Gary woman charged with abuse of clients rented out home she didn’t own
GARY — While Gracie Hathaway remains incarcerated at the Lake County Jail on charges she neglected, abused and assaulted clients at her group homes here, investigators have uncovered more layers to her money-making schemes.
The latest alleged victim is Yolanda Suggs, 42, mother of five children who began renting one of Hathaway’s vacated group homes on March 29. But Hathaway doesn’t own the house at 4264 Tennessee St., and she didn’t forward payment to the real owners, who notified Suggs she must be out by the end of the month.
“It’s overwhelming. I can’t cry anymore. I’m expecting the worst,” Suggs said Tuesday.
While police investigate the potential theft of rent money, Social Security Administration authorities are looking at allegations that Hathaway cashed Social Security checks in March for clients after they were relocated to other facilities in February.
The home Suggs rented is one of four group homes Hathaway operated as Gracie’s Tender Loving Care, for mentally and physically challenged adults. After police found John Woodley, 60, injured and with a critically low body temperature at one of Hathaway’s homes in January, Sgt. Dan Callahan launched an extensive investigation into the operation, resulting in eight felony charges filed May 28 against Hathaway, 40, and her boyfriend, Eldon S. Johnson, 43, accused of using stun guns on clients, pushing them down stairs, locking them inside the homes and not providing enough food.
Woodley died from head trauma March 1 at an area nursing home.
Although Hathaway was arrested two days after charges were filed, Johnson remains at large.
His freedom, and the newfound knowledge of what happened at her home added to Suggs’ woes.
“I was already in a hardship situation, staying in a hotel and working, until my funds ran out,” Suggs said. She moved from Hebron to the Glen Park home and immediately noticed some suspicious aspects.
“They left behind some things, usual things, but also medical equipment. And two of the locks were put on backwards to lock people into the bedrooms,” she said. “My daughter’s room has bars in it. And the back door has a padlock, so we only have one way in and one way out.”
Although the house provided enough space for her children, ages 4 through 15, Suggs worries about retaliation.
“I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know people were being imprisoned here,” she said. Her job is less than a mile away, but Suggs said she’s afraid to leave her children alone. “These people know where to find me. I don’t know where to find them. These were somebody’s loved ones,” she said.
Hathaway has retained Patrick Young as her defense attorney. Her bail was lowered from $80,000 to $50,000 but she has not been released. Her next court appearance is July 26. In addition, the owners of the Lake Station home at 2749 Huntington St., where Hathaway was living when she was arrested, have filed an eviction notice, court records show.