It was New Year’s Day, 1991 when Christine Cobb, a 64-year-old retired postal worker, cried with relief. This was her first day of freedom from the Broward General Hospital’s psychiatric ward. She had been drugged, sedated and under observation after being committed using a Florida law called the “Baker Act,” which allows a person who may be dangerous to him/herself or others be held involuntarily for 72 hours.
Her problems began two months earlier when she moved into an unlicensed adult living facility (ALF). Just a one-story house owned and operated by 29-year-old Jennifer Smith, a former employee of the state’s Adult Protective Services agency who was very familiar with the procedures that regulated group homes in Florida. Before that, she was a bank teller with a good understanding of check-cashing procedures. She appeared to be a polite and pleasant woman, but Christine found otherwise.
Jennifer Smith began by stealing Christine’s purse and reporting to police that both of their purses, identifications and checkbooks, had been stolen. She lied about having her own identification stolen because as a former bank employee, she believed that she could still use her identification to cash stolen checks while claiming the “thief” had done it.
When Christine Cobb demanded her purse be returned, Smith insisted that she was imagining things, or delusional. Christine was outraged!
The nightmare worsened. After Christine served her purpose, she was handcuffed and led away to the psychiatric ward by police, because Jennifer Smith had Baker Acted her. Christine cried foul, infuriated with Smith and her lies, but no one would listen. The more upset she became, the more they restrained and drugged her and eventually she became despondent.
While Christine was drugged and confined, Smith began forging and cashing the victim’s checks for over $10,000. Smith used her own identification, confident that she could later insist that the thief who had stolen her ID had cashed the checks but ironically, the same bank tellers she once worked with identified her for police.
For unknown reasons, Christine was held for observation for 30 days instead of the customary 3 days. Healthcare workers later admitted there never was any basis for committing her while the state of Florida (the taxpayers) paid for Christine’s hospital stay.
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