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Prosecutor from Honolulu to take on criminal probe of Parsons’ case

Investigation is separate from civil complaint filed by woman’s family

A criminal investigation into the death of a 57-year-old Kihei woman who was assisted by a “death doula” has been assigned to the Honolulu prosecutor’s office, after the Maui County prosecutor’s office had a conflict with the case.

Fay Block had been suffering from chronic foot pain before she died at home April 24, 2017, under hospice care with death doula Heather Parsons present, according to a wrongful death civil lawsuit that was filed in April in 2nd Circuit Court.

A death doula, also known as a death midwife, is described as a person who assists in the dying process.

The lawsuit alleges that Parsons befriended Block, became her primary caregiver, and “in a matter of months orchestrated the victim changing all of her estate planning documents, getting the victim to convey all of her assets to the death doula, and starving, dehydrating and drugging the victim to death.”

Wailuku attorney Anthony Ranken, who represents Parsons, has said she was helping Block “implement her own wishes and providing her solace and support.”

He said Parsons didn’t drug the woman and followed the hospice plan for pain relief.

While Parsons disclaimed her interest in Block’s other assets during court probate proceedings, Parsons retained possession of Block’s three-bedroom house on Hoalike Street in Kihei, according to court records. On March 7, 2017, the month before her death, Block had transferred ownership of the house to Parsons for $10, according to the lawsuit.

The civil complaint, filed by Block’s children who are personal representatives of her estate, alleges that the Maui Police Department reclassified the case from a closed attended death to a second-degree murder investigation.

Maui County First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera said that because of a conflict of interest with the office, the state Department of the Attorney General assigned the case to another county prosecutor’s office.

The attorney general’s office said the case was assigned to the Honolulu prosecutor’s office.

Maui prosecutor and state attorney general officials declined to say what the conflict is.

Ranken, who represents Heather Parsons and her husband, Rob Parsons, who are both named as defendants in the civil complaint, said the conflict exists because Maui County Prosecuting Attorney Don Guzman, who was appointed to the position in March, knows and worked with Rob Parsons, who was environmental coordinator in former Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration while Guzman was a County Council member. Ranken said Guzman knows Heather Parsons through her husband.

Ranken said he had reached out to the Honolulu deputy prosecutor in charge of the investigation.

“I’m trying to work with them to cooperatively approach this, offer that they can talk to Heather,” Ranken said.

“We want to share some more information with him,” Ranken said. “We don’t think it’s a criminal matter. We want a free flow of information. I don’t know if they are looking at charges or not or if they’re going to take me up on the offer.”

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.