‘It’s devastating’; family of famed armless painter to hold estate sale to recoup financial loss after thefts

Composite image. Johannes Michalski's art work with undated inset photo of the artists. | Background image courtesy of "With a Brush in My Mouth," the artist's Facebook page; photo courtesy of Nina Heck, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Left with no other choice, the family of famed armless painter Johannes Michalski will hold an estate sale Saturday to recoup losses from thefts by caregivers.

Michalski’s daughter-in-law, Liana Keatinge, said it was sad that such a kind and giving man would find himself the victim of theft, twice.

“He was such a wonderful man,” Keatinge told St. George News. “He was a generous man, but he was taken advantaged of towards the end of his life, and we are trying to make the best of it.”

Michalski died Nov. 4 at the age of 84.

Prior to his death, Michalski’s caregiver, Nanci Baldwin, 65, was arrested on July 25, 2018 and charged with second-degree felony theft for allegedly stealing nearly $200,000 from Michalski between September 2017 and June 2018. Baldwin was also charged with another second-degree felony charge of exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

Baldwin’s case has been remanded to the 5th District Court. Additional charges of alleged wire fraud and money laundering are pending. A jury trial is scheduled for March 17, 2020.

Johannes Michalski’s last piece of art finished a few weeks before his death. Hurricane, Utah, date unspecified | Image courtesy of “With a Brush in My Mouth,” the artist’s Facebook page, St. George News

Michalski’s family also alleges that Baldwin conned the then 82-year-old man into taking out a reverse mortgage on his home of approximately $100,000 for investment purposes. Michalski’s family is now forced to pay the loan back, and are trying to sell some of his art to make up the difference, Keatinge said.

“I think he trusted (Baldwin) to make the investment and make good on whatever she promised him for the return on the money,” Keatinge said. “He got swindled. I don’t think he saw it coming. It was unfortunate, but it is what it is.”

In a separate case involving a second caregiver, Tara Lynn Hamilton, 44, was arrested on Oct. 10 and charged with allegedly committing second-degree felony exploitation of a vulnerable adult. It is alleged that Hamilton stole more than $200,000 from Michalski between 2018 and 2019.

Hamilton has posted a $50,000 bond and is currently awaiting trial.

Michalski’s family has been rocked by the alleged criminal activity,  Keatinge said.

“My father-in-law was a very generous man, but there were a lot of people who took advantage of him,” Keatinge said. “It’s devastating.”

The family’s plan is to sell Michalski’s St. George home and hold an estate sale that will include the sale of more than 60 of his paintings.

An estate sale for the paintings will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, and from noon to 5 p.m. for the remaining contents of the house. The sale will be located at 834 E. Fort Pierce Drive, St. George.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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