After witnessing the horrors of the S.C. Family court system first hand, Lee Granade has become a vocal advocate for S.C. Families trapped in an unjust system.
|“After having a professional relationship with Lee for several years, I have realized that while we expect the law to protect families, the gatekeepers responsible for the interpretation, execution, and enforcement of the law should not be immune from scrutiny. Many have cited the ‘two systems’ of justice in South Carolina, noting the distinction between those who can command (favorable) attention just by virtue of who they are…. and everyone else. Lee has been shortchanged from her Constitutionally protected right to parent – and protect – her 2 children for absolutely no discernible reason, and has consistently struggled to determine exactly why she cannot get the answers she desparately needs. The proposed legislation by Representative White brings renewed hope that new checks and balances will help prevent similar tragedies in the future.” Hunter Alexander BLAKE & DETCHEMENDY LAW FIRM|
LEE GRANADE IN HER OWN WORDS
In my custody determination/divorce, 14th Circuit Family Court Judge Zimmerman ignored:
- my ex’s disability from his ‘conduct’ and mental health problems, even stating it did not exist in the order.
- my ex’s DV history, his suspension and demotion from fed gov’t, prior restraining order and documentation of it being broken w/in hours.
- my ex’s being banned from children’s sports venues because of the way he treated the children — in 2 states.
- my ex’s own notarized statement that he should not be left alone with the children.
- My ex’s son from his first marriage who is in LEO in Cola (and refuses to use his dad’s name), testified for ME against his dad’s abuse; Judge Zimmerman still gave my ex full custody.
When daughter Lily was approaching high school at First Presbyterian Day School in Macon, GA, early discussions about tennis scholarships and a potential sponsorship prompted Lee and her children to relocate to Head Island, SC to attend Van Der Meer Tennis Academy. Earlier that year, Lee had sought to dissolve her marriage from husband, Robert Jimenez, while still living in middle Georgia; this fateful decision not to finalize matters in Georgia would prove to be an especially bad one.
Lee’s spouse, Jimenez, boasted of these deep ties to the SC barrier islands’ power player attorneys dating back to the early 1980s when he had played tennis for the US Navy’s team in Beaufort and often taught tennis lessons at a local club frequented by the Murdaughs and their associates. He would later follow friends he had met in Beaufort to Columbia, SC to attend the University of South Carolina where those same local sons, like Alex Murdaugh, would further their education at USC Law School before ultimately returning to their low country roots. Another one of those young men, Robert Achurch, Esq. was especially close to Jimenez; Achurch now serves as county attorney for Beaufort, often representing the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO).
Those old connections had a palpable influence on her legal proceedings that would rival most anything daytime television producers could imagine. The morning of her temporary hearing in June 2018, she awoke to walk her dogs in front of the family’s patio home on a tidal creek in a gated Hilton Head community; she would find drug paraphernalia littered throughout her yard, but the police would refuse to even take a report. When she arrived at the courthouse, the late Judge Peter Fuge ‘decided’ to hold (what should have been) Lee’s temporary hearing in his chambers; she would receive a call 2 days later that she had lost her children, her home, her pets, her vehicle, etc., and her estranged husband would have sole decision-making authority for both children. Despite her spouse making approximately 10x what she financially contributed, she was told her child support due to him was imputed at more than 3x her typical salary. She was allowed less than an hour to vacate the home.
Lee had provided the Court with a dozen affidavits of her husband’s volatility/violence, his VA disability records for his ‘conduct disorder,’ statements from two sports venues who had banned him, domestic violence center reports, her doctors’ statements, videos, and audio of his violence, and even his own notarized statement detailing how he should not be left alone with the children. The Court ignored all as Jimenez took the children to an unlicensed counselor and sought to have Lee arrested for abuse since she would have the children scrub baseboards on occasion for punishments were indicated.
Convinced that Judge Fuge’s ruling was a judicial anomaly, a fluke, she insisted that her case receive a final hearing. The 14th circuit ‘invited’ Judge Mindy Zimmerman from Newberry to preside; Lee’s attorney had declared his intent to the JMSC to run against Judge Zimmerman, but neither sought to recuse themselves. The guardian ad litem (GAL), Katherine (Graham) Ferguson, Esq., lawyered up for the occasion with Judge Ned Tupper who had also intermittently resided in Newberry before relocating to the low country. Judge Tupper is married to Judge Sharpe now, past president of the SC Bar.
