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February 28, 1997


Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 94-CF-397. Honorable Michael J. O'Malley, Judge, presiding.

The Honorable Justice Rarick delivered the opinion of the court. Welch and Maag, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rarick

JUSTICE RARICK delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Vickye Layne, was charged in the circuit court of St. Clair County with financial exploitation of an elderly person in violation of section 16-1.3(a) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/16-1.3 (West 1992)). After a jury trial Layne was found guilty and sentenced to three years' probation. On appeal, Layne argues that the State failed to meet its burden of proof, that she was deprived of her constitutional right against self-incrimination, that the trial court erred in admitting testimony regarding confidential interpersonal communications, and that the trial court erroneously instructed the jury. We affirm.

Prior to trial, Layne filed a motion to suppress several statements she had made to police. At the suppression hearing, Officer Donald Sax testified that he took an oral statement from Layne at Belleville police headquarters on January 19, 1994. Sax interviewed Layne again on March 2, 1994, this time at her home. He took a written statement which Layne looked at and signed. At the time, Layne mentioned family problems with her son and husband. Detective Joseph Stumpf testified that he took an oral statement from Layne at Belleville police headquarters on May 11, 1994. He reduced this statement to a writing, which Layne read and signed. Layne testified that she had not read the statement given to Sax because she needed glasses but did not have any. She signed it after Sax read it to her. She did not read the statement given to Stumpf because she did not have glasses. During the interview with Stumpf, Layne expressed her concern at being away from her grandchildren. Both were having medical problems, and she was caring for them. She argued that such statements were not voluntary because she did not have her glasses and could not read them and because she needed to go home to care for her grandchildren, one of whom had had eye surgery. The trial court found that the statements were voluntary.

At trial Ruth Graswick, the victim, testified that several years after her husband died, she contracted with A-1 Sitters, which provided in-home assistance to elderly clients, to help her with such things as cooking, cleaning, and shopping. One of the women sent by the service was Layne. Graswick testified that she liked and trusted Layne because she was so reliable.

In June 1992, Graswick was admitted to the hospital after sustaining injuries as a result of a fall. Graswick requested Layne to continue visiting her in the hospital. Graswick was subsequently moved to the rehabilitation unit at Rosewood Care Center, and later to the Columbia Convalescent Center, where she remained at the time of trial. Layne continued to visit Graswick at Rosewood.

Graswick gave Layne her checkbook and authorized Layne to write checks to pay Graswick's bills. Graswick also authorized Layne to write herself a check for $1,000 to compensate Layne for various favors. Graswick specifically stated that she did not authorize Layne to write any other checks to herself. Graswick was unaware that Layne was writing other checks to herself. Following Graswick's entry into a nursing home, Layne continued to purchase items for her, but Graswick maintained that she gave Layne the money to purchase such items. Graswick testified that she began to notice that "things didn't seem to add up" and looked "fishy," and that she asked her nephew, Stephen Jines, to look into it.

Stephen Jines testified that in March or April 1993 he learned that Graswick's account had less than $1,000 in it although it should have contained at least $21,000. He went to the bank and looked at copies of the statements for the previous month or two. Jines noticed considerable activity and obtained copies of the checks drawn on Graswick's account. He noticed that many of the checks were written by and made payable to Layne. When Jines contacted Layne and asked to see her records, Layne claimed they were at the tax return preparer's office. Later, Layne produced some ledgers and receipts but claimed that the checks and check stubs had been stolen. In October 1993, Jines spoke with Officer Donald Sax at Belleville police headquarters. Jines told Sax that Layne had written quite a number of checks, that there was quite a bit of money missing, and that he felt that there was a theft involved. Jines eventually demanded the return of $11,000 but received no response from Layne.

Dr. Timothy Hipskind testified that he was Graswick's attending physician at Rosewood. Graswick was admitted with a diagnosis of compression fracture of the spine, degenerative arthritis, hypertension, and hypothyroidism. Hipskind related the fracture to osteoporosis. He also stated that these conditions were all associated with advanced age. Hipskind also testified that Graswick was on numerous medications, some of which could cause confusion, but that he never observed any signs of confusion or senility, and that Graswick was normally alert and responsive. Hipskind further testified that Graswick was confined to a wheelchair.

Gwenn Flach, the director of nursing at Rosewood, testified that she was the charge nurse at Rosewood while Graswick was there. Flach testified that all Graswick could do for herself was wash her upper torso. She was totally dependent on others for everything else. Flach testified that it took two people to move Graswick from her bed to a wheelchair, and that while Graswick could ambulate with a wheeled walker, she required two people to help provide support. Flach also testified that Graswick was talkative and never exhibited any signs of confusion. To Flach's knowledge, Graswick never left Rosewood.

Edna Bristoe, the former operator of A-1 Sitters, testified that sitters were specifically forbidden to handle client's money. She also testified that Layne had quit shortly after Graswick went into the nursing home.

Carla Pluff, an accountant, testified that Layne asked her to prepare Graswick's 1992 tax returns. Layne claimed to have a power of attorney for Graswick but never produced it. After Pluff filed for an extension, Layne claimed she needed Graswick's tax records and picked them up. Pluff never heard from Layne again.

Walter Layne, Vickye's former husband, testified that they had filed joint tax returns for 1992 and 1993. These returns, signed by Vickye Layne, were admitted into evidence. Walter Layne testified that Vickye would report her income to him and he would report it to a tax preparation service. In both 1992 and 1993 Vickye reported income from a horse farm she owned, and in 1992 she reported income from A-1 Sitter Service. Vickye never reported any income paid to her by Graswick.

Stephen Hampton, a documents examiner with the Illinois State Police, testified that Layne had altered several checks signed by Graswick and made out to Layne so as to ...

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