An Anchorage magistrate recommended Friday that the court terminate the state guardianship for Bret Bohn, a 27-year-old Wasilla hunting guide embroiled in a high-profile medical custody battle after he mysteriously fell ill in October and was hospitalized.
If Superior Court Judge Erin Marston signs off on the recommendation, issued in a closed-door hearing, the decision will mark the end of a battle that pitted Bohn's family against his doctors. Bohn will have the authority to make all of his own decisions -- medical, financial and personal -- free of his state-appointed guardian, said Mario Bird, the family's attorney.
"He can be his own man again," Bird said.
Insomnia at bear hunt
The controversy that led family and friends to filter into Nesbett Courthouse Friday started in early October when Bohn returned from a hunting trip complaining of insomnia, Alaska Dispatch has reported. Bohn blamed the sleep deprivation on a prescription steroid that he was taking for nasal polyps.
Gus Lamoureux and Lyle Becker, two of Bohn's co-workers at Anchorage-based Ugashik Lake and Kodiak Bear Camp, stood outside the courtroom Friday. Magistrate judge John Duggan asked the public and media to leave the hearing to protect Bohn's privacy and medical records. Bohn phoned into the hearing from Boise, Idaho, where his family says he is healthy and staying with relatives, Bird said.
While Lamoureux and Becker waited on a verdict, they talked of work and the Bohn they knew before his hospitalization. Both men were camping on the Alaska Peninsula with Bohn and a client when his symptoms began, though neither of them could tell. He wasn't one to complain, Lamoureux said.
"The clients love him," he said. He hired Bohn about four years ago. "He will go to the end of the earth to get you your trophy."
Bohn also liked a good practical joke, he said. When Becker married last year, Bohn showed up to the wedding in hip waders. When hunting was slow, Bohn once ate nearly an entire loaf of bread's worth of French toast. On the peninsula, Bohn hid a brown bear's body underneath a tarp to surprise Lamoureux, who thought his client had left unhappy.
"He pulled the blue tarp up and he goes, 'Ha,'" Lamoureux said.
The three men didn't sleep that night, spending hours cleaning the bear. When the other guides left a few days later for Kodiak, Bohn did not go. He had begun to hallucinate, Lamoureux said.
State takes custody
On Oct. 16, Bohn's parents, mother Lorraine Phillips-Bohn and father Glen Bohn, took their son to Providence Alaska Medical Center. He hadn't slept in 11 days, Alaska Dispatch reported.
Doctors prescribed him lorazepam, medication to relieve anxiety, and zolpidem,a drug that treats insomnia. He was released. By the next evening, he began suffering seizures. His health continued to worsen. He returned to Providence three days later. He grew unresponsive.
Becker described Bohn during the early days in the hospital as a "shell of himself." If he didn't look like Bohn on the outside, he wouldn't have known who the quiet man was laying in the bed and only answering "yep."
The relationship between the hospital and Bohn's family quickly frayed.
Testimony described in a February court order said Bohn's parents were coaching him not to take medication prescribed by doctors. A family friend said Bohn's mother told her she would rather have Bohn die in her arms than take any more drugs, the Daily News reported.
By Oct. 25, Providence limited the family's visiting time to one hour a day. By Nov. 15, the state received emergency temporary guardianship of Bohn.
In January, Bohn celebrated a birthday and received a diagnosis: Doctors said he had autoimmune encephalitis. His body's immune system was attacking his brain.
By Feb. 7, Marston ruled Bohn was too incapacitated by the infection to make his own medical decisions and gave power over to the state's Adult Protective Services, the Daily News reported.
On March 26, after showing little improvement, Bohn was transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, a public hospital affiliated with the University of Washington medical school.
Jovial posts appeared on the Free Bret Bohn Facebook page showing him sitting outside with his parents and friends.
But as in Anchorage, the family's relationship with the Seattle medical staff soon deteriorated. His parents questioned a drug change and asked he be weaned off medication, the Daily News reported.
On April 22, a hospital worker was escorting Bohn who sat in a wheelchair to a locked floor when his mother shoved the orderly into a window and fled with her son out of the hospital , said court documents filed in Seattle.
Phillips was arrested three days later at a neighborhood medical clinic in Seattle on kidnapping charges. She said she wanted a second opinion on her son's illness, the Daily News reported.
She was held overnight at the King County Jail and released the next day.
Edward Allen, the family's attorney in Seattle, said in a phone interview Friday that formal charges against Bohn's mother were never filed.
In May, Bohn was released from Harborview Medical Center. He moved to Idaho.
'Ready to re-enter society'
Bohn had asked his state-appointed attorney to terminate his relationship with his guardian. At the Friday hearing, he had to prove that he was healthy enough to do so, Bird said.
"I think all the parties have come to the agreement that Bret Bohn has regained capacity -- thanks be to God -- and he is now ready to reenter society as the young man he was before he had a guardian placed over him last fall," Bird said.
Bohn's mother, Lorraine, briefly spoke after the hearing. She said her son is healthy and happy to have his rights back. She's unsure when, if ever, he will return to Alaska, the state where he spent nearly all of his life.
"He's doing great, able to make his own decisions," she said. "I'm just happy, really happy."
Reach Tegan Hanlon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.
By TEGAN HANLON