DIMONDALE — Owosso native Bob Neil doesn’t remember the January 2018 assault that left him with numerous broken bones and a fractured skull, and in a coma in Sparrow hospital for two months.
But he says everything that has happened since is worse than the injuries he suffered in the Lansing mugging.
A guardianship company assigned to make decisions on his behalf sold his personal belongings, his business equipment, quit paying various bills on his behalf and put his home up for sale. It also sent him to Dimondale Nursing and Rehabilitation Center — where he remains, unable to terminate the court order and wondering how to reclaim his life.
“It’s been an experience,” Neil said. “It’s like coming back from the dead.”
Neil’s problems began when he was attacked by several men with bats in Lansing. He was left to die in a snowbank.
Doctors initially thought if Neil did somehow survive the attack, he would be in a vegetative state from severe brain trauma. In fact, doctors were so convinced Neil would never come out of his coma that they signed a “do not resuscitate” (DNR) order.
Since Neil has no family, the Eaton County Probate Court appointed Mid-Michigan Guardianship Services to handle his affairs following the assault. In such cases, the practice is common, and guardianship services typically sell their ward’s possessions to pay for the cost of care.
Separately, a conservatorship makes determinations on finances for the individual placed under guardianship.
“I came to and found out I had a guardian,” Neil said. “I was like what the hell is a guardian?”
Neil said his cellphone ended up in police custody and without his phone he had no phone numbers or way to contact friends who wondered what happened to him.
Some people thought he had died; others thought he had moved suddenly because his furniture and belongings were gone from his home.
Even his then-girlfriend moved on because he simply disappeared and she thought he dumped her.
Neil says that since the appointment, Mid-Michigan Guardianship Services in Lansing has in addition to selling his property, stopped paying his health insurance and property taxes (which are now in arrears), and Neil is stuck in the rehabilitation center.
Neil didn’t even find out about the DNR order until about two months ago, he said, and doesn’t understand why he’s still in the rehab center since he’s recovered.
Since Mid-Michigan stopped paying his health insurance, Neil is now on Medicaid, and says he can’t get a doctor to see him to clear him for release.
“For some reason no one has let me out of here,” Neil said. “Medicaid is like a curse on a patient. To see a doctor is almost impossible. If they will see you, it’s two or three months out. It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Neil believes Mid-Michigan Guardianship Services is keeping him in the rehabilitation center for financial reasons. Neil’s house hasn’t yet sold, he said, and during the winter several of Neil’s neighbors came together to pay the propane bill so that the pipes in the house didn’t freeze.
“They seem to think I had a traumatic brain injury,” Neil said. “But no one has really proven it. They haven’t even taken an MRI. It’s some doctor who surmised that I may have one. I’m walking around, I’m thinking again. I’ve gone through plenty of physical therapy. Even the doctor here was amazed that I’ve come back so strong. He told me, ‘You’re cognitive and everything seems to be good. Why are you here?’
“I can leave during the day, but if I don’t come back, they told me they’d issue a warrant for my arrest. I think the guardians want to keep me here so they can sell my house and get some checks every month,” Neil claimed.
When contacted, the appointed guardian for Neil said they were not authorized to speak to the media and declined to comment. Several messages left with Mid-Michigan Guardianship Services Executive Director Bob Shaw were not returned.
Neil owned and operated a photography business on Washington Street in Owosso before the attack.
“All my photography equipment was sold,” Neil said. “Everything — they boxed it all up and sold it. I don’t even have a picture of my mom any more.”
Neil said the equipment was sold for far less than it was worth — in some cases, pennies on the dollar.
“My mom passed away about six months before this happened,” Neil said. “I had a dream not long after I came out of the coma. She told me I couldn’t go with her, and I have things to accomplish still. She said she couldn’t tell me, but I’ll know and I’ll figure it out.”
One of the men who attacked Neil was arrested, but was released on a personal recognizance bond. The suspect committed a similar crime while out on bond.
Neil has little faith the court system will provide relief.
“He hasn’t had his trial yet,” Neil said. “But he went and did the same thing to someone else while he was robbing them. Everybody looks at everybody else and points fingers, but no one is doing anything.”
Neil hopes he will soon be released and continue with his life. He’s been offered a job, but can’t accept the offer until he is released from the rehab center.
Neil’s friends, Tim Houser and Dave Ward, are trying to help get him cleared medically and released from the rehab center.
Both are convinced Neil is recovered fully and should not be still under guardianship, and have been trying to get a doctor to clear Neil for release.
“I’ve known Bob for 30 years. There is zero reason Bob should still be in the rehab center,” Houser said. “In his guardian’s report, they said he answered two questions slowly, and that’s their justification for him still being there. You get in with these places, and every time you try to get somewhere with getting him out, you run into a brick wall of bureaucracy.”
“I’ve spoken to him on the phone a few times and he sounds good,” Ward said, “And he’s certainly sane. It’s a pretty awful situation to wake up from something like that and have everything you own gone. But it really seems like he’s being held prisoner at this point. The guy has done nothing wrong. He should be wherever he wants to be.”