The GAL’s cap had been incrementally increased despite Lee’s pleas otherwise. Starting at $3000, it was at $55,000 by the time of the trial. Though Lee should have had 10 days to review the GAL’s reports before they were presented to the Court, Ferguson simply requested an extension and both were submitted within hours of (what should have been) the temporary hearing and the final hearing, leaving Lee with no opportunity to refute/disprove the hearsay and other inaccuracies in the reports. All the while, Lee’s attorney, Randy Phipps, would tell Lee and her family that she was ‘unable’ to fire him because no one else would take her. He would say that Lee’s pleas to remove the GAL would certainly be denied and would only cause Lee to be labeled ‘more of a bitch,’ in the unlikely event that she was successful causing the subsequent GAL appointment to be biased against her.
Despite Zimmerman listening to 4 full days of testimony that outlined father’s abusive nature time and again – even from Robert Jimenez’s son from his first marriage (a Columbia, SC police officer married to an attorney), who had testified for Lee, Zimmerman would ultimately echo Judge Fuge’s ruling. Jimenez was such an absent parent that he had even misspelled their daughter’s name on her passport application. Zimmerman would ‘not want’ to watch the videos of father’s violence nor did anyone in Court pay attention to his hotel and bar receipts from his dates with his paramour(s) nor the ADT videos of his leaving the children alone all night while he stayed out. They would also ignore his military and civil service records showing where he had been denied promotion and would later be demoted and suspension without pay for his treatment of subordinates; the GAL would represent this as a stellar and outstanding career.
One expert who has tried to help Lee and her children is Duke and Vanderbilt trained forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Kenneth DiNella. He adamantly recommended to the SC 14th Circuit that the Court award full custody to Lee with limited supervised visits only by Robert Jimenez. A similar recommendation would be affirmed and submitted to the SC Circuit Court by former Judge and CourtTV anchor Ashley Willcott, JD, CWLS. Neither recommendation would matter. By 2019, the family had amassed nearly $300,000.00 in legal fees leaving Lee separated from her children, home, even the clothes in her closet and family heirlooms that originated from her childhood home. Unable to financially afford an attempt at an appeal, she resolved herself to the harsh reality, thinking that things could not get worse — but she was wrong.
The first 911 call would be made 53 minutes after Lee’s young son had returned to the Hilton Head Island home at 17 Marshwinds that Lee still legally owned with her ex-husband (despite his 2019 remarriage) on January 19, 2020. Later that evening, a neighbor would call Lee to advise that her children were safe, but the home had been destroyed by fire. Young William, then age 11, had escaped significant physical injuries having been left home alone while his father and new stepmother (supposedly) visited an unlit dog park nearly two hours after sunset.
While waiting patiently for updates regarding the fire investigation, Lee eventually learned that local police declined to submit an incident report about the house fire. BCSO (who was/is represented by County attorney Achurch), also declined to secure the scene of the fire, leaving the property before the flames were fully extinguished. BCSO would ignore their policies and procedures that Lee obtained via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). When Lee gathered the incomplete reports, 911 calls, and everything else she could find, she and attorney Hunter Alexander of Evans, GA, contacted the SC Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to request their oversight. SLED politely informed Lee that they would have been happy to investigate the matter, but BCSO refused to allow SLED to investigate. SLED (erroneously) told Lee that their hands were tied and claimed to not have jurisdiction. Lee’s persistence with SLED, encouraging accountability, ultimately led to her being served a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter (because of her repeated requests) from SLED’s General Counsel last month.
Subpoena results of USAA insurance who insured Lee’s home at 17 Marshwinds showed where $15,000.00 was sent to Jimenez and herself within a few hours of the fire, followed by nearly $483,000.00 in the subsequent 3 weeks. Armed with this evidence and with an affidavit from certified fraud examiner, Doug Zandstra, CPA, CFE, Lee appealed to local authorities to charge insurance and wire fraud; BCSO declined to investigate this matter as well or refer it to the office of the Attorney General as directed by SC Statutes. The AG would also ignore Lee’s repeated pleas to get an investigation despite his (social media and recorded) promises otherwise.
