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Saturday, May 18, 2024
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McAllen
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A Mesmerizing Evening at the Santa Fe East Ranch, The Night the Story Came Alive

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Pictured above guests at Santa Fe East ranch not in order: Stephen Michaud (author) Letty & Mike East Quínten, Joaquin and Jake East, Alice East, Lica and John Pinkston Somer and Kevin Neuhaus, María Luisa and Juan López, Elsa and Roy Ortega, Veronica Barrera and Albert Chapa, Lt. Aaron and Michelle Moreno, Johnny, and Brisa Cantu. Guests from McAllen: John David and Annette Franz, Dan Ogletree and Laura Warren Ogletree, Albert Sony Rego, Jorge and Carla Torres, Dr. Julian and Maricela Gomez, Paul and Myrna Rodriguez, Mariella Gorena, Roberto Gonzalez, Dr. Ricardo Solis, Dr. Sylvia Solis, Carlos Melguizo, Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra and wife Norma. Texas Border Business Photo
Pictured above guests at Santa Fe East ranch not in order: Stephen Michaud (author) Letty & Mike East Quínten, Joaquin and Jake East, Alice East, Lica and John Pinkston Somer and Kevin Neuhaus, María Luisa and Juan López, Elsa and Roy Ortega, Veronica Barrera and Albert Chapa, Lt. Aaron and Michelle Moreno, Johnny, and Brisa Cantu. Guests from McAllen: John David and Annette Franz, Dan Ogletree and Laura Warren Ogletree, Albert Sony Rego, Jorge and Carla Torres, Dr. Julian and Maricela Gomez, Paul and Myrna Rodriguez, Mariella Gorena, Roberto Gonzalez, Dr. Ricardo Solis, Dr. Sylvia Solis, Carlos Melguizo, Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra and wife Norma. Texas Border Business Photo

Texas Border Business

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By Roberto Hugo González

Under a sparkling Texas sky, Mike and Letti East opened their Santa Fe East Ranch home for a special gathering. Nineteen guests, transported from McAllen, all guests of the East Family and John David and Annette Franz, filled the ranch’s living room. The evening’s highlight was writer and author Stephen G. Michaud’s prologue reading from his latest book, “Robert’s Story, A Texas Cowboy’s Troubled Life and Horrifying Death.” The prologue offered a raw look at betrayal and exploitation, capturing the complexities of the human soul. The event left an indelible impression on attendees, offering a journey through family, trust, and human vulnerability in a classic Texan context.

Michaud began reading the book’s prologue, which told the story of Helen Kleberg Groves, better known as Helenita, a Texan woman concerned about her ailing, wealthy cousin, Robert East. Barred from visiting Robert by new estate managers, Helenita used legal means to gain entry to the ranch. What she found was alarming: Robert was in a severely neglected state. Meanwhile, new trucks on the property and other clues suggested the estate managers were siphoning off Robert’s vast fortune.

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Helenita’s visit highlighted the ethical and legal entanglements surrounding Robert’s care and hundreds of millions in assets. The reading led to an intense Q&A session, focusing on Michaud’s challenges in gathering information and his motivation for writing the book.

Let’s begin. In the remote stretches of South Texas lies the San Antonio Viejo ranch, a property that for years had been run by the East family, led by its aging patriarch, Robert Claude East. It’s where family ties would remain strong, and trust would be a given. But as Michaud delved into the complex tale involving Robert, his cousin Helen Kleberg Groves, and a cast of characters surprisingly involved in Robert’s estate, we find a story that pulls our heartstrings and serves as a cautionary tale of exploitation, neglect, and elder abuse.

In May 2007, Helenita received troubling news from her nephew Mike East about Robert’s rapidly declining health and that he was being barred from visiting his uncle. As she took matters into her own hands to ensure her cousin’s well-being, she ran abruptly into a strange arrangement. Despite being the estate’s elderly head, Robert was cut off from family visits and seemed to receive insufficient medical care. The ranch employees, whom he had always relied on, showed signs of betrayal.

Armed with a court order, Helenita, escorted by her driver Hector Muñoz, found their way to San Antonio Viejo ranch, only to confront more questions than answers. Gate guard Celestino Canales and ranch foreman Oscar Ozuna—both of whom had suspiciously become trustees and directors of Robert’s multi-million-dollar estate—stood between her and her ailing cousin. The apparent abandonment of their regular duties raised questions, as did the unexpected presence of Robert’s dentist, Dr. Jesus “Chuy” Ochoa, and a group of locals.

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What Helenita discovered was alarming—Robert was shockingly frail, and his environment was anything but conducive for a dying man. Muñoz’s observation of the brand-new, air-conditioned trucks—completely at odds with Robert’s known frugality—added another layer of suspicion. The fact that these new “trustees” held significant decision-making power over Robert’s recently ballooned estate, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, further complicated the situation.

The room was enclosed in heavy silence when author Michaud read this tale at this gathering. The story moved beyond being an intriguing narrative; it laid bare the vulnerability that comes with trust, the potential for exploitation, and the complexities of family bonds. The account also raised numerous questions about the lengths people might go to for financial gain, even if it means betraying those they are expected to protect.

It is a story of betrayal but also a wake-up call for anyone placing blind trust in those handling their affairs, especially in the golden years of their lives. It calls into question the foundations of trust and responsibility that families build upon.

The silence that followed Michaud’s reading was not just a reflection of the audience’s shock but a thoughtful pause, compelling everyone to think about the nature of trust, the potential for betrayal, and the importance of remaining vigilant even within the sanctuary of family and home.

Beneath the rural beauty of Texas landscapes, this traumatic account by Michaud warns us that danger can lurk in the most deceptive appearances. It underscores that in matters involving significant estate and emotional well-being, due diligence and verified trust are not just optional but essential.

The evening ended in reflective silence. Michaud’s story served as an intriguing narrative and a warning about the complexities of human nature, betrayal, and family ties. Attendees left with memories of a unique evening and insights into the human condition and the darker aspects of human culture, in addition to books autographed by the author.

Follow the link below to order the Audiobook or Hardcover on Amazon: 

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