Detective Matt Smith investigates elder abuse cases. He says he’s flooded with cases right now and doesn’t anticipate the pace letting up anytime soon. Many abusers, he says, are not who you might expect. In one of his cases, a former school board member became a caregiver to a family friend and then drained the senior’s savings on vacations, gambling and pornography. Shawn Michael Vilhauer was ultimately sentenced to five years probation and to pay restitution to the family — but not in time to help Gary Murray, who died alone in a care facility.
Many of the cases Smith sees involve financial abuse. He estimates about half the time, the victim dies before the abuser is convicted. Smith says he applauds recent changes in state law to strengthen the hand of law enforcement, including the bill that passed this week to expand mandatory reporting of elder abuse.
Have you or a loved one experienced physical, emotional or financial elder abuse?