Jim Porter: Elder abuse of the worst kind (and a horrific discovery)
March 16, 2012
TRUCKEE, Calif. andamp;#8212; Elder law is a topic that was not even taught when I went to Hastings in San Francisco. At that time, the city was still recovering from the andamp;#8217;06 quake. In hindsight, no elder law class is ironic since Hastings College of Law, part of the U.C. system, was highly acclaimed for its andamp;#8220;65 Clubandamp;#8221; andamp;#8212; almost all of our professors were over 65 andamp;#8212; the semi-retired experts in the field.Elder law is serious business now. Just ask Christi Schoenbachler, someone you will soon dislike.Hey Mom, Letandamp;#8217;s Abuse GrandmaChristi Schoenbachler, letandamp;#8217;s call her andamp;#8220;Shamebachler,andamp;#8221; and her mother (Mom) are the granddaughter and daughter of victim Elsie Brooks, who was in her 70s at the time of the alleged crimes.Elsie had been living independently in good mental and physical health in San Luis Obispo when she was encouraged to move to Monterey County in 2002 to live with Shamebachler and her Mom. Elsie had plenty of money, emphases on had. She had over $68,000 in cash, an annuity worth $90,000, and jewelry and gold coins worth about $250,000, plus she had social security income of $950 a month. Sweet Elsie was apparently a drinker, so she checked herself into the Sun Bridge care center. When she left two months later Shamebachler and Mom had sold most of her jewelry and coins. Elsie assumed she would move back in with them, but they put her in a facility called Tender Loving Care. TLC is a misnomer. The court described TLC as, andamp;#8220;a facility that was mice-ridden, filthy, and the abode of other residents who suffered with Alzheimerandamp;#8217;s disease and would scream throughout the night.andamp;#8221;Tender Loving CareElsie wanted out of Tender Loving Care, to which Shamebachler and Mom (Sandamp;M) agreed IF she redeemed her $87,000 annuity. She did andamp;#8212; leaving her penniless. At one point Elsie returned to Sun Bridge for eight months. (Perhaps because her granddaughter caused her to drink.) The only visit she had from Shamebachler and Mom was when they drove up to the front of the facility, dumped her personal belongings on the sidewalk and drove off, even refusing to acknowledge Elsieandamp;#8217;s hand gestures to stay and visit. Probably something like: andamp;#8220;Come on in, Christie (and steal my lunch).andamp;#8221;Finally Grandma Elsie cut off financing her daughter and granddaughter and returned to San Luis Obispo where she resumed living independently, however without most of her assets which had been pilfered.Elder AbuseI am not sure what happened to Mom, but Shamebachler was charged with multiple counts of elder abuse under Penal Code 368, which includes someone who andamp;#8220;willfully causes or permits any elder or dependent adult to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering andamp;#8230; or willfully causes or permits the elder or dependent adult to be placed in a situation in which his or personandamp;#8217;s health may be endangered.andamp;#8221; Another part of the Code makes it a crime to steal or embezzle from an elder. The Code interestingly draws a distinction between victims under 70 and over 70, but an andamp;#8220;elderandamp;#8221; is any person 65 or over. As I write this I realize to my horror, I qualify. Section 368 also makes it a crime to abuse a andamp;#8220;dependent adult,andamp;#8221; which is anyone who is between 18 and 64 who has mental limitations as defined in the Code. Good chance I qualify for that, too.Guilty or Not GuiltyThe trial judge found Shamebachler guilty of felony grand theft, felony financial elder abuse and two counts of misdemeanor elder abuse. Having no shame, defendant Shamebachler appealed.With one minor adjustment, the Sixth District Court of Appeal upheld the convictions finding that Shamebachlerandamp;#8217;s gaining control of the annuity as a condition of letting her grandmother leave the care facility was financial abuse of an elder and misdemeanor elder abuse. The Court of Appeal also upheld the convictions of grand theft and embezzlement of an elder. The Court Opinion quoted Elsieandamp;#8217;s testimony while living at the Tender Loving Care residential facility: andamp;#8220;The mice were eating out of the drawers where you kept your clothing … (t)he mice were eating at night, and the dirt and the filth on the side of the bed, it was just andamp;#8212; it was just an experience I, I never encountered in my life.andamp;#8221; Granddaughter Christi Schoenbachler will do two years in prison. TLC prison-style. Of course, she will probably be paroled in two months due to overcrowding, but thatandamp;#8217;s another story.Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon, with offices in Truckee and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governorandamp;#8217;s appointee to the Fair Political Practices Commission and McPherson Commission, both involving election law and the Political Reform Act. He may be reached at email@example.com or at the firmandamp;#8217;s-website, http://www.portersimon.com.