East Millinocket woman gets 4 months in jail for stealing from elderly mom

Posted May 31, 2013, at 3 p.m.
Meredith A. Purcell of East Millinocket listens to opening arguments in her trial on a charge of theft by unauthorized taking Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor.
Michael C. York | BDN
Meredith A. Purcell of East Millinocket listens to opening arguments in her trial on a charge of theft by unauthorized taking Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor. Buy Photo

BANGOR, Maine — An East Millinocket woman found guilty last year of stealing more than $50,000 from her elderly mother — some of which she gambled away at Hollywood Slots — was sentenced Friday at the Penobscot Judicial Center to four years in prison with all but four months suspended.

Meredith A. Purcell, 60, was found guilty Nov. 30 of theft by unauthorized taking, a Class B crime, and misuse of entrusted property, a Class D crime, between 2007 and 2011.

Purcell, who has no prior criminal history, paid $50,000 in restitution before the 90-minute sentencing hearing began.

She began serving her sentence immediately.

“I love my mother very, very much and I would do anything, anything for her,” a crying Purcell told the judge. “I’ve always loved her and I always will.”

Purcell said she had too much on her plate and “got sloppy” in how she handled her now 79-year-old mother’s finances.

She also apologized for the rift the investigation and trial had caused in the family.

“I know this has all been very hurtful and I apologize for that,” Purcell said.

In addition to jail time, Superior Court Justice William Anderson sentenced Purcell to two years of probation. Because she paid restitution before being sentenced, the only condition of her probation is that she receive mental health counseling.

Once she completes her jail term, Purcell will be allowed to have contact with her mother again. Bail conditions prevented Purcell from visiting or speaking with her mother.

The defendant was free on personal recognizance bail while awaiting sentencing.

Anderson said the biggest aggravating factor he considered was that Purcell stole from her mother. He said that mitigating factors included the fact that Purcell had cared for her mother for 11 years and paid restitution prior to sentencing.

Purcell stole money from the annuity set up by her father in 2000, according to evidence presented at the trial.

After the trial, Anderson determined the amount of the theft was $50,000 not the $84,000 the prosecution argued was stolen.

Purcell faced up to 10 years in prison on the theft charge and up to a year in prison on the misuse of property charge.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, who prosecuted the case, on Friday called the theft “financial exploitation of the elderly.” She recommended a sentence of five years with all but two years suspended and two years of probation.

Defense attorney James Billings of Augusta urged Anderson to sentence his client to three years with all but 12 days suspended and two years of probation.

The theft was discovered by William “Billy” Hoxie, Purcell’s brother. He testified at the trial that he found unpaid bills at his mother’s home in March 2011, including one from the Internal Revenue Service about a late payment for taxes. He consulted Bangor attorney Roberta Winchell, who alerted authorities.

Hoxie told the jury his mother now lives solely on her Social Security income in a low-income housing project.

“The money [from the annuity] should have lasted that woman a lifetime,” he testified. “She doesn’t spend nothing.”

The victim suffered a fall in January and is no longer able to live on her own as she did last year, Robbin told the judge. She now lives in an assisted living facility.

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