Castle Roland

Chapter 144

Posted: 29 Dec 14

"All Rise!"

The bailiff spoke those words and the hearing in Probate Court Number One of Travis County, Texas, to reconsider the Probate of Collin's parent's Wills and specifically the guardianship matter that their Last Wills and Testament's indicated for their child, Collin, began.

"Are all the parties present?" asked Judge James G. Reynolds, the presiding judge.

"Yes, your Honor," replied the Bailiff.

"I see the Plaintiffs are contesting the Guardianship actions taken, concerning one Collin James Wilkinson, when his parents Wills were probated. I also see a counter suit by one Collin James Wilkinson, over the plaintiff. Okay, I see this is going to be one of 'those' hearings.

"Will the lawyers for the interested parties approach the bench," said the Judge. With that, four lawyers got up and approached the front of the courtroom.

"Why'd he do that?" asked Collin.

"I think it is to set the rules of the Hearing, but don't quote me on that. Or, he could also be asking them what they have planned for lunch," answered and teased Mr. Ken.

Collin slapped the man on his shoulder and laughed. That was the first time that day Ken had seen the teenager smile. He hoped that his 'little bro' would be smiling more when this was all over.

After about ten minutes of discussion, at the Judges bench, the lawyers returned to their respective tables to explain to their clients what the judge ordered.

At the defendants' table, Bill Jackson told Mr. Ken and Collin that the judge was only going to hear the guardianship issue. And to the teen' he said, "Collin, you'll have to wait until he makes his decision' before you can contest you're guardian's appointment."

"Yes", Stewart Russell chimed in "the judge says you can't really go forward with your suit, until you know if he'll change your guardian or not. Him saying that, means, to me, he is aware of your concerns, but he needs to hear what your grandmother has to say for herself. Sorry, buddy, but you're going to have to wait until this thing is over."

"What about my emancipation, or whatever it's called?" quickly asked Collin.

"That, too, Collin," answered Bill, "he says it is a separate issue to this hearing, and that you're going to have to do that one later, too."

Then Stewart spoke up and told Collin, "He told us he is going to focus on the guardianship issue and your parents' wishes, according to their Wills."

"But that means he's going to make me go with her," a teary eyed Collin protested.

"Not necessarily, my boy," finally spoke up Collin's Uncle Andy. "The judge is going to hear what we have to say, which, my boy, is a lot! After Bill gets through with Vickey, that should give him enough reason to leave things as they are.

"Now, sharpen up, lad and listen intently to who says what. If you think what is said is wrong or doesn't make sense to you, you need to write a note to me, or Stewart. The judge won't allow a lot of talking, so that's what we'll have to do. You can do that, can't you?" finished Andy.

"Yeah … yeah, I think I can do that," sniffled Collin.

"Here, blow your nose and sit up straight," teased Mr. Ken. "It looks like the judge is finished reading the file and we're getting ready to begin."

"Mr. Woods … call you first witness," directed the judge.

"I call Vickey Wilkinson," announced Mr. Woods.

"Objection, your Honor, that woman has not gone by that name since her husband passed away over ten years ago," announced Bill Jackson, as he stood up to object to Vickey going by her marriage name..

"Your Honor, my client is known as..."

"As V Susan Frankenberg for AT LEAST the past six years, that we have been able to determine, your Honor," spoke up Bill, as he stood, and before Mr. Woods could go further.

"Both of you approach," said the judge, irritated at best. Both lawyers went to talk with the judge.

A few minutes later, the judge announced, "Ms. Frankenberg, please take the stand."

Grammy slowly walked to the stand, holding a handkerchief while dabbing 'tears' from her eyes. Everyone at the defendants' table noticed the 'acting' Ms. Frankenberg was attempting and Bill made a note of it for when he got his opportunity to cross-examine her.

After Grammy got seated, Mr. Woods began and his first words were, "Now, Ms. Wilkinson… "

And before he could say another word Bill Stood up and yelled, "Objection."

"Sustained," replied the Judge.

Then the judge looked directly at Grammy's lawyer and said, "Mr. Woods … this is a hearing and not a jury trial … so there is no need to try to confuse them, as to who this woman is. It was agreed, in conference a few moments ago, that the lady has used the name Frankenberg for a period of over six years. That IS the name that we WILL use for her! Are there ANY questions, counselor?"

