New development in case of missing money

HOUSTON At the Hines home on the southeast side, a Christmas wreath still hangs on the door. Janice Stanton Hines left Houston abruptly in December and hasn't been home since.

Attorney James Plummer said, "The coercive power of contempt is substantial but some people decide they will do the time and that's what Ms. Hines has done."

The former City of Houston Health Department worker went to Michigan to settle a probate matter. Instead a judge threw her in jail until she repaid a half a million dollars she's accused of taking from her ill 95-year-old mother. Eight months later she's still in jail and this week, the judge ruled she had no right to the money.

Plummer said, "It's exactly what we've been contending."

Attorney James Plummer has filed a civil lawsuit here in Houston on behalf of Hines' sister. In it, she claims both Hines and Hines' daughter looted nearly $800,000 from their mother's accounts, using some of the money to buy $150,000 worth of gold -- gold no one for months can seem to locate.

Plummer said, "Still a mystery, but mysteries can be solved. That's our job."

Hines has claimed her mother's money was a gift, but according to the judge's decision her testimony was false and incomplete. He found their elderly mother added her name to her accounts only to help her with her finances. Her court-appointed guardian says he will now take steps to seize Hines' assets.

"Be careful who you put on your accounts, even if it's to help you out," said guardian Steven Geller. "Sad but you can't even trust family."

Meantime, her family is appealing to the public through their website Justice for Janice. She remains in jail while it's unclear whether the strained family relations can ever be restored.

"Some people act on the basis of greed," Plummer said.

Janice Hines has given back about $300,000 out of the $800,000 missing. The civil lawsuit wants all of it, plus interest and attorneys' fees. That trial is set for October. Hines' attorneys and attorneys for her family did not return calls from Eyewitness News on Friday.

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