Friday, June 1, 2007

Man gets 12 years for Stealing From Elderly


The Rev. Warren Butler died without realizing he’d lost everything.

Stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, the Cañon City Baptist minister went to his grave March 31 not grasping that a man he considered his friend had stolen thousands of dollars from him and his wife.

But his guardian knew, and Thursday she spoke on his behalf at the sentencing of a Fremont County man convicted in a case that some say illustrates the growing issue of elder abuse.
“He took their identity, their freedom to live in their home, the money they saved for their last years of life,” Eva Mares said. “Because of what he did, Warren died in a nursing home instead of his home.”

Danial Leroy Williams, 57, was sentenced Thursday in Fremont County District Court to 12 years in prison, the maximum possible sentence.

Williams was convicted last month of stealing thousands of dollars from the Cañon City couple after they gave him power of attorney.

The case’s conclusion comes as El Paso County officials designate June as Elder Abuse Awareness Month.

As many as 10 percent of older adults are victims of abuse, but only one in eight cases is reported, according to the Colorado Coalition for Elder Rights and Adult Protection.

Judges and attorneys in Colorado say they are seeing an increasing number of cases with the questionable use of powers of attorney.

A power of attorney is a document in which one person designates another to act on his or her behalf. It gives the recipient authority over one’s financial affairs.

In the Fremont case, authorities said that’s how Williams, a church acquaintance, gained control of the Butlers’ affairs.

About 10 years ago, he started running errands for them and “slowly began to exert more and more control” over their lives, according to an affidavit.

By 2003, the Butlers — who didn’t have children and whose relatives live out-ofstate — were exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s.

In 2005, Williams took the couple to a bank, where they signed documents giving him power of attorney.

Williams then allegedly started spending their money and had them sign over their house to him. In all, he was accused of taking nearly $215,000.

After his arrest last summer, Williams pleaded guilty, but Fremont County District Court Judge Julie Marshall rejected a plea bargain, and Williams stood trial in May.

Thursday, Deputy district attorney Bryan Hunt said the judge noted that once Williams placed the Butlers in a nursing home and took over their house, the Butlers’ most precious belongings — including Warren’s World War II Army uniform in which he wanted to be buried — were found in a Dumpster outside their home.

Their relatives recovered the photos and uniform, in which Butler was buried in Tennessee.

His wife, Opal, is in Tennesse living with relatives, Mares said.

Because Opal still has some bank account numbers written on a slip of paper in her purse, Mares said, she remains convinced that she’s got her money.

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