Defamation lawsuit filed over allegations of elder abuse in Aiken dismissed

Nov. 2—The legal battle over the $8 million plus estate of an Aiken woman who died in early January appears to be over.

John W. Harte, attorney for former South Carolina House of Representatives candidate and George Funeral Home owner Cody Anderson, said that an agreement had been reached to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed on Anderson's behalf against local attorney Ray Massey and accountant Wanda Scott.

Harte filed the defamation suit on Anderson's behalf against Massey and Scott on June 12 over allegations of elder abuse and undue influence made in legal documents filed during the spring legal battle over the estate of Mary Margaret Wenzell Crandall.

Massey and Scott asked the court in late January to use a will written in 2001 to distribute Crandall's assets. In that will, Massey and Scott were named as the people who distributed Crandall's assets.

Anderson asked the court in February and March to use a will written in 2020 to distribute Crandall's assets. In that will, Anderson was named the person who distributed Crandall's assets.

On March 17, Massey and Scott argued that Anderson had used undue influence to convince Crandall, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2018, to sign the 2020 will.

The allegation was denied by Harte in a statement sent after the Aiken Standard published an article about the legal battle.

Judge Courtney Clyburn-Pope eventually threw out the 2020 will because it did not meet the requirements of the South Carolina Probate Code. When the 2020 will was thrown out, Massey and Scott agreed to dismiss their claims of elder abuse and undue influence against Anderson.

Harte then filed two defamation lawsuits over the allegations over elder abuse and undue influence.

On April 5, Harte filed a defamation lawsuit on Anderson's behalf against Ed Hatcher, the owner of Hatcher Funeral Home and Cremation Service over comments Hatcher made on Facebook about the allegations over elder abuse. That suit was settled on Aug. 12.

Harte filed the defamation suit against Massey and Scott on June 12, alleging that the allegations of elder abuse and undue influence were made without evidence and with no investigation.

Billy Newsome, the attorney for Massey and Scott, said there had been no defamation and that the suit was "a ridiculous attempt to deflect from the truth, and we look forward to sharing the facts through the legal process — again."

That suit was dismissed by the parties on Oct. 17.

Harte, said in an emailed statement that Anderson, Massey and Scott had reached an agreement to dismiss the case without an admission of liability or a payment by any of the parties.

"After investigation, Anderson determined that Scott and Massey did not have a personal vendetta against him or knowingly make false statements against him without investigation or with the intent to hurt his professional reputation as a licensed funeral director," Harte said.

He added Scott and Massey's investigation did not reveal evidence of Anderson obtaining any of Margaret Crandall's funds before or after her death, and that Scott and Massey were not aware of Anderson participating in isolating Margaret Crandall from her friends and family or her financial assets.