After a 19-day stay in Memorial Hospital’s intensive care unit, 72-year-old Pembroke resident Wilhelmina Tuten returned home Aug. 15. Family members say she is still not out of the woods due to her injuries, but has dramatically improved.
Tuten was hospitalized after allegedly being beaten by her son, Craig Neesmith, while driving to a Pembroke convenience store She reached a near-death state after the assault, which reportedly took place after she refused to give him beer money.
Neesmith remains in Bryan County Jail, facing multiple charges.
"She’s doing so-so," said her husband Johnny Tuten, who has been by her side throughout the ordeal. "She has regained her speech and sight and is now eating on her own."
Her husband said she is still pretty much bed-ridden, but gets up some with help from a walker. He said she will still require a lot of physical therapy and has a doctor’s appointment next week to have a feeding tube removed from her stomach.
"It’s still going a long time until she can get back to being independent," Tuten said. "We’re just taking it day by day."
He said Wilhelmina was cheered up by hearing about the fundraising efforts that are occurring for her throughout the community.
"She said she will need all the help she can get with the doctor bills and she is happy that so many people care about her," Tuten said. "We’re so thankful for everybody’s help. Our neighbors have been cooking for her and everyone’s been real nice."
Ongoing fundraisers include money jars set out inside numerous local businesses by the Pembroke American Legion Auxiliary, with the money to be added to the Wilhelmina Tuten Fund at Heritage Bank. Also to be added to the fund will be the proceeds of an ongoing cake raffle at the Pembroke Dairy Queen.
"We were waiting for Wilhelmina to come home, so we’ll be drawing a winner pretty soon now," Dairy Queen manager Diana Barrows said. "A lot of customers have been talking about Wilhelmina. There are a lot of prayers coming her way right now."
Auxiliary President Susie Magee said she’s not sure what the running total on the fund is, but Pembroke Telephone has just committed to making a contribution. In addition, she said all the canisters "seem to be doing good."
Canisters can be found at Alco, Harvey’s, Bedingfield Pharmacy, Pembroke Pharmacy, Owens Building Supply and First Bank of Coastal Georgia. Also, funds are still being accepted at any Heritage Bank location.
Wilhelmina recently called Linda Carlson, her boss at the Pembroke Dollar General – where she has worked for many years, and expressed interest in coming back to work if she gets well enough.
"She sounded good, but she’s still in a lot of pain," Carlson said. "Everyone’s just so happy that she’s home. People still come in and ask about her every single day."
Rusty Neesmith, Tuten’s other son, has been by his mother’s side through most of her hospital stay. He said he recently visited his brother in jail at his mother’s request.
"He said he was real sorry for everything he did," Neesmith said. "He said he doesn’t remember it – that he blacked out during the incident. He knows he’s facing a couple years and he seems to be really remorseful."
Bond amounts totaling $3,200 have been set for five out of the seven charges Craig Neesmith is facing, including battery, shoplifting, driving under the influence, driving without a license and refusing to sign a citation.
No bond had been set for the robbery and aggravated assault charges. A bond hearing is set for Sept. 11 regarding those charges.
"Right now, all I can do is just ask everybody to keep Wilhelmina in their prayers and pray that she gets her strength back," Tuten said. "She’s still got a ways to go."