"No, your Honor," answered Mr. Woods.

"Ms. Frankenberg, Vickey, if I may?"

"Yes, you may," responded Grammy.

"Vickey, then, will you please tell the court … why … you are contesting the appointment of one Kenneth Richard Thomas to be the guardian of your grandson, whose name is Collin James Wilkinson?" asked Mr. Woods.

"Well … although the younger man has done a wonderful job as my grandson's guardian, both my son's and his wife's Last Wills and Testaments had stated that I was to be his guardian, and to finish raising him in the way they had been doing, up until their demise," acted out Vickey, who then put her handkerchief to dab her eyes.

"Objection, your honor, nowhere in either Will of both James and Charlotte Wilkinson, say that the boy's grandmother was to continue raising the lad 'in the way they had been raising him'," spoke Bill, as he stood and then looked directly at Vickey.

"Your Honor, how else would she continue raising the boy…" countered Mr. Woods.

"He is a teenager now, Mr. Woods," spoke up Bill.

"Bring me both of the Wills! This Court will be adjourned for fifteen minutes," said Judge Reynolds, as he then slammed his gavel down.

Both Bill Jackson and Julius Woods brought their copies of both of the Wills to the Bailiff, who then took them through to the judge's chambers.

"What was that all about?" asked Collin.

"I think the judge wants to personally know what both Wills say," replied Mr. Ken.

"Yeah, but by him having the Wills, he now knows exactly what they say," added Collin.

"It was going to be one of our exhibits, anyway, Collin," answered Bill.

"But why?" angrily asked the teen.

Stewart figured he should answer that question, since he was the lad's lawyer.

"Collin, the other side would have introduced the Wills, so we had to be prepared to do the same. With us bringing them into the proceedings, it shows the court that we have nothing to hide. We want the judge to know what we are doing is above board and truthful. We would want him to look favorably on us, but, as you saw, he asked for them before we even got the chance to introduce them. Now we wait!"

Twenty minutes later, Judge Reynolds entered the court and the bailiff announced his presence by saying, "All rise!"

"I have read both Wills, and I will sustain the objection. Counselors, please stay with the facts and don't embellish. Remember, this is a non-jury Hearing, and it will be I alone who will decide this case. Proceed!"

For a good part of the morning, Mr. Woods's questions allowed Vickey Frankenberg to explain herself as to why she was not available to take immediate care of her grandson after the deaths the teen's parents. She also got to explain why she hired all of those investigators so she would know what she would be up against when she finally filled for custody of her grandson.

Then Mr. Woods asked her the questions everybody wanted to hear. "Ms. Frankenberg, please tell the court why you brought this action today. Why do you contest Mr. Thomas's ability to act as your grandson's guardian, and tell the court why you would be much better for young Collin?"

"Well, even though Mr. Ken …"

"Explain who Mr. Ken is to the court, Ms. Vickey," interrupted Mr. Woods.

"Oh, yes … well, Mr. Ken is the name most people know him as. Mr. Ken is Kenneth Rickard Thomas, the man who is presently my grandson's guardian," answered Vickey.

"Continue, Ms. Vickey," said Mr. Woods.

"As I was saying, even though Mr. Ken, on the surface, seems to have done a pretty good job as guardian for my grandson, the man is not much older than my Collin himself. The man is less than a year out of college and has NEVER shown any practical experience in raising children … oh, sorry, a teenager. It was very fortunate that his dog found my grandson the night of that huge storm, otherwise Collin could have died out there on the man's back patio. I don't see how that makes the man a good guardian if he has to use a dog to find injured people.

"Another thing that Mr. Thomas is; he is irresponsible for allowing the attack on his own residence."

"Objection, your Honor, the FBI and Texas State Trooper Investigation Division both determined that my client had nothing to do with that attack, the day after Thanksgiving, and that the actual attack was an attempt to kill Collin Wilkinson, who was residing at that time at my client's home," shouted out Bill Jackson, as he jumped up.

"Do you have any evidence to support that, Mr. Jackson?" asked the judge.

"Yes, I do, Your Honor. It is a piece of evidence I was going to introduce when I had the opportunity," explained Bill.

