Hugh Wallace is a 57-year-old man with a history of homelessness who was incapacitated by a severe crash last year, deemed a ward of the state, and subsequently kept at Grand Oaks Health and Rehabilitation Center on Palm Coast Parkway. As a ward of the state he had little authority over his own affairs. The state appointed Denise Willis, 63, of Sanford, to be his guardian. He could not leave the facility at will, being judged incompetent. He was in the process of receiving a large financial settlement from a civil suit resulting from the crash.
Over time he befriended Nickolas Warren, a 64-year-old resident of Atlantic Avenue in Daytona Beach. Last December 15, a nurse entered Wallace’s room and saw him dressed up and ready to go by 7 a.m., behavior she later termed “unusual” to sheriff’s detectives.
The investigative report pertaining to Warren’s eventual arrest describes Wallace at that point as if he were the suspect. A nurse told detectives she “escorted Wallace outside the facility so he could smoke a cigarette,” and when they returned to his room, he got a phone call. The nurse, according to the investigative report, “stated Hugh then began glancing at the clock within his room, and, when asked, he indicated he was ‘just looking.'” It’s not clear why the nurse should have been questioning Wallace, a patient, about his behavior.
But Wallace had arranged with Warren to be taken out of Grand Oaks, and had set the morning of Dec. 15 as the time. Mid-morning, Warren drove up in a van. He did not enter the facility himself, having been trespassed at an earlier date. The arrest report doesn’t explain specifically why, but it states: “‘Nick’ is known to Grand Oaks staff for attempting to persuade Hugh to sign over power of attorney, as well as endeavor to check him out of the facility, and he is known to be in the company of a female named ‘Patricia.’ “Warren that morning sent in a woman who signed her name as “Lisa Wallace” on the sign-in sheet. Nurses confronted her and told her she had to leave. But Wallace joined her, and the two of them walked out together. Wallace, a nurse reported, “was walking under his own power and thwarted employee attempts to stop his forward movement,” according to the report. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was contacted to issue a silver alert, but FDLE denied the request: the matter did not meet criteria for a silver alert.
The sheriff’s office was called in, and launched an investigation. But that evening, it was Daytona Beach police that called the sheriff’s office report–in answer to a Be On the Look Out–that Wallace (not Warren) had been arrested on an outstanding warrant: Wallace has a very long history of bookings at the Volusia jail, many the result of panhandling, drinking in public, illegal solicitation, trespassing, refusing to leave public property, and other acts related to the life of a transient. He is also a convicted felon with a brief stint in state prison five years ago for battery on first responders. His arrest warrant last December was for drinking at the beach. “Grand Oaks employees indicated Hugh is prescribed medication [for] numerous medical conditions,” the investigative report states, “some of which treat seizures, mental/behavioral disturbances, and high blood pressure.”Four days later the woman who had posed as “Lisa” but was, in fact, Patricia Langtry, 74, went to the State Attorney’s Office, along with Warren. They thought an arrest warrant had been issued against Warren in relation to the Grand Oaks incident. At the time, it had not. But Warren wanted to explain what took place. He related how Wallace had asked him to take him out of Grand Oaks and how he’d arrange for it, borrowing Langtry’s vehicle. He said Grand Oaks employees tried to “grab” Wallace out of the van, then tried to remove the keys from the ignition, to no avail. But they managed to get away and travel south.
Detectives concluded that Warren knew that Wallace was a ward of the state, and though he was following Wallace’s directions, he was still violating the law, and was charged with interference with the custody of an incapacitated person–a third-degree felony. He was booked at the Volusia Branch jail. He’d been booked there once before, in 2009, on a charge of disorderly intoxication. He was not in jail long, however: he has been released. A Flagler County Sheriff’s release states he was arrested on $5,000 bond, the usual amount for a third-degree felony. But the jail’s website states no bond amount.
“As a Ward of the State, Mr. Wallace is someone who requires medical care by trained professionals in order to maintain his health and well-being,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in the release. “My advice to anyone who disagrees with a court order is to appeal it the legal way, not by breaking the law because that will only result in your arrest, more legal problems for you and potential fines and jail time.”