A Texas couple who was exposed to public contempt and ridicule during a media frenzy kicked off by a psychic who falsely claimed that they had a mass grave in their backyard won a $6.8 million judgment against her for defamation.
The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Presley “Rhonda” Gridley has been ordered by a Dallas county judge to pay up after telling a local sheriff that a grave containing dismembered bodies could be found in the backyard of a home owned by Joe Bankston and Gene Charlton. Her “tip” touched off a media storm that brought all kinds of ill-will toward the couple whose rural backyard was torn apart along with their reputations.
Apparently, Gridley, a 50 year-old grandmother who went by the name of “Angel” at the time, made a call to the Hays County Sheriff’s Department in which she told the dispatcher that she was a “reverend and a psychic”, the Dallas Observer reports. She suggested that officers visit the rural farmhouse where they would “find the bones of dozens of missing children in the walls and ‘stuff written all over the walls in blood’.”
The sheriff’s office then repeated the false statements to various news media organizations, going so far as to provide the couple’s name and address.
“Over the course of the day, media defendants began to exaggerate and eventually make up facts about Plaintiffs, including that a mass grave existed on the property, including the bodies of children,” the suit states.
By the time everyone realized there was no grave and no dismembered bodies, the couple’s reputation was ruined and they were all being sued – including the media outlets.
Although the other cases were eventually dismissed, the cause of this libelous fiasco, “Angel”, seemed to have disappeared. The plaintiffs managed to track her down, however, and discovered that “Angel” was really Presley Gridley, who also goes by the name of “Rhonda,” and lives in Stanton, Texas, about 800 miles away from their farmhouse.
Gridley was promptly summoned to court but failed to appear for a May 7 bench trial before Judge Carl Ginsberg in the 193rd State District Court, records stated. But that didn’t stop Ginsberg from ordering her to pay $6.8 million in damages to Bankston and Charlton.
“Whether it will be collectible, we’re going to pursue that,” said the couple’s attorney Andrew Sommerman.
Good luck. Most psychics in my neck-of-the-woods don’t live in the best part of town and can’t even afford to replace the burned-out letters in their neon signs (I guess they’re not able to predict the next winning number in the lottery).
For more about the dismal track record of psychic crime fighters, click here.