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The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism 2006-2007

Tracy Breton
The Providence Journal
Cranston, R.I., US

More of Breton's work at The Providence Journal

TOPIC: Examine the abuse, neglect, and exploitation of elderly people with mental health issues in Rhode Island, particularly in how the state is meeting the needs of its elderly residents as compared to other states and countries.

A Trust Betrayed: How Two Women in their 90s were Fleeced by a Helper
Patricia Murtaugh never seemed to have enough money. She lived with her two Yorkshire terriers in a subsidized apartment in Queens, N.Y., and held a string of low-paying jobs. To boost her pay, she sold carrot cakes and Irish soda bread that she baked in her kitchen.

Elderly Are Often Targeted
Elisabeth Shanks and Joan Coughlan fit the mold of the stereotypical victim of financial exploitation. Both are women in their 90s, have memory problems and fear losing their independence. Shanks, who separated from her former husband over half a century ago, has a grown son who lives 1,600 miles away, and had no other relatives who were looking out for her.

Parole Denied in Elderly Theft Case
Patricia Murtaugh, the former Block Island carrot-cake shop owner who stole most of the life savings of two women in their 90s, has been denied parole by the New York State Division of Parole.

Sisters Feud Over Ailing Mother's Fate
Two grown sisters are enmeshed in a bitter tug-of-war over what is in the best interest of their elderly mother and who should have control of her money.

Judge Denies Daughter's Request
A Superior Court judge yesterday denied a request by a 60-year-old woman to take her demented 90-year-old mother out for Easter dinner.

Judge: Daughter May Not Visit Mother
In a quick about-face, a Superior Court judge has decided that former congressional candidate Suzette Gebhard will no longer be allowed to visit her 90-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia. The judge says she believes Gebhard is "a kidnapping risk."

Family Face-Off Hits Courtroom
Suzette Gebhard, the former head of the Governor's Justice Commission, went on trial yesterday for obstruction of justice, a charge that stemmed from her secreting her 90-year-old mother, who suffers from dementia, in her house in Warren, keeping a court-appointed guardian from seeing her.

Woman Didn't Obstruct Police
A state District Court judge yesterday acquitted Suzette Gebhard, the former head of the Governor's Justice Commission and president of the Rhode Island League of Women Voters, of obstruction of justice.

Trial Begins to Decide Care for Mother
Laurette Borduas Eifrig's only grandchild broke down in tears on the witness stand yesterday as she spoke of the feud between her mother and aunt over who should have control of her demented 90-year-old grandmother.

As Siblings Spar, Their Mother Makes Her Own Wishes Known
Laurette Borduas Eifrig asked for help yesterday morning to find a barrette for her hair. She "didn't want to look disheveled." She had a meeting with a Superior Court judge who had traveled across the city to see how she was doing in assisted living. The judge wanted her input about where she would like to live for the rest of her life.

Ex-Students Aid Teacher, Now 90
If you are lucky, you will have one teacher who changes your life - someone who opens your eyes to new possibilities, pushes you out of your comfort zone and imparts lessons that stick with you well beyond the classroom. If you're lucky, that teacher will become a mentor and friend, someone you'll talk to and seek advice from long after you graduate.

Judge Limits Daughter's Access to Ailing Mother
A Superior Court judge is now prohibiting Laurette Borduas Eifrig's Virginia daughter and only grandchild from having unsupervised contact with 90-year-old Eifrig, who is in an assisted-living facility on Smith Street.

Family Drama Enters New Court Phase
A lawyer for Laurette Borduas Eifrig yesterday filed a motion to remove Eifrig's Virginia daughter as trustee of her mother's trust because of actions she has taken to freeze her 90-year-old mother, who is blind and suffers from dementia, out of her assisted-living residence in Providence and move her back to Virginia.

Sibling Battles Back in Court
A lawyer for Laurette Borduas Eifrig is asking the Superior Court to unfreeze some of the 90-year-old woman's trust money so she can pay a Virginia lawyer, who charges $250 per hour, to fight her younger daughter's attempt to tie up her money in that state.

Daughter in Guardian Case Drops Lawyer
Francine Ardito, the Virginia daughter of 90-year-old Laurette Borduas Eifrig, has discharged her lawyer here, lashing out at the Rhode Island court system for what she terms "extreme procrastination" and favoritism in its handling of issues surrounding her mother's guardianship.

Judge: Neither Daughter is Fit to be Guardian
Superior Court Judge Alice B. Gibney decided yesterday that neither of Laurette Borduas Eifrig's grown daughters is suitable to be her guardian, saying there is too much animosity between them to put either in charge of their mother's care and finances.

