HOUSTON — A Houston Community College trustee took advantage of a drug-addicted woman whose “physical and mental facilities were severely impaired” and convinced the woman to will her house to the trustee, according to claims filed in Harris County Court records.
A family member of the deceased woman is contesting the will, and she alleges that HCC Trustee Carolyn Evans-Shabazz manipulated long-time neighbor Patricia Trahan “who had resumed active drug use,” and suggests that Evans-Shabazz aided in funding Trahan’s drug addiction.
“Being of a mindset of a person with addiction the deceased yielded to the importunities and compulsions and allowing herself to be manipulated as long as access was granted to fund her addiction…,” according to court claims made by Trahan’s cousin, Miriam Tolan. Evans-Shabazz’s control over Trahan was “acquired during decline into addiction and bad health…”
Evans-Shabazz held sway over the dying woman “as to her finances, access to her money, who visited her, who she talked to, who she was permitted to be alone with her, and who was not,” according to court documents.
Evans-Shabazz denies all of the claims, and described the accusations against her as “defamation.”
“Patricia Trahan and I were very, very close friends,” Evans-Shabazz told The Texas Monitor. “We grew up together in the same neighborhood. She always looked at me as being a sister. When her mother became ill she asked her mother to make me her power of attorney and I served in that capacity until the death of her mother.
“She asked me after that if I would be her power of attorney. I agreed, for no compensation or anything of that nature. Just to help her manage herself because at one point she had a drug problem.”
“She and I were very close,” Evans-Shabazz said.
Evans-Shabazz also aggressively denies the most explosive claim: That she was the last person to see Trahan alive. According to Tolan’s claim in the court record: “I also believe, and have paid for an independent autopsy to confirm, that there was foul play in my cousin’s death…”
“She told me one thing, she told the hospital something else,” Tolan told The Texas Monitor about Evans-Shabazz. “Those medical records are being subpoenaed.”
Tolan declined additional comment on Trahan’s death.
Evans-Shabazz scoffed at the idea of any wrongdoing.
“Anybody that knows me knows that I don’t like to kill even insects,” Evans-Shabazz said. “I certainly wouldn’t have tried to do anything to Patricia.”
There is no police investigation and Evans-Shabazz has never been accused by any authority of any misdeed in connection with Trahan.
Evans-Shabazz said, though, there were conflicts between Trahan and Tolan.
She tried to talk to Patricia during Patricia’s mother’s funeral “and Patricia would not allow it,” Evans-Shabazz said. “She had very little respect for Patricia.”
“I took care of her till the very end, to the point of taking her her meals, feeding her, making sure she was clean,” Evans-Shabazz said. “Marian didn’t come around at all.”
Tolan said that is untrue.
Evans-Shabazz also claims that Tolan demanded money whenever she would make a meal.
Tolan said the only time she was given money for meals was when she would make a giant holiday spread for the family.
The trustee also said that Tolan would demand money when the family wanted to visit John Trahan. Tolan is the guardian of John Trahan, Patricia Trahan’s brother who is mentally disabled.
Again, Tolan forcefully disagreed.
Tolan said in court records that Evans-Shabazz never told her about the will.
“She didn’t notify me that Pat was ill until she was on life support,” Tolan said. “She lied on an affidavit, a sworn affidavit, saying she didn’t know how to reach me. I really wasn’t suspicious until then. It shows her character.”
Tolan said she finds it unbelievable that any friend didn’t know where she lives. Her address was plastered all over the media when her son became a victim in one of the region’s most well-known police shootings.
The shooting took place on Dec. 21, 2008 when a ten-year Bellaire, Texas police veteran shot Robbie Tolan three times in the Tolans’ driveway. Tolan sustained serious injuries in the shooting and charges were pressed against the officer, who was found not-guilty.
A federal police brutality civil suit was filed by the family and made it all the way to the Supreme Court when the city of Bellaire settled with the family. The actions of the police in the Robbie Tolan case are proof for many activists as evidence of racism in the police.
“How do you not know my address when my son was shot at my address,” she said. “Everyone knows my address.”
And both disagree on what Trahan really wanted.
“While Patricia was in a court-ordered drug rehab, when we know that she was sober, she wrote letters to me and told me she thanked me for taking care of her mom’s burial and everything,” Tolan said. “She said that if something happens to me I want the house to be sold so you can have the money to take care of Johnny,” Trahan’s brother.
Evans-Shabazz said that Trahan told her that she wanted the trustee to have the house, because of all of Shabazz’s support and help at the end of her life.
Evans-Shabazz also said that she finds the whole suit distasteful and suggested that Tolan is in part pursuing the case to help derail Evans-Shabazz’s political career.
She is up for election in November.
“As God as my witness, I would never do any of these allegations,” Evans-Shabazz said.
The will in which Trahan left her home to Evans-Shabazz was penned April 22, 2015, about three months before Trahan died at the age of 57.
There also appears to be a dispute over the value of the house, which is located near Texas Southern University. In court documents, the house is said to be worth $50,000. Tolan argues the value is closer to $100,000.
The case was found as part of a Dolcefino Consulting investigation into Houston Community College, its staff, and its trustees. The investigation was launched in August in the wake of another trustee’s guilty plea in a bribery sting.
Evans-Shabazz was appointed to the HCC Board of Trustees in May 2015 and was elected that body’s vice-chair in August.
She is a member of the Executive Committee of the NAACP-Houston branch.
The case has been winding through probate court since 2015. A trial concerning the will is scheduled for Jan. 24, 2018.
Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.