Defamation suit over allegations of elder abuse in Aiken has been settled

Aug. 26—Aiken businessman Cody Anderson's lawsuit against another funeral home owner is over.

John Harte, Anderson's attorney, and Jeffrey Kull, attorney for Ed Hatcher and the Hatcher Funeral Home, jointly filed a stipulation of dismissal on Aug. 12.

In the stipulation, Harte and Kull say the suit should be dismissed with prejudice meaning Anderson can't sue Hatcher again over the claims made in the suit.

Harte said Friday afternoon that the suit had been settled. He added he could not speak about the specifics of the settlement but added amends were made.

He said he was well-pleased with the settlement as Anderson's attorney and that it spoke well of both men.

Anderson sued Hatcher on April 5 over Facebook posts Hatcher allegedly made regarding allegations made in another lawsuit that Anderson used undue influence to get an elderly woman, Mary Margaret Wenzel Crandall, who had been diagnosed with dementia in 2018 to sign a will in 2020.

Crandall died in early January and a battle began between Anderson, who was named as executor in the 2020 will, and Thomas Bateman, who stood to inherit under the 2020 will, and Wanda Scott, Crandall's accountant, and Ray Massey, her attorney, over what will should be used to distribute the assets valued at over $8 million in her estate.

Scott and Massey filed paperwork in late January arguing that the court should use a will signed in 2001 to distribute Crandall's assets. In that will, Scott and Massey were named as the people responsible for distributing Crandall's assets.

Anderson filed paperwork on Feb. 17 and March 1 arguing that the court should use a will signed by Crandall in 2020 to distribute Crandall's assets. In that will, Anderson was named the executor, the person who would distribute Crandall's assets.

Eventually, the case moved from the Aiken County Probate Court to the Aiken County Court of Common Pleas. And on March 17, Scott and Massey argued that Anderson had used undue influence to convince Crandall to sign the 2020 will which led to Hatcher's alleged Facebook posts.

Harte issued a statement shortly after the Aiken Standard published a story on the allegations of elder abuse in which he said Anderson would concede that the 2020 will didn't meet the requirements of South Carolina law.

Judge Courtney Clyburn Pope ruled on April 21 that the 2020 will was invalid because it didn't meet the witness requirements in South Carolina Probate Code.

Clyburn Pope then dismissed with prejudice — Anderson can't bring them again — the arguments Anderson made that the 2020 will should be used.

Scott and Massey then agreed to dismiss their claims of action against Anderson. Anderson and the funeral home agreed to dismiss their claims of action against Scott and Massey. Both of these dismissals were made without prejudice and can be brought again.

Clyburn Pope then ordered the case returned to probate court to use the 2001 will to distribute Crandall's assets.

On June 21, Anderson filed suit against Massey and Scott alleging that the allegations of elder abuse and undue influence were made without evidence and with no investigation.

That case remains pending as of 1:17 p.m. Friday.

However, Massey and Scott have filed a motion to dismiss in which they argue that Anderson's allegations don't state facts sufficient to give rise to a cause of action.