FOX 17 INVESTIGATES: 6 months prior to homicide death, APS closed case with no investigation

APS reports made, not investigated in Allegan County homicide
william fitzhugh.jpeg
Posted at 3:33 PM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 22:36:37-05

PULLMAN, Mich. — The journey for justice for the family of William Fitzhugh was a long and exhausting process.

It ended with his children taking temporary guardianship of William, an 82-year-old man the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) department of Adult Protective Services (APS) repeatedly deemed to be competent, on more than one occasion. APS also determined William did not meet the definition for a “vulnerable adult.”

FOX 17 asked the MDHHS if APS was adequately staffed to investigate cases of elder abuse. They say staffing is not an issue.

In total, six referrals were made to APS involving William Fitzhugh and his widow, Eula.

Four reports made January 2017, March 2018, November 2018 and May of 2021 were all closed.

The reason being listed is that William and Eula refused services. As adults considered competent and not vulnerable, the MDHHS says there is nothing more they could do.

Allegan County Prosecutor Myrene Koch spoke with FOX 17 regarding cases of elder abuse in general. Koch is legally unable to discuss the specifics of this case.

“It’s difficult. We see these cases very similarly as we do with domestic violence cases. Oftentimes, victims, no matter which type of abuse it may be, don’t want to upset the abuser. They want to keep things as status quo as they can. Maybe the abuser takes care of them, provides them with shelter or food or money or services,” Koch said.

READ MORE: 'The whole system failed my dad': 82-year-old’s death ruled homicide after years of reported abuse

She says there are avenues to build cases without a victim’s cooperation, such as medical records or evidence of financial exploitation.

Koch says, unfortunately, she sees cases where victims are scared to reach out for help all too often.

“It is frustrating in any victim-related case. As a prosecutor you want to help them,” Koch said.

A Freedom of Information Act Request made by FOX 17 shows an open APS case based on a referral made on May 11, 2021 was closed on June 9.

Court records show Christopher Fitzhugh was arrested for assaulting a member of law enforcement on June 14.

June 16, two days later, another referral is made to APS.

The referral mentions Christopher’s recent arrest and states that he is “out of his mind on meth.”

That APS case was closed with no reason listed. No in-person visit was made, and no reason why is listed. The case was denied for investigation.

Christopher ultimately returns to the Fitzhugh home after he gets out of jail for assault.

Two APS referrals, on October 17 and October 22, are also denied for investigation according to the documents obtained by FOX 17 via FOIA.

October 29, William admits the abuse at the hands of his grandchildren to law enforcement and APS.

Cory and Christopher were charged with the vulnerable adult abuse and embezzlement charges Nov. 15.

Cory has been in Allegan County Jail ever since. Christopher was out on bond until Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022, when both Christopher and Cory were charged with felony murder in connection to the death of their grandfather.

The charges came down from the Allegan County Prosecutor's Office the same day they received a final copy of an autopsy report that confirmed William died from homicide.

Eula is being taken care of by her children.

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