Nichelle Nichols' Friends Speak Out After Son Sells Star's Home amid Conservatorship Battle

"It's been painful to watch her go through this experience," producer Angelique Fawcette tells PEOPLE of the Star Trek actress

Nichelle Nichols
Photo: Gabe Ginsberg/Getty

Nichelle Nichols' friend, Angelique Fawcette, and former manager, Gilbert Bell, say they are devastated by recent developments in the battle over the Star Trek actress' conservatorship.

Nichols' only child, son Kyle Johnson, was appointed conservator of her person and estate in January 2019. The news was made public a few months later, after Bell provided a CBS station in Atlanta with an unsettling video in which Nichols, who has dementia, could be heard screaming in protest as she held what Bell claimed were legal guardianship documents filed by Johnson.

At the time, Bell and Fawcette spoke out against Johnson in separate interviews with PEOPLE. (Johnson declined to comment.) And now, in light of a recent Los Angeles Times report that revealed Johnson has sold his mother's longtime home in Woodland Hills, Calif., which she purchased in 1982, they are once again claiming he is acting against the star's wishes.

"She's been like a mother to me," Fawcette, 51, tells PEOPLE of Nichols, 88. "It's been horrendous. It's been painful to watch her go through this experience."

"When the house was sold, I was very hurt for her," she continues. "She has no place to go back to anymore. It hurt me because I knew that it would hurt her. She stated that she wanted to remain in her home, yet the court let her son move her out."

Says Bell, 82, in a separate interview, "Her home is gone. It's been sold out from under her. She would be horrified if she knew that."

"She was proud of [that house]. She designed it. She helped build it. She planted the trees on it. It was a dream come true for her," he continues. "No matter where we were, when she came back from a convention and she would come into her home, she would sing to the house and say, 'Hello, home. Hello, house. I'm home.'"

Kyle Johnson (L) and his mother, actress Nichelle Nichols
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty

The Times, citing property records, reports that Nichols' house and guesthouse were sold last week for nearly $2.2 million to Baron Construction & Remodeling Co.

Bell, who previously lived on the property, confirmed to the newspaper that he had recently moved out. According to The Times, in a brief email, Johnson said proceeds from the sale were placed in his mother's conservatorship account to ensure her continued care.

Johnson, 70, told The Times that Nichols is living in a rental house in an undisclosed New Mexico location, where he serves as her primary caregiver. He declined the paper's request to speak with Nichols, citing privacy concerns. (Johnson did not respond to PEOPLE's request for comment this week.)

"We have moved here, and we're going to remain here," Johnson told The Times from New Mexico, adding that the home is "smaller, a little more modest than being in Los Angeles, but meeting our needs."

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Fawcette tells PEOPLE she hasn't seen Nichols since the disturbing 2019 video of her screaming. She claims she was denied visitation rights after she publicly condemned the footage.

Bell, who also says he hasn't seen Nichols since April 2019, claims Johnson had always intended to sell his mother's Woodland Hills home. "He [had told me] he didn't think she should be in her home and that it was a white elephant," Bell tells PEOPLE. "[He said] she had no business being there, that he wanted her in a one-bedroom condo."

"He wanted to get the property sold," Bell insists. "He's in charge."

nichelle-nichols.jpg
Mike Marsland/Getty.

Nichols broke a major race barrier when she was cast as Lt. Nyota Uhura in the 1960s sci-fi series Star Trek. When the show first aired in 1966, she was one of the first Black women to play a major role on primetime television.

She is also lauded for her contributions to NASA's recruitment of women and people of color. Among those who were recruited due to her efforts was Sally Ride, the first female American astronaut.

Bell and Fawcette say they are heartbroken over the icon's current situation.

"This is a very special woman," Bell says. "And it's a shame that her last years, with all she has contributed, not only to entertainment, but to NASA and society, that she would continue to be mistreated like this."

Says Fawcette, "When you have a relationship with someone, that relationship is always going to remain in your heart and soul. Unfortunately, her son has tried to destroy our relationship. The relationship will always be here and I will always keep my promise to fight for Nichelle."

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