"Give it to the bailiff. Mark it as exhibit D-3, and then let me see it," said the judge.

After perusing the document for a few moments, the judge looked down at Ms. Frankenberg and said, "This document is the final report on the attack at Three Finger Cove, Ms. Frankenberg. It emphatically states that the reason for the attack was that the attackers were after one Collin Wilkinson. That the twenty or so men were there to kill Collin, and that Mr. Kenneth Richard Thomas was in no way involved. I will sustain the objection. Mr. Woods, I recommend you instruct your client to state the facts, and not opinion or feelings."

"Yes, your Honor," said Mr. Woods.

"You may continue, Ms. Frankenberg," said the judge.

"I'm sorry, Your Honor. I took it that since it was Mr. Thomas's residence that he was who the attackers were after and thus put my grandson in jeopardy. I had never seen that report, so I could not state what I did not know. … Anyway, what I was saying is that I do NOT believe that Mr. Thomas is capable of being a good guardian, since he himself is not much older than my grandson. As a matter of FACT, Your Honor, my grandson calls the man "Big Bro" for big brother and Mr. Thomas even calls Collin "Little Bro", meaning the lad is his little brother.

"Although, it not unheard of that an older sibling is left to raise younger ones, neither Mr. Ken nor Collin is a sibling. There could be nothing good from this arrangement, as there is NO semblance of authority in the home. Older brothers, especially, are known for allowing their younger brothers to get away with stuff, just because they are boys, too."

"Objection … your Honor, Ms. Frankenberg is again stating something that has not been presented as fact," argued Bill Jackson.

"I disagree," yelled Mr. Woods, as he stood up to defend his client, "Ms. Vickey has visited the home on a couple of occasions, and was in a unique position to determine if that was indeed true.

"Counselor," said the judge, looking at Bill.

"Yes, your Honor, Ms. Frankenberg had visited Three Finger Cove, but she was in NO position to determine the authority levels in that home. All Ms. Frankenberg did was get a tour of Three Finger Cove, and then spent the majority of her time talking with her grandson. It is true the interaction of my client with Collin Wilkinson is akin to an older brother -younger brother association, but it also one of experience over inexperience and of teaching and learning. Mr. Thomas's authority does not have to be overbearing, and/or demanding and of 'cracking the whip' as Collin has explained the actions of his parents, to me," explained Bill Jackson.

Vickey sat there shocked that Bill explained her son's household as such, and shouted out, "Colley … how could you EVER say that about your loving and devoted parents? I am ashamed of you!"

Collin stood up from his seat and, before Stewart or Mr. Ken could pull him back down, he answered his grandmother yelling out, "Grammy, you know it is the truth … because it was YOU, who trained my father to be that way, because it was the way you treated HIM, and it's the way you'll treat me if I have to go back there living with you!"

Collin remained standing and staring straight at his grandmother, after his rebuttal.

At first, Ms. Vickey stared back at him and then it was if someone or something whispered into her ear, that she needed to act 'shocked' and 'hurt' at the teen's outburst and needed to show that, so she began to outwardly, and loudly cry.

As soon as Collin stood, to rebut his grandmother, the judge began pounding his gavel over and over, and then the people sitting in the in the "cheap seats" began to murmur their approval of Collin's outburst.

When the judge finally got order in the court, he told everyone there would be a fifteen minute recess, and that counsel was to meet with him in his chambers.

"What's that all about, Mr. Russell?" asked Collin.

"I think the judge is pissed at how things are going, and it is only in the first couple of hours. I heard him say in the beginning, under his breath, 'I see this is going to be one of 'those' hearings'. … Your grandmother has been taking her testimony to the edge of the truth, and I think, no, I hope the judge is telling Mr. Woods to get his client to 'tell the 'real' truth' or else," replied Stewart.

It was then that Ryan and 'mom came up to Collin to give him their support.

"I thought you guys weren't going to be able to come," smiled Collin, at seeing his best friend and 'mom'. Oh, and thanks for coming," said Collin, as he stood up.

Mary 'mom' Taylor reached over and gave Collin a great big hug and when she was done, Ryan did, too. They were able to exchange a few words before the lawyers came back into the room and sat down to talk to their clients.

