Chatham County DA’s Office renews anti-elder abuse efforts - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Chatham Co. DA’s Office renews anti-elder abuse efforts

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The Chatham County District Attorney's Office is throwing the book at folks who prey on the elderly.

The office is focusing some resources on elder abuse and financial abuse specifically, after a several year gap where there was no elder abuse prosecutor.

The crime is happening more and more and the office has several active cases of elder abuse, many of them financial in nature, involving not only family members and strangers, but people who were strangers and became close because they saw an easy target with lots of money. 

The problem has been, the last few years, there was no elder abuse prosecutor.

"I was the elder abuse prosecutor. Then someone else was assigned and then it pretty much went away," Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap told WTOC. Heap was the county's first elder abuse prosecutor under former DA Spencer Lawton, before leaving the office under former DA Larry Chisholm.

Heap says police could make elder abuse arrests, but there was nobody to really focus on the cases which needed more attention when it came time to prosecute.

"It's a lot harder to prosecute than, say, armed robbery. There are so many facets and obstacles," she said.

Among the obstacles are the age of the victims and the fact the crimes are not being reported. Heap hired Shalena Cook Jones as the new elder abuse prosecutor earlier this year. Jones is already  working on prosecuting a number of cases and reaching out to the community for more.

Thursday, the office teamed up with the Chatham County Seniors and Law Enforcement Together Council for it's 12th Annual Consumer College for Senior Citizens Inc. 

Last month, we introduced you to 90 year-old Mary Williams, who was swindled out of 10,000 dollars by a younger man who befriended her.

"He said he was going to marry me. That's what he told me," Williams said.

Seniors WTOC spoke to had heard similar stories or been on the receiving end. I chatted with actual victims like Zella Watson. "Somebody used my bank card and wiped it out," Watson told WTOC.

Some seniors had turned down offers of suspicious services. "I tell them no. No thank you. I don't have time," Sybil Granto said.

Others either have seen abuse first hand, like Julia Wolfe, or have seen stories on TV.

"I could see the way she was treating him. She was being mean," Wolfe said.

"I've seen it plenty of times on the news," Shirley Parrish told WTOC.

Just ask the prosecutor. Elder abuse is happening a lot.

"Yeah, a lot. And now, with Meg shaking the trees, there are many more and educating the community about what is going on here there will be even more," Jones told WTOC.

"If it is being done, we go after these people," Heap said.

At the Consumer College alone, the DA's Office picked up a number of new cases. The first thing they suggest, if you suspect abuse of any kind, is to notify someone and contact the Office of the Aging, Adult Protective Services and their office at the Chatham County District Attorney.

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