Auburn couple copes with theft of $28,000 savings

Sharon Lowell of Auburn, who has advanced Parkinson's disease, is pictured with her husband, Terry Lowell.  The Lowells say someone stole $28,000 in cash from their home.
Jose Leiva | Sun Journal
Sharon Lowell of Auburn, who has advanced Parkinson's disease, is pictured with her husband, Terry Lowell. The Lowells say someone stole $28,000 in cash from their home.
Posted Nov. 27, 2011, at 4:41 a.m.

AUBURN, Maine — Terry Lowell once believed in people and his God. Now, he believes in neither.

At 72, he is living paycheck to paycheck, trying to keep up with the bills that accompany his wife Sharon’s treatment for Parkinson’s disease. They had a cushion — $28,000 they kept wrapped in a T-shirt in a nightstand.

It’s gone. Someone stole it.

In May, a grand jury indicted Jennifer J. Ames, 34, of Lewiston on a charge of theft. Ames had spent nearly six months working in the Lowells’ home, cleaning and caring for Sharon, who uses a wheelchair.

Police recovered $8,000 of the money, but until the case is settled, the cash is being held by authorities, Terry Lowell said.

Meanwhile, the bills mount. Terry tries to keep up with Sharon’s medical costs, which include $400 each month for co-payments on her prescriptions. Terry’s planned retirement from his job overseeing the maintenance of the Lewiston Multi-Purpose Center was scuttled. And a plan to make a down payment on an assisted living apartment went away, too.

“I feel cheated,” whispered Sharon Lowell.

Terry Lowell buried his face in the palms of his hands.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said. He worries for his wife’s health. He feels guilty that he trusted the woman he believes stole the money. And he feels guilty that he kept so much at home.

Most of the $28,000 was money Sharon had saved while working in the office at Marshwood Center, a nursing home in Lewiston. She figures it took her eight years to save it.

“We took it out so we would have some cash on hand,” Terry said. “We were always broke.”

Besides the down payment, some was to be used to buy a truck. They also tapped it to help them fund trips to Boston for Sharon’s treatment, peeling off a $100 bill when they needed it.

“It seemed safe,” Terry said. The couple never even locked their door. “No one on this street had been robbed. Not yet, anyway.”

Then, it was all gone.

In January, he went to get some money before they left town for treatment and found the T-shirt empty.

“I almost passed out,” Terry said. “If I didn’t have a strong heart, I’d have had a heart attack.

“The worst part was telling her,” he said, nodding to his wife. “She was heartbroken.”

Terry Lowell met Ames when she worked for him on his maintenance crew.

“She was a hard worker,” he said. He invited her to help Sharon, paying her a wage. They bought her Christmas and birthday gifts and even invited her to live in their home.

The case against Ames is still winding through the courts.

“Sharon does better than I do,” Terry said. “She still has her religion. I don’t have it anymore.”

He had been a lay minister in the Catholic Church. But he lost his faith. Some eroded when his wife fell ill. More left when they became victims of theft.

“We struggle,” he said.

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