Lee would go before the 14th circuit judges six times in the subsequent 24 months and provide them with evidence on top of evidence… nothing would change. She would be denied, dismissed, continued, etc., and the rumblings of public corruption within law enforcement and legal circles in the low country began to feel like an oppressive and dangerous reality for Lee’s friends and family. As staunch supporters of law enforcement, Lee’s aunt, Angie Strother remembers when her mother gifted family land to the state to construct a Georgia State Patrol office where it sits today. Ms. Strother, who owned a beach home near Beaufort for decades, said she would not have believed what happened to her niece if she had not witnessed it firsthand.
When in front of Judge Deborah Malphrus, the judge set an iphone timer to ensure she did not go beyond the 45 minutes allowed. Malphrus, a former assistant solicitor to Solicitor Randolph Murdaugh III and partner of Cory Fleming, would deny Lee’s request to consider Jimenez’s perjury since the divorce decree did not specifically ban Mr. Jimenez from making perjurious statements. Lee would later learn that the JMSC had received comments about Malphrus’ unnecessary and unpleasant temperament with approximately 50% of the comments to the JMSC about her describing such; Malphrus was even told she was ‘fortunate’ not to have any opposition.
In February, Lee presented an affidavit to the 14th Circuit Family Court in Beaufort from the local animal shelter that showed where Jimenez had surrendered their daughter’s cat to the shelter just 48 hours before the home inexplicably burned. On this occasion, she argued in front of Judge Phillips who was visiting judge since she now has the case at the Court of Appeals. She provided written statements from a Chairman of the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), Cameron Novak, who unequivocally stated that all available evidence strongly implicated an arson for insurance scheme by Jimenez and his wife; Phillips claimed her evidence was insufficient.
Lee would later learn that Zimmerman, when in front of the JMSC in 2021, would cite her case (Jimenez v. Jimenez) as one of her most ‘significant’ cases; her prior time before the JMSC would ‘feature’ a case in which she represented the Newberry bailiff’s granddaughter in her having a DUI expunged from her record. The sheriff of Newberry to whom the bailiff presumably reported, provided her a letter of reference. It is noteworthy that Zimmerman’s initial bid for a judgeship would not result in a nomination after two senators found her limited legal experience to be inadequate for the office.
Lee is hopeful that Alex Murdaugh’s complicated tragedy of corruption that has garnered national attention can ultimately be used to prompt change for the greater good. You can follow updates on Lee’s plight (with documentation and videos) on “Clean Up the 14th – JUDICIAL REFORM NOW” on Facebook.
The High Cost of what S.C. calls justice
Another comes forward on 14th Circuit Family Court Judge Zimmerman
Horry S.C. Senator Luke Rankin’s JMSC Hearings are interesting
Lee Granade <@gmail.com>
Your assistance requested for 14th Circuit Jimenez v. Jimenez
Lee Granade <@gmail.com>
Dear Judge Zimmerman,
Wed, Sep 29, 2021 at 7:59 AM
You were the visiting judge for this divorce case in May 2019 in Beaufort. I am writing to ask you to intervene to right this wrong.
Your findings gave no credence to stacks of affidavits of my ex–husband’s abuse/volatility or law enforcement testimony of the same; nor did it consider his mental health diagnoses/disability, his work demotions and unpaid suspension from the federal government for mistreatment of (female) subordinates. My doctors‘ notes in medical records indicating abuse were disregarded.
There was no consideration to the prior TPO, his breaking the TPO within hours, his recorded threats and abuse of the children and me or even his own (notarized) acknowledgment of domestic violence with his belief he should not be alone with the children.
The court over which you presided did not assign any gravity to video of his abandoning the children all night while under slip order. The ‘explanation‘ was made for his utilizing a delinquent, unemployable 30–year old half-brother of my children (previously unknown to them), as an onsite ‘nanny‘ for my minor children despite being restrained from doing so by the Honorable Judge Fuge.
Despite hotel receipts and a pseudo admission of his adultery, this was also ignored, as was the (primary) individual with whom he did have an adulterous affair. His paramour of choice was from south Florida and the ex-wife of the man with whom I admitted to having a short-term relationship. My ex-husband and this woman were married just after my divorce; in summary, he sought to ‘wife swap,’ and (successfully) gain control of this man’s child. [FYI – I ended my short term relationship with Chris Myers long before the final hearing].
