It sounds like something ripped straight from a soap opera, but the details surrounding Melinda Cordell's (ex-Natalie Dearborn, General Hospital; ex-Dorothy Stevens, The Young and the Restless) horrific death are anything but fictional.
The Ohio native, who starred on GH opposite Anthony Geary's Luke in 1983 and on Y&R in 1993, died of malnutrition at the age of 74 in a north Fresno hotel in April 2015. And according to the Fresno Bee, she left unfinished business that reveals her final years were sadder than anyone could have imagined.
Five months before the actress passed away, she sued the owners of Somerford Place, a Fresno-based assisted living facility. Cordell not only claimed that she had been locked up with Alzheimer's patients against her will for 18 months, she also contended she was a victim of elder abuse, false imprisonment and negligence.
Cordell's estate took over her cause after her death, and acting attorney David Moeck reveals that Somerford Place reached a confidential settlement earlier this month that has no admission of liability. The settlement prohibits Moeck from disclosing anything else about the case, but a signed declaration Cordell turned into probate court in 2014 that eventually resulted in her release from Somerford Place sheds light on her tragic final years.
"For the past 18 months, I have been living a nightmare," she says in the declaration. "Every day I am surrounded by patients at this facility who are losing their minds and have dementia and Alzheimer's."
The letter goes on to say Cordell believed the friends who put her in Somerford Place -- to whom she had signed over power of attorney in 2012 -- were not acting in her best interest and were misusing her money. "To date, I have not been told where my personal belongings, including furs and jewelry, are being held or what has come of them," she says, adding, "no court has ever declared me incompetent and it is frustrating that I am being treated as though I am presently incompetent when my most recent evaluation ... by Dr. (Howard) Terrell proves otherwise... Like anybody else, I may not know what the future holds for me, but I should have the right to make my own decisions and steer my life any direction I choose."
In court papers and in pretrial motions held in early August, Vincent D'Angelo, the lawyer for Fresno Heritage Partners (which operates Somerford Place) stated that Cordell had dementia and that it was in her best interest to remain in the facility. The attorney also disputed that the actress was held against her will. However, Moeck was able to argue during the case that Cordell was competent, could make her own decision, was not a danger to herself, and never suffered from Alzheimer's or dementia.
In addition to GH and Y&R, Cordell appeared in shows like Search For Tomorrow, Edge of Night, Little House on the Prairie and Cheers. You can watch a video of her with GH's Luke below.
For additional details about Cordell's legal battle with Somerford Place, check out the Fresno Bee's original story here.
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