Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth District, Tuscarawas
WILLIAM FREDERICK NIXON, et al. Plaintiffs-Appellees
TANNY DAY Defendant-Appellant
Appeal from the Court of Common Pleas, Probate Division, Case
No. 2018 DJ 20545
SUBSTITUTE APPELLEES COLIN G. SKINNER DAY KETTERER, LTD.
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT HARRY C. E. TOLHURST, III
W. Scott Gwin, P. J. Hon. John W. Wise, J. Hon. Patricia A.
Defendant-Appellant Tanny Day appeals from the decision of
the Tuscarawas County Court of Common Pleas, Probate
Division, which granted a declaratory judgment in favor of
Donna Miller, guardian for William Frederick
("Fred") Nixon (now deceased). The relevant
facts leading to this appeal are as follows.
Appellant Tanny Day and the late William Frederick Nixon
(hereinafter "Fred") met in early 2014. At that
time, Fred's first wife, with whom he had raised two
children, had recently passed away. Fred, born in 1941, was
struggling with ordinary household chores, and appellant
moved in with him, agreeing to help with the necessary work
around the house in exchange for room and board. Over time,
appellant also began assisting Fred in taking his
medications, arranging medical appointments, and other needs.
Tr. at 35. However, appellant has conceded that even though
they lived together, "it was not a love affair."
Tr. at 23. In 2016, Fred named appellant as the sole
beneficiary under his will. Tr. at 34.
After having resided together under the aforesaid arrangement
for several years, Fred and Appellant Tanny went to the
Tuscarawas County Probate Court on August 7, 2018, to apply
for an Ohio marriage license. According to the deputy
clerk's subsequent testimony, Fred appeared confused,
could not answer questions, and did not give appropriate
responses. Tr. at 105-106. Appellant and Fred did not bring
along all necessary documentation for the license, so they
returned the next day, August 8, 2018. The clerk of the
Tuscarawas County Probate Court did not issue the marriage
license that day, essentially taking the application under
advisement. After they left, the clerk expressed concerns
about Nixon's competence to the probate magistrate and
the court. Tr. at 107.
On August 10, 2018, appellant asked a friend, Vicki W., to
transport her and Fred to Steuben County, Indiana. According
to Vicki, Fred again appeared confused. He could not state
the number of his prior marriages. Tr. at 83. Appellant Tanny
repeatedly went over such basic questions with Fred for
"maybe 30 miles." Id. Fred could not
remember his full address or his children's names. Tr. at
84. When appellant and Fred met with the clerk at the Steuben
County marriage license bureau, Vicki observed that Fred
incorrectly stated that he had been married four times
previously, and that he did not know his children's
names. Tr. at 87-88.
Despite the foregoing, appellant and Fred were issued an
Indiana marriage license on August 10, 2018 in Steuben
County, Indiana. A local minister thereupon performed a
wedding ceremony on the same day. Vicki, who described
herself as "very well-versed" regarding dementia
and Alzheimer's issues, did not believe that Fred was
competent to get married. Tr. at 89. She further thought Fred
"had no clue" that he was getting married. Tr. at
91. At the ceremony, Vicki overheard appellant
"prompting" Fred. Tr. at 90-91.
Back in Ohio, the Tuscarawas County probate clerk formally
denied the issuance of a marriage license on August 15, 2018.
The probate court further granted an application for
emergency guardianship, filed on behalf of Fred by Sunny
Nixon, his adult child, on August 15, 2018.
Appellant later attempted to obtain surviving spouse benefits
from Fred's police and fire pension, but this was denied
due to the existence of the emergency guardianship. Tr. at
On August 20, 2018, a hearing was held on the issue of
whether to extend the guardianship. On August 22, 2018,
Attorney Donna Miller was appointed as emergency guardian for
Fred, and her appointment as guardian was issued on September
5, 2018. On that same day, Attorney Miller (as guardian for
Fred), filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, asking the
Tuscarawas County Probate Court to annul the Indiana marriage
between Fred and Appellant Tanny.
The Probate Court conducted a trial on the matter October 10,
2018. At the trial, the probate court indicated that its
decision would be based on Ohio law and not whether the
marriage was legal or valid under Indiana law. Tr. at 73.
Appellant appeared pro se, both giving testimony and
cross-examining witnesses at the hearing. In addition, Vicki
W. took the stand as a witness, as well as Holly Buzzelli, a