George Kilgore, shackled and headed to prison, refuses comment as he is escorted by Sgt. Thad Windham. (Photo by Mark Thornton)

Judge reluctantly accepts 8-year plea deal for charity huckster who forced his daughter, ailing wife live in abhorrent conditions

George Anthony Kilgore, the 42-year-old huckster head of a local charity, who lined his own pockets with tens of thousands of dollars in donations meant to help others, was of few words Friday morning when he answered for abuse charges that make his charity thievery seem like child’s play.

“No comment,” said Kilgore, legs and arms shackled, as he was led into a county prison transport van.

What the Jones County District Attorney’s Office was about to present at his trial, which was scheduled to begin on Tuesday, was comment enough. So much so, Circuit Court Judge Dal Williamson said he was hesitant to accept a plea agreement that will have Kilgore serving eight years in the state penitentiary.

He could have faced life in prison on charges of abuse of a vulnerable adult, felonious child abuse and contributing to the neglect of a child, and that is what Williamson said Kilgore likely would have gotten had a jury found him guilty.

However, to spare Kilgore’s now 14-year-old daughter from testifying and reliving a horror show, the DA, Kilgore and his attorney Honey Swartzfager reached the deal. Kilgore will serve the eight years, then have two years suspended, where he will be on post-release supervision, have to pay a little more than $900 in court costs and fines and participate in the community service program.

“I don’t see how you could do this to your wife and child,” Williamson said as Kilgore stood expressionless at the defense table. “You’ve shown that you don’t have any morals and you are severely lacking in human decency. … It seems to me as if you don’t have a conscience.”

In early April 2016, Kilgore’s daughter got in contact through Facebook with relatives. She was sharing a deplorable mobile home at 411 Lower Myrick Road with her bed-ridden 39-year-old mother who suffered from Huntingdon’s Disease. She could not walk or communicate and was unable to care for herself.

When relatives arrived at the trailer, they called sheriff’s deputies who said the conditions were unfathomable. There was mold on the carpets and furniture. Human feces was smeared on walls and floors. There was no hot water in the home and hadn’t been any for at least six months. The toilets were black. In the bedroom, so much water had leaked into the trailer, the bed and carpets were soaked. Kilgore’s wife had to sleep on the floor in front of their door, unable to move. The daughter would sleep on the floor next to her mother and also change her mother’s diaper.

His wife had not had a bath in more than a year and was soaked in her own urine and feces. Her hair was matted down so terribly, one investigator said, it took three hours to fix.

Kilgore in December 2015 — right when he was in the middle of a Secretary of State’s investigation for misusing tens of thousands of dollars in charity funds — moved in with his girlfriend in Soso. He did not provide any phones for his wife or child, and wouldn’t give the child his new phone number.

On occasion, he would stop by on school mornings to deliver rations — hot dogs and buns, Kit-Kat candy bars and Dr Pepper.

“(The daughter) said she got deodorant for her birthday, but had to make it last for an entire year until she could get more,” Assistant District Attorney Kristen Martin told the court while reading of the charges.

For the eight to nine hours on school days that the child was gone, the mother was left alone not able to move. She spent three days at South Central Regional Medical Center and is now at Comfort Care of Laurel.

The child is in the care of relatives and after her father’s arrest, she said she had a toothache. When she was taken to a dentist, she had an abscess and her tooth had to be removed. It was her first trip to the dentist in her life.

During his time as executive director of Helping Hands of Mississippi Foundation, Kilgore would routinely use the same daughter to solicit funds from businesses throughout the Pine Belt. A source close to the charity said at times he would drop her off at a mall in Hattiesburg and leave her for hours on end until she solicited enough funds.

Kilgore and his financial director, Earl Schneider, used foundation debit cards to raid ATMs, get cash back from grocery stores and subsidize their own lifestyles with thousands of dollars in meal charges and charges to bars from Jackson to the Coast.

Schneider used big chunks of money to pay for cable and utility bills at his wife’s downtown business, Wisteria Bed and Breakfast. Kilgore also used charity funds to pay his own bills.

Schneider from the beginning claimed that the money he took from the foundation was his “salary” and that was his understanding with Kilgore to take what he needed.

The charity is still active, although neither Schneider or Kilgore have anything to do with it. Alisha Bynum-Fulgham, who was tapped to lead the foundation with hopes of recovering and paying back as much of the money as possible, was unavailable for comment for this story.

The Leader-Call after a yearlong investigation broke the story of Kilgore’s charity shenanigans in January 2015 when Kilgore’s organization ran the Laurel Mardi Gras Parade. Kilgore had appointed himself king of the parade.

Kilgore also worked for a short time for The ReView of Jones County — which preceded this iteration of the Leader-Call — as an ad salesman. He was fired for collecting commissions on advertisements he never sold. He also has worked as a car salesman in the past.

He left in a transport van to the Jones County Adult Detention Center, where he will be processed and picked up and delivered to a state facility.

“I just hope the scars from this are not so bad so that the rest of her life is affected,” Williamson said just before accepting Kilgore’s plea. “I hope those scars can heal.”

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