As a result of your judgment, Helen Wheeler of Charleston was assigned to perform family counseling and I was not to have contact with my daughter (except in counseling) prior to Thanksgiving 2019. After meeting with me privately in summer of 2019 and viewing video evidence of DV, a scared Ms. Wheeler chose to ‘allow’ my ex-husband to NOT bring our daughter for counseling.
Wheeler also suggested in writing that your court order was unenforceable. Though Wheeler truthfully reported to law enforcement that I did complete all counseling, she would later give different written accounts to others. This counselor engaged in sidebar disparagement of me to my ex, in writing, and has not been truthful nor compliant with subpoenaed records.
Because the GAL’s testimony and reports were (inexplicably) held in high regard by the Court, I alerted you to extensive perjury by the GAL. The GAL’s collusion with and deferring to the psychologist (whom you terminated) was not exposed, illuminated nor considered by the Court. In addition to her dual relationship and other malpractice, she chose to ignore
my daughter’s unexplained injuries and self-mutilating behaviors in the context of suspected sexual abuse of her (then 14 years old) by her 30-year–old half-brother, as well as dental/medical and general neglect.
It is noteworthy that I had repeatedly attempted to alert the Court that via my husband’s college roommate, Beaufort attorney ROBERT ACHURCH, classmates with two of the Murdaugh brothers at USC law school, who often represents the police in Beaufort as county attorney, my case had likely been the subject of extensive ex parte communications and arrangements prior to the final hearing.
As a result of your judgment, the following has occurred:
Medical records of my daughter indicated that days after your judgment was rendered, my daughter was taken by the troubled half-brother to a pediatrician previously charged with child endangerment (Lance Lowe, MD). There was no parent present, nor chaperone, as she endured a genital exam and the half-brother insisted that she be placed on birth control while misrepresenting reasons for the same.
Dental records of my daughter indicate that my ex-husband finally had her obtain a root canal that had been recommended and referred to an endodontist 7 months prior.
Our daughter was placed in an ‘online’ school, where she remains today, in violation of your judgment; this has allowed my ex-husband to ‘opt out’ of standardized testing since that time. The last available testing showed she was ‘on target‘ for only one (8th grade) subject and behind in all others; she will be 17 years old in 61 days and is a former honor
Both children are withdrawn from all extracurricular activities and no longer attend church.
November 2019: At the time that my daughter was to resume visitation with me, with her father condoning and encouraging her, I was physically assaulted by my daughter with injuries and property damage.
December 2019: My ex-husband married his paramour without communication about it in advance to our mutual children. His transgender, bi-sexual stepchildren (aged 15-28) who extensively use hallucinogenic drugs and alcohol (according to social media), are often commingled with my minor children. I was not apprised of his marriage, but learned of it via a 3rd
Within minutes of returning my son from a weekend visit, my ex-husband and his bride LEAVE HIM HOME ALONE at age 11 years to go (supposedly) to an (unlit) dog park 1.5 hours after sunset; the house erupts into flames and is destroyed. My ex-husband does not call 911 nor me – I was alerted by neighbors who rescued my child.
There was no investigation of the fire, no report generated by Beaufort County police, no referral to DSS for child endangerment, no insurance (fraud) investigation, no referral to SLED. This violated multiple policies, procedures and protocols of the fire department and law enforcement. Please see prior paragraph regarding Mr. Achurch’s relationship to law enforcement, Murdaughs and my ex-husband.
My daughter drops me a GPS pin requesting that I retrieve her without alerting her father, knowing that he will not allow her to visit me. I tell her I must communicate with her father, and she demands that I not do so. I alert police who do nothing. I provide Senate Subcommittee testimony in another state on guardianship abuses in the Court system.
February 2020: USAA insurance issues payment to the legal owners of the property for the contents of the home that my ex has (now) insured for $362,000; as shown in our divorce decree, this was valued at $20,000. Though I am still a legal owner of the property at that time because the stipulations that would have removed me from the property ownership had not been satisfied, I never saw a dime.
Spring 2020: I had taken a higher paying job in Augusta, GA to get closer to the imputed salary upon which you had based my child support obligations. My ex was angry that the previously submitted quit claim deeds were not satisfactory and he began calling my workplace and writing to me describing his communication with my employer. This harassment and concern of DV by my employer caused me – as a previously lauded employee – to be terminated, but they provide me a severance package because of the situation. I used that money to retain an attorney who crafts the QDRO so I can obtain my 401k proceeds; Phipps never did the QDRO.