"Okay, everybody, boy is he EVER pissed! I know we haven't had the chance to tell our side yet, but your grandmother's … after her action on the stand he ordered us to tell our clients to NOT play with what we know as the truth. He told us, he had hoped this hearing would only be one day since there are only a few witnesses, but now he knows it will go at least two days and possibly three. It is because of that, he is not HAPPY," Bill Jackson relayed to the people at his table.

"And Collin, you did a great job rebutting your grandmother, the way you did," praised Bill.

"The judge knows she baited you, to get you to stand up and make it look like you needed someone to teach you how to act, and that your present guardian hasn't done a good enough job of doing that. But, please, Collin … next time; try NOT to react to what people say, to, or about you. That is something either I or Stew should have warned you about before this thing started. So, I apologize for that. Now, let's see how Mr. Woods does in reining his client in."

"All rise. Ms. Victoria Frankenberg … retake the stand!" said the bailiff.

"Okay, Ms. Frankenberg, please continue telling the court why Mr. Thomas is NOT a good choice as your grandson's guardian," said Mr. Woods.

"Well, I already said that the man is not much older than my grandson, which I do not believe can be a very good conducive to much authority in that house. I also said that since Mr. Thomas has had NO training or experience, in raising children or teenagers. This surely would mean he would miss many things that a parent, or much older experience guardian, like myself, would teach or direct the much younger person what they need, to be a successful adult. Those two things alone should disqualify Mr. Thomas from that position," answered Ms. Vickey.

"Is there anything else you believe disqualifies Mr. Thomas?" asked Mr. Woods.

"Well, if that isn't enough, the fact is … no one can identify where that man gets his wealth from. Now, with the deaths of my son and daughter-in-law, my grandson, Collin, is a very wealthy teenager. Who knows what this man could do to take advantage of the boy's naiveté and steal the lad blind without him ever knowing it, as trusting as Collin is of Mr. Ken. Another irresponsible thing that Mr. Thomas does is he allows my grandson, the lad who was kidnapped because of my son's wealth and almost killed twice, to roam around all over without any sort of body guards present, anywhere. What does he want to do? See if the lad can be lucky three-out-of-three times?

"Mr. Ken might have the governor, the county commissioners, the local people and even a judge fooled, but he hasn't fooled me, once! The man has NO kinship with my Collin and thus is NOT worthy of being able to care for him as his deceased mother and father would have and have asked ME, his fraternal grandmother, to care for him until he came of age."

Vickey Frankenberg sat there on the stand, with a smirk on her face, as if she had just hit a hole-in-one, and thus, WON. The hanky was nowhere to be seen as she sat there smiling and nodding to everyone in the gallery.

Then there was heard from the judge, "Your turn to cross-examine, Counselor."

That statement brought V. Susan Frankenberg back to reality and the hanky back into view with a quick wipe to one eye.

William Jackson slowly got up from his seat and slowly walked over to the witness stand and leaned on the railing. His walk and stance was intentional. He wanted to stand directly between the eye sight of Ms. Vickey and Mr. Woods. As soon as he stopped, where he did, she instantly tried to look around Bill, towards her lawyer, Mr. Woods. That move made it apparent to Bill that the woman was going to rely on some sort of signals on how to answer or ignore Bill's questions.

"Ms. Frankenberg, let's go back to the beginning. The very beginning as to why you didn't come to your grandson's aide when he needed you the most," was Bill Jackson's first question.

"I have no idea what you mean by that question. As a matter of fact, that question is absurd, as I did go to my grandson as soon as I knew what happened to his mother and father," answered Ms. Vickey.

"Sure you did, Ms. Frankenberg. You told my client, Mr. Thomas, that you were on an around-the-world cruise, which is why you didn't know about the killing of your son and daughter-in-law, and the kidnapping of you grandson," stated Mr. Jackson.

"Yes, that's true."

"So, when did this around-the-world cruise end, and where did it end, Ms. Frankenberg?"

"I don't remember exactly. It was sometime in early spring, I do believe."

"Let me refresh your memory, if I may. The around-the-world cruise you were on finished up on the 20th of December. I know, because I checked. So, what happened that you didn't come looking for your grandson, Collin, as soon as you got back home?"

