We are as disappointed as the rest of the community by the felony charge against Deanna Hatch.
She is accused of failing to repay a loan to a Delavan couple who tried to help her provide better care to her disabled husband, a veteran. Police are also looking into whether Deanna neglected and abused her husband, Francis Hatch. A court has removed her as his legal guardian.
Some of our angst stems from the coverage The Gazette gave Deanna’s plight, starting with a 2014 story about her troubles in dealing with the Veterans Administration. She claimed the federal agency provided minimal help as she sought to care for Francis at their Janesville home. The story portrays Deanna as a sympathetic, determined figure trying to do what’s best for Francis, who’s bedridden and suffers from complications linked to his time as a U.S. Army paratrooper.
The community rallied around Deanna, and we reported in 2016 on the community’s generosity toward the family. A local plumber even visited the home to fix a leaky faucet that Deanna said she couldn’t afford to repair.
The Delavan couple loaned her $10,000 to help pay for remodeling to improve Francis’ care. Deanna said a VA grant would pay for most of the project, but she needed additional funds. The loan would be repaid through fundraising.
But in March 2017, The Gazette reported Deanna hadn’t applied for the grant, and she wasn’t returning the Delavan couple’s calls. The couple, in a statement, acknowledged making a “judgement error in trusting a stranger.”
The proverb, “No good deed goes unpunished,” pops to mind.
Police are now investigating Francis’ deteriorating condition: bed sores, blisters and a wound on his leg that doesn’t appear accidental. Police also say Francis’ blood indicates he hasn’t been receiving his medications.
What makes Francis’ condition so shocking is that Deanna presented herself as his greatest advocate, accusing the VA itself in 2014 of being derelict.
There are, of course, two sides to every story, but sometimes you don’t learn about the other side until years later. A petition filed last month to remove Deanna as legal guardian indicates the VA had sent staff to the home to assist Deanna, but Deanna “reportedly has a history of firing staff and being difficult to work with...”
Was Deanna ever the caring advocate worthy of the community’s outpouring support? Did she harbor good intentions or were her pleas, from the start, a ruse to generate sympathy and money?
Indeed, it would be easy for people to feel jaded and turn suspicious of other pleas for help because of this situation. But as a community, we must resist that urge.
We can learn lessons from this experience and be mindful and cautious about donating funds in the future, but we cannot close our hearts. We must listen for and respond to other cries for help.
While we also should resist the urge to rush to judgement, Deanna will have a hard time redeeming herself in the eyes of the community. That deep well of sympathy and generosity, which Deanna used for so long, has gone dry. All that remains for her is a felony charge and a criminal investigation into her husband’s treatment.