YORK — A caregiver denied knowing anything about missing life insurance money scheduled to go into Margie Millers bank account after the elderly, incapacitated York womans dead sister left her $240,000, a judge said on Tuesday.
By that time, court officials later discovered, Shirley Patton already had cashed two life insurance checks, spending $78,000 on repairs to her house in Waxhaw, N.C., and paying herself a $26,000 salary.
Patton, 54, is standing trial for the second time. She is charged with exploitation of a vulnerable adult and breach of trust with fraudulent intent, accused of stealing money from two life insurance policies belonging to Miller.
Police and prosecutors say she asked the insurance company to send the money to a Charlotte address, then deposited the cash in a Bank of America checking account.
Miller, who died in September 2012, never saw a dime. She was 87.
Pattons first trial ended with a mistrial, after one juror refused to convict her.
On Tuesday, York County Probate Judge Carolyn Rogers testified that during a hearing she ruled in early 2011 that Margie Miller could not competently make decisions about her late sisters estate or finances.
Millers sister, Mamie Miller, died in October 2010, leaving two life insurance policies for her sister that named her as the personal representative responsible for settling her estate.
A month later, Patton, who worked as an office manager at Rock Hills Premier Health Clinic where Margie Miller saw her primary physician was named her power of attorney.
Wendy Duda, executive director of the York County Council on Aging and a longtime friend of the Miller sisters, challenged the legality of the document, unwilling to believe that Miller would make that decision herself, she testified Tuesday morning.
During a December 2010 hearing, a now-retired probate judge froze all of Margie Millers bank accounts. He did not make an official decision on the documents legality, but ordered that Margie Miller undergo neurological evaluation.
In April 2011, Rogers, who took over as probate judge, ruled that the document was null and void because Patton, the selected power of attorney, also signed the document as a witness.
The agent named power of attorney should never be a witness, Rogers said. That makes the document invalid.
Duda also testified that Margie Miller in 2007 suffered a stroke that left her unable to write. When signing legal documents, she endorsed them with an X. The power of attorney document was signed in November 2010 and contains Margie Millers full name as the principal.
While speaking with her in April 2011, Rogers said she realized the very pleasant Margie Miller also could be easily persuaded...easily led. A neurologist testified that Margie Miller could not competently handle her own nor her dead sisters finances.
At the same time, Patton opposed Duda, who, along with a distant cousin of Margie Millers, had petitioned to be named her court-appointed guardian. Until another hearing could be scheduled, Rogers authorized Patton to keep caring for Margie Millers day to day needs, such as shopping for her groceries and ensuring she ate and bathed.
Frankly, there was no one else, she said, adding that Patton seemed to be taking good care of Margie Miller.
In July, Rogers ordered everyone including Patton, Duda, Margie Millers attorney and her cousin to turn over all financial assets of Margie Millers to a guardian ad litem, who would turn them in to the courts.
Rogers determined that a conservator, a third-party chosen to manage an incapacitated persons financial affairs, should be selected so the same person caring for Millers day-to-day needs would not also oversee her money.
Two months later, stakeholders gave the court Margie Millers financial assets, but no one reported the life insurance policies. Rogers appointed Patton and Margie Millers cousin as her co-guardians, while Palmetto Trust, based in Spartanburg, became responsible for Margie Millers finances.
She ordered that every attempt be made to keep Margie Miller living in her York home, and Patton to continue supervising the caregivers and providing for Margie Millers basic needs.
Check back for updates.