How hot is hell? If the answer is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, it's still not hot enough to inflict the deserved level of discomfort on those who prey on the elderly.
Perry Bitzel, 82, and a resident of Gilman HealthCare, has been subjected to a form of hell on earth ever since last summer, when it was discovered a family member had exploited him and robbed him of his life savings.
His grandson, Shawn Bitzel, made the discovery and contacted another family member, former Iroquois County Board member Susan Wynn-Bence, for guidance. It was quickly learned little could be done to get the money back, and there was little financial protection.
The suspected family member still does not face criminal charges in the case. But another avenue toward justice has been pursued, and considerable progress has been made.
Wynn-Bence, who now works for Illinois Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, arranged a meeting with a pair of local lawmakers, state Rep. Tom Bennett, R-Gibson City, and Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, to explore what could be done to rectify the matter.
What has evolved from that initial meeting is Illinois House Bill 1588, more commonly known as "Perry's Law.'' It would enable families similar to Bitzel's family to directly proceed in civil court for justice without a criminal charge in place. Previously, such a charge had to be made before a family could turn to the civil courts.
The bill only needs the signature of Gov. Bruce Rauner to become law, and Barickman said he is confident the governor will sign it. Hopefully, Rauner will follow through, and if he needs a bit of persuading, consider this piece a nudge, and not only for the sake of Bitzel.
Studies show senior citizens throughout the United States lose a combined $3 billion every year to fraud. That's not enough to erase the massive debt the state of Illinois faces, but it is a huge amount of money, and indicates there are tens of thousands of victims out there.
Who exactly are these people? As Perry Bitzel's grandson, Shawn, said, "They are the ones who put up with more than we have today. They went through the Great Depression, the wars, the economy.''
In other words, many are part of what acclaimed journalist Tom Brokaw described as "the greatest generation,'' those who grew up during the deprivation of the depression and went on to fight and win World War II.
They are genuine heroes, a term you can't use to describe those who take advantage of them in their twilight years. Other words come to mind to identify these low lifes, many of which can't be printed in a family newspaper. How about turning the temperature up to 20,000 degrees when they reach their permanent residence?
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High praise for 'Perry's Law' and may those who prey on the elderly burn in hell