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Temptations Singer's Widow And Lawyers Say State Failed Her Husband

CHICAGO (CBS) — The death of Temptations lead singer Dennis Edwards stunned the music world. Then came the seismic aftershock – allegations that his wife abused him before his death.

Brenda Edwards has denied the allegations.

"Everybody knows I loved my husband," she said.

Speaking for the first time to CBS 2 Investigator Brad Edwards, she said she didn't fail her husband, the state of Illinois did.

"It didn't just happen, it was orchestrated," she said of abuse claims against her, which made global headlines. Namely, that she tried to suffocate her husband, a quadriplegic, by holding his head face down in a pillow.

Brenda was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing, but not before her husband died Feb. 1.

"I never had a chance to say goodbye," she said.

Dennis and Brenda Edwards traveled to Chicago from St. Louis last year to treat Dennis' meningitis. By December 2017, they were living in a South Michigan Avenue high-rise. Dennis' health was improving, though he was on a lot of medications and was reportedly depressed and paranoid.

"He just had thoughts that people were trying to do things to him," Brenda Edwards said.

After a fall, Dennis ended up at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

While there, on Dec. 21, an anonymous tipster called a state hotline and said Brenda Edwards had abused her husband.

When a caseworker visited the Edwards' apartment Jan. 3, the singer said his wife was trying to harm him.

It was a claim he had made previously. Days earlier, when he was discharged from Northwestern, doctors noted he had "odd paranoid thoughts, saying his wife or the primary medical team was trying to kill him."

The caseworker, however, might not have known or reviewed his records. She did call police and had Dennis Edwards removed from their home.

Brenda said she begged to have her husband taken back to Northwestern, where he had been treated for months, and staff knew about his medical history and paranoia, but instead he was taken to Mercy Hospital & Medical Center, where he'd never been treated before.

More puzzling yet, on Jan. 12, the caseworker filed an emergency order of protection in Cook County Circuit Court, in essence claiming Brenda represented a threat to her husband, even though he remained in the hospital.

"Dennis Edwards could not be hurt. He was in the hospital," said Chicago attorney MacKenzie Hyde.

Brenda hired Hyde, planning to challenge the protection order. But Dennis died Feb. 1, a day before she was to appear in court.

"I still don't have answers," Brenda Edwards said, adding the state Department of Aging has refused to turn over any documents or discuss what, if any, investigation was done.

"She doesn't need to know who called [in the tip}," says Julia Gray, a St. Louis-based attorney for Brenda Edwards. "But she has a right to know what's in that file."

The 2 Investigators wanted to know, too, so we reached out to the state, but a Department of Aging spokesman declined to speak on camera, and open records requests were denied.

"I hope the state will look into this," Hyde said. "And try to learn lessons from this case."

The caseworker is employed by Dolton-based Healthcare Consortium of Illinois. The state vendor has handled 464 elder abuse investigations since 2015, but the Department of Aging was unable to say how many of those resulted in orders of protection.

The final accounting of Edwards' death is the Cook County Medical Examiner's report. It found no signs of abuse, ruling Dennis Edwards died "due to complications of meningitis."

Healthcare Consortium didn't respond to our inquiries and the caseworker had no comment.

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