ST. JOHNS — An Owosso man placed under guardianship after being mugged, beaten and left in a coma for two months will remain under guardianship for at least another six months, Clinton County Probate Judge Lisa Sullivan ruled Tuesday.
Bob Neil, the owner of a photography business in Owosso, has been working over the past year and a half to fully recover from a January 2018 attack in Lansing, which left him with a fractured skull and numerous other broken bones. Though Sullivan acknowledged Neil’s medical report is looking very positive, she did not believe he was 100 percent cured, and ultimately decided that the best course of action would be to re-evaluate the guardianship in six months, following the recommendation of guardian ad litem (GAL) Matt Samuels.
“I don’t think he’s prepared yet. He still acts very impulsive and doesn’t fully grasp reality,” Samuels said. “I don’t want to be discouraging, he’s made amazing strides. I’d like to give it six months, then we can take a look at it.”
Following the attack, Neil was in a coma for two months at Sparrow Hospital. Doctors initially thought if he did somehow survive the attack, he would be in a vegetative state from severe brain trauma.
Since Neil had no remaining family, the Clinton County Probate Court appointed Mid-Michigan Guardianship Services to handle his affairs. The guardianship company sold his personal belongings, his business equipment, quit paying various bills on his behalf and put his home up for sale, according to Neil.
It also sent him to Dimondale Nursing and Rehabilitation Center — where he has remained, unable to terminate the court order.
On Tuesday, Neil’s attorney Kristina Martin requested that he be placed under the guardianship of his longtime colleague Timothy Houser, instead of remaining at Dimondale. Samuels voiced support of the request, and Sullivan agreed to place Neil under new guardianship, pending approval from the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS).
Houser said he has known Neil for about 30 years. His business, Uptown Studios, resides in the same building as Neil’s photography studio, on North Washington Street in Owosso.
“Whenever Bob needed some help he would walk up from the second floor and we would catch up for a little bit,” Houser said. “It took some homework to figure out what happened to the guy.”
“I thought if I just get him out of there, it would really work out well. We’ll see what tomorrow brings us,” he said.
Following the hearing, Houser quickly began filling out paperwork. He said he’ll know in the coming weeks whether or not he has been approved as Neil’s guardian.
Samuels said he would like to see more progress from Neil going forward.
“The purpose of the guardian isn’t for the guardian to make the decisions for him completely, it’s for him to work with the guardian to work towards independence and that’s what I’d like to see,” Samuels said. “If I come back in December and he’s less impulsive and able to make good decisions, then I’ll be all for termination.”
Neil’s next guardianship hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Dec. 17 in Clinton County Probate Court.