
DeLeon, contacted at her rural Stevens County home Thursday, declined to comment for this story. She has not been charged with any crimes.
Bland’s family members became concerned in 2013 about his ability to handle his finances and take care of himself, according to court records. They sought to declare Bland an incapacitated adult, which would have given them power over his finances, listing “undue influence and potential exploitation by third parties” as one of the reasons they sought guardianship. Bland was also housed at Eastern State Hospital in 2013 after exhibiting suicidal tendencies, according to court records.
The elder Bland fought his family’s efforts in court. Notes from the attorney who represented Bland, Richard Perednia, show that DeLeon was present with Bland for almost all of his legal consultations during that lawsuit.
Perednia declined to discuss specifics of the guardianship case in a phone interview this week, saying his job was to fulfill the demands of his client, whatever they may be. He said DeLeon was “good friends” with Bland.
The guardianship lawsuit ended in a settlement that put Bland’s property in a living trust co-owned by his son. The property is assessed at more than $220,000, according to the Spokane County Assessor’s Office. Robert Bland retained the rights to his Social Security benefits, his vehicles and any income, all of which he could dispense with as he chose, according to the settlement.
In their effort to separate DeLeon from Bland, his family noted her criminal history.
DeLeon was arrested after her foster son, Tyler, died in 2005. At the time of the 7-year-old’s death he weighed 28 pounds, according to an autopsy that found the cause of death was dehydration. The state of Washington paid more than $6 million to Tyler’s estate as well as DeLeon’s other former foster children to settle a lawsuit filed on their behalf.
DeLeon’s sentence following Tyler’s death did not restrict her from caring for others, according to court records. There was no term of probation in the sentence handed down by Stevens County Superior Court Judge Allen Nielson.
On Feb. 3, Bland’s son, Gene, requested and was granted a protection order from the court in Spokane to protect his father from DeLeon. In that petition, Gene Bland alleges DeLeon took the elderly man out of hospice care last month to alter legal documents. Bland also writes in his petition that DeLeon gave Robert Bland goat’s milk that made him vomit.
“We as a family believe Carole DeLeon is trying to speed up my father’s death for personal and financial gain,” Gene Bland wrote in the petition for the protection order.
When asked to respond to the allegations in the protection order, DeLeon said by phone there would be a hearing held Tuesday and offered no other comment.
Spokane County sheriff’s Sgt. Jack Rosenthal said a detective had been assigned to look into all evidence in the case.
An autopsy performed this week was inconclusive as to the cause and manner of Bland’s death. Lab results will take between eight and 10 weeks to be finalized, the Medical Examiner’s Office said.
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