Children of trucking exec contest will, claim wife orchestrated changes

The children of deceased Celadon Group Inc. founder Stephen Russell allege that his second wife engineered changes to his will while he suffered from dementia and Parkinson's disease, boosting the amount she was set to immediately inherit from his estimated $31.5 million estate and potentially reducing the amount they would receive through a trust.

Jonathan Russell, Stewart Russell and Melissa Russell Rubel–his three children from his first wife–filed a complaint in Hamilton County Court on Tuesday stating that Livia Russell, his wife since 2001, exerted undue influence when she orchestrated changes to his will on two occasions, mostly recently in late 2015.

She was set to receive at least $4 million in wills written in 2005 and 2008, the complaint said, but that increased to at least $9 million in the latest will.

"The will was executed at a time when Stephen indisputably lacked testamentary capacity to appreciate the significant nature of the changes and it was the result of undue influence and/or fraudulent activities," the suit contends.

The attorney for Steve Russell's biological children, Richard Smikle, declined to comment. Livia Russell's attorney, E. Davis Coots, could not be reached for comment.

Russell died at age 76 on April 15. He was co-founder and chairman of Indianapolis-based Celadon, which had about $1 billion in revenue in 2015 and nearly 4,000 employees across the country. Russell served as the company's CEO and chairman for most of its existence, but he relinquished his CEO role in 2012 and his chairmanship in 2015.

His children or their attorney filed an objection to the 2015 will on the day Russell died, suggesting they knew about that particular will well before his death. They had until June 15 to detail their objections, which they did in the complaint filed Wednesday.

The complaint said Russell's cognitive decline appeared to begin as early as 2010, when work colleagues and friends began to notice impairments in his speech and motor skills. Among other things, he reportedly passed out at a January 2012 Celadon meeting, the lawsuit said, and struggled to get in and out of roundabouts while driving in Carmel last summer.

The lawsuit also mentions that his doctor, Martin Farlow of the IU Health Alzheimer Disease Clinic, held the impression that as of May 2, 2013, Steve Russell had “vascular cognitive impairment” and “very prominent short—term memory problems.”

"So much so, in fact, that 'it is possible that he has Alzheimer’s and that the vascular changes are [a] precursor into secondary Alzheimer’s, that he has a mixed dementia."

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