"Well, I didn't immediately go back home,"

"Didn't you even call your son, to tell them you were back and wish them a Happy Holiday or Merry Christmas?"

"My son knew that I was going to stay in New York for the Holidays, so there was no need to call him."

"But didn't you even want to talk to your grandson, Collin, on Christmas Day, to even know what he received from Santa?"

"I already knew what he was getting, so there was no need," replied Ms. Vickey.

"So … let me get this straight … you're telling us … you ARE a responsible adult, and want to be the lads guardian … and you don't even call your ONLY grandson on Christmas Day, to talk to him about his Christmas presents?" asked Bill incredulously.

"I knew my son would explain to Collin that I was on my cruise and that I wouldn't be back for a while, yet. I know what you're doing here. You're trying to make it sound like I am NOT the caring grandmother that I say I am. I want you to know that I love that boy and I'd do anything for him," retorted Ms. Vickey

"Okay, as you say, but let me then ask you, when was it that you knew that your son and daughter-in-law had been killed, and your grandson had been kidnapped?"

"I think it was sometime around the end of January," replied Vickey.

"So, you want this court to believe that you begin a cruise sometime in June of last year, and you don't have ANY communication with your son for over almost seven months?"

"Yes, I am a big girl, and I don't need to check-in with my son and with him also being a big boy neither did he need to check-in with me. What's the big deal that we didn't talk for such a long time?"

"It would seem to me, that a more caring grandmother slash want-to-be-mother, such as yourself, would be more interested in what was going on in the people's lives than you have been?"

"Objection, counsel is badgering my client and making her into something she is NOT!" argued Mr. Woods.

"Sustained," gaveled the judge. "Remember, what I said in chambers?"

"I was only answering her question, your honor," replied Bill Jackson.

"Proceed," said the judge.

"Okay, you say you didn't know what happened to your son or grandson until towards the end of January. So, when was it that you finally found out what happened to your son and grandson, and when did you hire the private investigators to check out my client, Mr. Thomas?" directly asked Bill.

Still dabbing her eyes, as she sat on the witness stand, V. Susan Frankenberg answered, "I learned of the horrific killings of my son and daughter-in-law and the kidnapping of Colley when I called a lawyer friend when I couldn't make contact with my son and his family. He told me what happened and that Colley had been found and was staying with Mr. Thomas. He also told me that the man had accused Dennis Clarke of orchestrating the killings and kidnapping and that I had to be careful with that man."

"And so, let me get this straight. You're telling me that with one person's say so, you abandoned you grandson and then hired a bunch of investigators? And you never tried to contact the FBI or even your son's personal lawyer, Andrew Marshall, to let them know where you were? You did all that with the say so of just one man?"

Bill then stopped talking, and with that, the entire courtroom was 'pin-drop quiet.

Then, breaking the silence, Mr. Woods asked "Do you have a question for my client?"

"I thought I did. Well, then, let me ask her. Why did you NEVER … contact the FBI or anyone else in authority … as a person, who knew she was in her son's Will, and a responsible ADULT would have done?"

"Objection!" yelled Mr. Woods.

"Overruled," answer the question, Ms. Frankenberg.

"Well, my lawyer friend Frank Hale told me he'd take care of all the notifications."

"And you believed him?" quickly asked Bill.

"Why, yes … he was a trusted family lawyer, when my husband was alive, so I had no reason to doubt his word. Why did you ask if I believed him?"

Bill looked over at the defense table and getting an imperceptible negative turn of a head he addressed the judge and said, "Your Honor, please believe me when I say … I cannot answer that question, right now … in open court."

"Counselor, in my chambers; this court is in recess for ten minutes," said Judge Reynolds, and then promptly left the courtroom.

"Uncle Andy, what just happened?" asked Collin.

"It may now appear that your grandmother's friend, Frank Hale, was in on this, the entire time," replied Andy.

"You mean he knew what was going on, from the beginning, and was trying to direct things all the time?" asked back Collin.

"Yes, my lad, it does seem so … after what you're Grammy just said."

Two minutes after Bill Jackson went into the Judge's Chambers; the bailiff came out and announced that court was adjourned until 1 o'clock that afternoon. The time was now only 10:30 AM.

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