Court Review Finds No Abuse or Neglect of Former URI Professor
A court-appointed special master says he has found no evidence of abuse or neglect of Winifred Caldwell, the popular former University of Rhode Island professor who is now 90 and suffers from advanced dementia.

Contempt Hearing Set in Dispute on Guardian
Superior Court Judge Alice B. Gibney has scheduled a hearing tomorrow to determine whether Francine Ardito, the Virginia daughter of Laurette Borduas Eifrig, should be held in contempt for trying to withdraw money that her mother's guardian needs for Eifrig's assisted living in Providence.

Mother at Center of Dispute Granted Her Wish
It looks like Laurette Borduas Eifrig will be able to continue living at Capitol Ridge for the indefinite future. Yesterday morning, Superior Court Judge Alice B. Gibney removed Francine Ardito, Eifrig's Virginia daughter, as co-trustee of her mother's trust. The judge also revoked Ardito's power of attorney for her 90-year-old mother.

Daughter Faces Contempt Hearing in Guardian Case
A Superior Court judge yesterday scheduled a hearing for Aug. 7 to determine whether Laurette Borduas Eifrig's daughter in Virginia will be held in contempt for actions she has taken to tie up her mother's trust funds so a court-appointed guardian can't use the money for Eifrig's care in Rhode Island.

Caregiver Won't be Charged With Stealing
The attorney general's office announced yesterday that it will not bring criminal charges against a former part-time caregiver for the late Beatrice S. Demers, even though there was proof she had taken $128,000 from the former University of Rhode Island professor.

Daughter Seeks Settlement in Guardian Case
Francine Ardito, the Virginia daughter of Laurette Borduas Eifrig, decided to go on a white-water rafting vacation rather than show up for a contempt hearing yesterday in Providence.

Daughters' Feud to Cost Mother $186,000 in Fees
A 90-year-old retired schoolteacher who suffers from dementia will have to use almost half of the $423,000 nest-egg she accumulated for retirement to pay lawyers and a court-appointed guardian to end a fight between her two grown daughters who couldn't agree on where she should live.

Daughter Took $300,000 From Mother's Trust
In a stunning development, a lawyer for a demented 90-year-old woman told a Superior Court judge yesterday that the woman's daughter in Virginia took more than $300,000 of her mother's money - about 40 percent of her life savings - and deposited it in accounts in her own name, without ever disclosing to him or the mother's court-appointed guardian that the money existed.

Feud Among Sisters Escalates Over Use of Mother's Money
It doesn't look like there will be a settlement anytime soon in the battle between two feuding sisters over the future of their mother, Laurette Borduas Eifrig, a former schoolteacher whose affairs are now being handled by a court-appointed guardian.

Daughter Found to be in Contempt
The Virginia daughter of 91-year-old Laurette Borduas Eifrig was found in willful contempt yesterday for repeatedly violating a judge's order that barred her from removing money from the trust of her blind mother, who now lives in assisted living in Providence and suffers from dementia.

Judge Allows Daughter's Visit with Mom
For the first time since January - when her court-appointed guardian removed her from her daughter's house in Warren - 91-year-old Laurette Borduas Eifrig will be allowed by a judge to leave her assisted-living residence in Providence so she can share Thanksgiving dinner with her daughter in a Seekonk restaurant.

No Jail Time for Man Accused of Bilking Neighbor
Thomas G. Foster, a Warren machinist who was accused of bilking a mentally impaired elderly neighbor out of $410,000, yesterday pleaded no contest to one count of felony larceny and was spared a prison term as part of a plea agreement in which he made $200,000 in restitution.

Response to Elder Abuse Varies Widely Across U.S.
Diane Lewis was asleep in her Portsmouth home on May 14 when she was awakened by her beeper about 5:30 a.m. It was the first night for Rhode Island's new elder-abuse hot line service. Someone needed her help.

Number of Calls to R.I. Hot Line Increases Every Month
For 19 years, Rhode Island law has required the director of the Department of Elderly Affairs to provide "for the use of the general public, a statewide, 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week" telephone line to report elder abuse.

Reale Gets 8 Years in Death of Colin Foote
Laura A. Reale, the drug-addicted Westerly woman who failed to stop at a red light on Route 1 in Charlestown in May, killing motorcyclist Colin B. Foote, was sentenced Friday to serve 8 years of a 10-year sentence in the Adult Correctional Institutions.

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