Saturday, June 2, 2007

Elder abuse suspect takes stand

Of the News-Register

When Mistydawn Viles took the stand in her own defense Friday, she said Anthony "Tony" Viles wanted her to do all the things she is accused of doing.

She said the elderly man wanted to subsist on fast food and macaroni with cheese. He wanted to live in a trash-filled house without medical care. He wanted to give her a house and access to thousands of dollars from his checking account.

No, the former caregiver answered when her defense attorney asked if she ever pressured the disabled, bedridden 78-year-old.

"You can't pressure Tony," she said. "He's stubborn. He'll do what he wants."

Viles, 30, is accused of 13 counts of abuse and exploitation between June 1, 2005, and July 1, 2006. She has pleaded not guilty to one count of aggravated first-degree theft, six counts of first-degree theft, three counts of attempted theft, two counts of first-degree criminal mistreatment and one count of second-degree criminal mistreatment.

Social workers and psychology professionals found Rinkes incapable of living independently, or handling his own finances, when he was removed from his Newberg home in June 2006.

But Viles, who had served as his primary caregiver during the previous year, said she always considered him completely in control of his faculties and fully capable of making his own decisions.

"You guys are the ones who say he has dementia," she said under cross-examination by Deputy District Attorney Ladd Wiles. "He was perfectly fine before he came out of his home."

She said, "I do care about him," sounding irked that Wiles would question her sincerity. "Tony was like my grandfather."

During her defense testimony, Viles said spoke conversationally. She sometimes laughed affectionately as she recounted Rinkes' habits, such as demanding real cheese on his burgers and spurning her effort to add fruit to his diet.

She said she encouraged him to see a doctor, concerned about rapid and continuing weight loss. But she didn't push it, she said.

Mostly, she said, she simply did whatever Rinkes asked, whether it was bringing him Coney Island dogs from the Dairy Queen, purchasing PowerBall tickets in his name or drawing up an agreement under which he supposedly sold her one of his rental houses for $1.

At his direction, she said, she withdrew thousands of dollars in cash from his bank accounts. She put much of the money into his wallet, which he kept under his mattress, she said, but also spent cash on food, diapers and maintenance work on his rental properties.

Viles said Rinkes was completely aware and supportive of her writing checks to cover her own phone bill, cable bill and credit card statements. He also authorized her to write checks to cover her brother's utilities, and to draw up lease/purchase agreements that gave her siblings dirt-cheap rent as long as he remained alive and the right to buy their houses from his estate for $400 after he died.

"I seems crazy, but Tony was who he was," she said. "He was always like that. He gave people things and said it wasn't like he could take it with him."

Viles was the second witness to take the stand after defense attorney Carol Fredrick started presenting her side of the case late Thursday afternoon.

Her mother, Pattie Meyers, was the first to testify on her daughter's behalf. Her sister and brother followed Viles on the stand.

The jury trial started Tuesday with opening statements. Wiles went on to call numerous witnesses, including Rinkes' former renters, medical and social work professionals and a Newberg police detective.

Rinkes appeared Wednesday as a witness for the prosecution. He testified that he never intended to give away any of his rental houses, nor did he intend to pay Viles' bills or credit card debts.

He said he did ask Viles to cash about one check a month for him so he would have money on hand. But he did not give Viles permission to write checks on his account.

Rinkes didn't complain about her caregiving, however. He said she came in daily to change his diaper and do some cleaning, leaving the house as he liked it.

He acknowledged losing 65 pounds or more during the year she cared for him, but said she fed him food that he favored, and he always had some left over.

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