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Jury convicts woman of financial elder abuse, neglect

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Shauna Brewster will be sentenced on the elder abuse and neglect charges on Jan. 12, 2009. Lake County Jail booking photo.


 


LAKEPORT – Following a five-week trial a local woman has been convicted of felony financial elder abuse and neglect.


On Wednesday, a jury convicted Glenhaven resident Shauna Michelle Brewster, 53, of one count of felony financial elder abuse and one felony count of elder abuse/neglect, according to Senior District Attorney Rachel Abelson, who prosecuted the case and is assigned to all elder abuse cases in the Lake County District Attorney's Office.


Brewster, who was defended by attorney Don Anderson, faces five years in prison, Abelson said.


The crimes allegedly were committed over a year-and-a-half-long period against 75-year-old Glenhaven resident Lawrence Russell, for whom Brewster became private conservator in early 2003, said Abelson.


Russell had been previously conserved by a jury and found to be “unable to provide for his needs for physical health, food, clothing, shelter” and that he was “substantially unable to manage his financial resources or to resist fraud or undue influence.” The public guardian served as his conservator for a brief period of time before Brewster agreed to be his conservator, Abelson said.


She said the theft was most egregious during Russell’s stay at Meadowood Skilled Nursing Facility in Clearlake.


The financial abuse came to light when Russell's medical bills, mortgage and other bills went unpaid, said Abelson. Russell's home had gone into foreclosure after payments were not made for seven months, and almost no money was left in Russell's checking account.


Brewster, as Russell's conservator, had the authority and responsibility to control his finances for his benefit, said Abelson.


Thanks to the attention and care of Meadowood Skilled Nursing Facility Staff and other individuals involved with the conservatorship proceedings, the Lake County District Attorney’s office got involved in the investigation of abuse and filed charges, Abelson reported.


Abelson said the elder abuse/neglect charge resulted from a series of events in which Russell was placed in situations that left his health endangered, including a situation where he sustained second- to third-degree burns on portions of his upper body.


The burns were not treated properly and became infected, said Abelson. Thanks to the quick intervention of Lake County Adult Protective Services and other concerned neighbors he was hospitalized to treat these injuries.


Russell's last hospitalization on Jan. 17, 2007, resulted in a diagnosis of neglect by the treating doctors and ultimately led to his placement at the skilled nursing facility, where he remained until his death in May of 2007, Abelson said.


Brewster's jury trial commenced in front of Lake County Superior Court Judge Arthur Mann on Oct. 28. Abelson said the lengthy trial spanned approximately five weeks with periodic breaks.


During the trial it was revealed that Brewster was passing checks to her boyfriends, manicurist or at a local grocery store for cash back, according to Abelson.


During the approximate three months Russell was at Meadowood Skilled Nursing Facility there was approximately $4,000 in cash back she received, Abelson said. There was little evidence that the $4,000 in cash was used for Russell's benefit.


The prosecution’s case included more than a dozen witnesses and thousands of pages of evidence. Abelson said Lake County District Attorney Elder Abuse Investigator Martina Santor investigated the case.


Brewster, whose booking sheet lists her profession as mediator, also has used the last names of Armstrong, Fullmer and Barnes, and has warrants out of Sacramento County for violation of the felony probation cases she has there, said Abelson. Brewster remains in the Lake County Jail without bail due to those outside agency warrants.


Sentencing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2009, Abelson said.


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