Family of man with dementia gain guardianship of him after alleging wife married him for money

Dollita Okine February 16, 2024
A pair of 18k yellow gold wedding rings. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Mauro Cateb

A judge’s decision to transfer guardianship of John Belt away from his wife to his family has given them some relief. Cobb County Probate Judge Tara Riddle granted his family guardianship during the hearing on Tuesday. The family claimed Avis Wingo Belt had deceived their 58-year-old son into marrying her and maintained the marriage was founded on deception rather than love.

The verdict was rendered just one day after Atlanta News First Investigates revealed allegations that Avis Wingo Belt married John Belt—who has severe dementia—for his money despite being aware of his mental incompetence.

In 2018, John Belt wed Avis Wingo Belt, however, the validity of their union is currently under scrutiny. John Belt’s family produced medical records that characterized him as “totally incapacitated” on June 20, 2018. His fiancée applied for a marriage license in Florida eight days later.

Following his marriage to John Belt, Avis Wingo Belt amassed over $20,000 in outstanding credit card debt, bought a car under his name and acquired a new residence, according to court documents submitted earlier this month in Cobb County Probate Court. According to records, Avis Wingo Belt receives her husband’s $33,000 pension and social security benefits each year.

The family’s attorney, Tristan Gillespie, stated, “That’s all the story one needs to know that this was a marriage based on fraud.”

Janette, John Belt’s mother, petitioned the court for an urgent hearing so that a judge may end the marriage and provide guardianship of her severely dementia-stricken 58-year-old son. John Belt’s daughter, two sisters, and mother all claim Avis Wingo Belt placed him in a home healthcare facility that did not provide proper care. John Belt’s sister, April, believes Avis Wingo Belt duped him into marrying her on a cruise.

John Belt and Avis Wingo met while employed at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), according to John Belt’s relatives. John Belt spent more than 20 years working for MARTA before retiring in 2019. His wife still works for the transit authority.

April Belt recalled that Avis Wingo Belt told her brother to come downstairs one day and wear all white. When John Belt arrived in the room, his wedding was already underway.

“My brother and I used to talk a lot and he did not like her,” April Belt expressed.

John Belt’s immediate relatives stated that they had not been invited to the wedding and had no prior knowledge of it. “I just shook my head in disbelief because I knew that was not something he wanted to do,” Belt’s daughter, Jayla Belt, said.

Gregory Mitchell, a longstanding friend of John Belt, said he expected him to invite him to the wedding. Mitchell further alleged that any time he called the residence to speak with John Belt, Avis Wingo Belt would answer the phone and claim her husband was not available, making it difficult to contact him.

John Belt’s sister and her mother paid him a visit at his home care facility, where he is receiving hospice care, a few days after Christmas. According to them, John Belt looked frail and malnourished, and they called 911 for an ambulance. “We can’t let him sit there and die,” Kim Belt told the dispatcher.

When paramedics arrived, John Belt was not taken to the hospital because the facility refused to let him go. “John appeared to be sick and in need of medical assistance, but the staff at the home insisted that he was under a ‘Do Not Resuscitate Order,” wrote a Cobb County police officer who also responded to the facility.

The officer’s report mentioned Avis Wingo Belt’s power of attorney. She told the officer over the phone not to transport her husband. Meanwhile, when contacted, Avis Wingo Belt, 55, of Jenkinsburg, Georgia, roughly an hour and a half away from her husband’s home care facility, Amelia Gardens, claimed she was unaware of the petition until the network called her last week.

Denying her husband’s family’s charges, she stated through her doorbell, “That’s very untrue. I’m not destitute nor am I desperate.”

She did, however, admit that she was aware of the document describing John Belt as “totally incapacitated,” but she reiterated that Belt was heavily involved in the process.

“John was still in his right mind,” she maintained. “John was going to get married anyway. He wanted me to marry him because he said, ‘I don’t want my mother with any of my stuff.’ ”

When questioned about her husband’s health, Avis Wingo Belt said that he is in good condition except for having Alzheimer’s.

“I’m not worried about his health because John is fine,” Avis Wingo Belt said. “He’s in a facility. John has never been no big guy. He just lost a little weight.”

John Belt’s family requested on Tuesday that the judge take him out of Amelia Gardens due to what they said was inadequate care. The judge agreed.

Avis Wingo Belt refuted the accusations made against her in court, however, she did not comment on the judge’s decision.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 16, 2024


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