July 14, 2020: I request police assistance to force my ex to bring my daughter for visitation. We have a wonderful visit, though it is constantly interrupted by calls to my daughter by my ex and his wife; they have apparently ordered that she assault me at the exchange. My ex’s new wife has her video camera in place before and during the assault; I call 911 and am quite bruised, shaken and upset. The police offer me an ambulance, then later tell me I may be charged with assault. Please see prior paragraph regarding Mr. Achurch’s relationship to law enforcement, Murdaughs and my ex- husband. Ex and his bride then file a false DSS report, put the children through forensic interviews, Helen Wheeler gets involved and disparages me to DSS investigators, but the DSS claim is still completely dismissed.
Fall 2020: The QDRO is submitted, and I await payment so that I may again return to the 14th Circuit Family Court to fight for my children. CBS and Dr. Phil offer their services to try to bring relief to my children, but my ex will not allow it.
January 4, 2021: My ex kicked our daughter out of the home because she had allegedly misplaced an expensive item she had borrowed from one of her new stepbrothers. Lily immediately calls me to pick her up which I happily do; her father tracks her by her iPhone and demands she returns to him 8 hours later. I have not seen her since that day.
Both children are now at the threshold for failure to thrive in the care of their father based on their medical records with anthropometric data. An emergency hearing, modification of custody is held by Judge Deborah Malphrus, former assistant to Solicitor Randolph Murdaugh, III. She affords less than 2 minutes to hundreds of pages of evidence of abuse, neglect, and rampant violations of my ex-husband and emergency relief is just denied. This ‘judgment‘ required her to ignore affidavits citing psychological, medical, physical, general, nutritional, and dental neglect by father by (the Honorable Judge) Ashley Willcot, JD, CWLS, a dentist and pediatric dietitian.
SLED reviewed all the evidence of arson for insurance and child endangerment that I submitted. SLED contacts Beaufort to offer their investigative services as they report that an arson investigation is absolutely indicated; Beaufort refuses an arson investigation. A paper trail of FOIA requests and subpoenas shows multiple inconsistencies in this ‘communication’ between agencies. Please see the prior paragraph regarding Mr. Achurch’s relationship to law enforcement, Murdaughs and my ex–husband.
My ex will not produce items requested in discovery and is taken in on a Motion to Compel. At the time, we also requested a Change of Venue given the Achurch/Murdaugh connections among other concerns. We prevailed on Motion to Compel but denied a venue change.
Over 25 counts of my ex’s perjury is submitted by my attorney to the 14th circuit solicitor’s office.
My daughter has now missed >290 days of visitation with me.
Deposition of Helen Wheeler pending to illuminate her dishonesty and other concerns.
Because my ex is STILL not complying with the production of documents as ruled in the Motion to Compel, we domesticate a subpoena (Texas) to USAA to obtain said documents and are told he will do a motion to quash. It is (strongly) suspected that bank documents will disclose insurance fraud as well as (likely) forgery. In the 14th circuit, he may prevail in his motion.
I continue to petition the AG to investigate the arson that threatened my child’s life and destroyed everything they owned. We are apprised that because we did not have an accompanying Sheriff incident report regarding perjury, the Solicitor’s office has not taken action on the matter.
Please consider how the reliance on a corrupt guardian can TERRORIZE and THREATEN CHILDREN’S LIVES. Please initiate an investigation of the following however it may be within your purview to do so: (a) the perjury of Katherine Ferguson, GAL in the written reports submitted to the Court. I can and would like to be – contacted for extensive evidence in this matter at any time; this is based on the guidance I have received from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. (b) the corruption and criminal activity, e.g., arson, that I have now reported to you. (c) ex parte communications in this matter. (d) other inappropriate communications and considerations, influences, e.g., Achurch. (e) perjury of Robert Jimenez.
My attorney is NOT aware that I am contacting you, but I am a desperate mother with nothing left to lose. Should you want to communicate directly to him, Hunter Alexander in Evans, GA (licensed in SC/GA): halexander@ augustafamilylawyer.com
Lee Granade, f/k/a Laurie Lee (Granade) Jimenez
Mom to Lily (16) and William (13)