A new medical study challenges the account of a Northwest Side Catholic priest who says a 93-year-old parishioner was mentally competent when she made him trustee of her home last year.

The widow "suffered from dementia from as early as January 2008," according to an examination of her hospital records requested by Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris.

The Rev. Thaddeus Dzieszko, of St. Constance Roman Catholic Church, has vigorously defended his actions, saying he became trustee of Waleria Krzemien's home to ensure she could continue to live there. But Dzieszko relinquished his interest in the property last fall after the public guardian raised questions about the deed during a probate court case.

The Archdiocese of Chicago and the Cook County state's attorney's office are conducting separate investigations into the land transaction. Dzieszko remains the pastor of St. Constance, but he has stepped aside from parish duties while authorities examine the disputed property transaction.

In a brief telephone interview, Dzieszko told the Tribune he was unaware of the new medical report.

"I visited this lady for two years. She didn't show any signs of dementia," said the popular parish leader known as "Father Ted." "This is a ridiculous case, but if they want to proceed, what can I do?"

Krzemien's disputed deed and other trust documents were prepared by attorney Stephen Kubiatowski, who also has strenuously defended his professional conduct.

Kubiatowski "is a good lawyer, a smart lawyer," said his attorney, George B. Collins. "It's plain enough Kubiatowski simply responded to her request for legal papers and prepared them correctly."

Dzieszko and Kubiatowski told the Tribune in February that Krzemien did not suffer from dementia when she signed legal papers deeding her home to a newly created "Trust Number 101," with Dzieszko as the trustee. They said Krzemien suffered two subsequent strokes in August and September of last year, and her mental condition then declined precipitously.

Dr. Geoffrey Shaw's new review of Krzemien's hospital records offers a contrasting portrait, saying her dementia "was a progressive condition and not due to any acute events."

During admission to Resurrection Medical Center in January 2008, Krzemien was unable to recall her medical history or current medications, Shaw wrote after reviewing Krzemien's files.

In a March 2009 admission to Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center, a CT scan of Krzemien's brain revealed atrophy, restricted blood supply and heavy calcification of her brain tissue, Shaw wrote. Other records from that visit said "patient is a poor historian and cannot remember many things, including whether or not she is compliant with her medications."

Krzemien "lacked capacity to sign legal documents due to her dementia as early as January 2008," Shaw's report concluded.

Krzemien is now in a nursing home, and the public guardian is in the process of selling her home to benefit her estate.

In a separate matter involving Kubiatowski and an elderly client, the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission in February filed a complaint alleging that Kubiatowski failed to investigate the mental status of a 94-year-old dementia sufferer before giving power of attorney to a caretaker who drained more than $300,000 from the woman's bank accounts.

The caretaker, Iryna "Irene" Bochko, was convicted of financial exploitation of the elderly and is serving a four-year prison sentence.

Collins is defending Kubiatowski in that pending commission case and said Kubiatowski acted responsibly toward Anna Polachanin, 94.

"Our position is that you give a power of attorney to a person who asks for it," Collins said. "Our whole business (as attorneys) is based on representing people and doing what they say they want."

dyjackson@tribune.com