Susan Strong Davis, an 87-year-old widow who grew up in La Canada Flintridge, spends the day inside her Palos Verdes Estates home, tended round-the-clock by nurse's aides. For company, relatives say, she has her dog, the television and, on increasingly rare occasions, memories of the glamorous socialite's life she once lived.
"She definitely has some sort of dementia," said Viki Brushwood, a niece who visited from Texas in December. "I don't know if it's Alzheimer's or what. She is somebody who is not making decisions anymore."
But decisions involving large amounts of money are being made in Davis' name. In recent years, she has borrowed millions to build a four-bedroom house in Beverly Hills featuring three fireplaces and a pool, according to property records, court filings and interviews. She has also given at least $600,000 to a charity to which relatives say she has no ties and which is run by the controversial Kabbalah Centre, the Westside spiritual organization now under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service.
Public records and interviews show Davis' longtime financial advisor, John E. Larkin, has been instrumental in these expenditures. A veteran entertainment industry money manager, Larkin has been a devout student of the Kabbalah Centre's brand of Jewish mysticism for nearly a decade and is a key figure in the oversight of its substantial financial assets. He was handling his elderly client's personal finances when she made the donation. And Davis' Beverly Hills home is being built on a lot Larkin previously owned and sold to her at a substantial personal profit.
-- Harriet Ryan, Los Angeles Times