Saturday, April 23, 2016

Woman enters ‘best interest’ plea in elder exploitation case

PRINCETON — A Lerona woman entered a “best interest” plea on a charge of financial exploitation of an elderly person in a plea agreement in Mercer County Circuit Court Tuesday.

Mary H. Williams, 74, entered the plea, which is similar to “no contest,” in the case, which involved a Princeton man, Harold DeWeese, who is now deceased.

Assistant Prosecutor Kelli Harshbarger said it is called a best interest plea “because they are not admitting guilt, just saying it is in their best interest under the circumstances not to contest the charge,” which carries a penalty of one to 10 years in jail plus restitution.

Judge Derek Swope asked Williams directly if she were entering the plea because she realized if the case went to trial, the consequences could be worse (than a plea agreement) if she were found guilty, and she agreed.

Swope also asked Harshbarger to review the evidence involved in the case, which is the result of a two-year investigation.

Harshbarger said “the state believes the evidence would have shown (if presented in a trial)” that Williams was hired as a caregiver to Deweese and his wife in 2009 when he was 88.

DeWeese’s wife was eventually placed in an assisted living facility and during that time she noticed money was missing from the couple’s account.

Shortly after that, Harshbarger said, the evidence would show that DeWeese divorced his wife and received about $400,000 from the division of marital assets. It was also thought that DeWeese may have been suffering from dementia.

The evidence would show that, during this time, DeWeese had little or no contact with his children, she said, and that he had moved into Williams’ home.

The family attempted to obtain guardianship because of the possibility of dementia. However, she said the evidence would show that court papers could not be served because Williams said DeWeese was ill.

DeWeese died in 2013, and Harshbarger said the state’s evidence would show that he died and was buried on Williams’ property without his family’s knowledge, and he was listed as having no assets.

An investigation was started more than two years ago by State Police Sgt. Mark Haynes. Williams was indicted in October 2015.

“The focus of the investigation was on a bank account that had over $160,000,” Harshbarger said.

“From that they were able to trace the purchase of a doublewide” that was placed on Williams’ property.

“The officer did an extraordinary job,” she said. “There was so much documentation involved in tracking the disbursement.”

Harshbarger said the investigation’s results were “voluminous,” with thousands of pages.

Williams had also been indicted on a conspiracy charge related to the case, but that charge was dismissed as part of the plea.

A plea was also reached for a codefendant in the case, Manuel Dominques, 70, of Newport News, she said.

Swope set the sentencing date for June 15, after a pre-sentence investigation is conducted.

Determining restitution to family members will be part of that process.

Full Article & Source:
Woman enters ‘best interest’ plea in elder exploitation case

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

I have never heard of this before! Why don't all guilty parties use this plea?