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Man sells mother's home, abandons her, police say

The 76-year-old is left alone in a motel without food, clothes, medicine or money, they say.

By STEVE THOMPSON
Published May 28, 2005


NEW PORT RICHEY - She kept calling the motel's front desk asking for food. So on May 15 a Valu Lodge employee asked police to check on the elderly woman in Room 140.

What New Port Richey police found led them in search of the woman's son, John L. Zimmerman, 37. They arrested him Thursday on a charge of exploiting the elderly.

Police say he persuaded his 76-year-old mother in April to sell her home in Port Richey for $52,500, property records show.

Then he put the proceeds into his own bank account, stashed all his mother's belongings in a storage unit and abandoned her in the motel room without food, clothes, medicine or money, police say.

The woman told officers she was wearing the same clothes as when her son dropped her off and that she hadn't seen him for several days.

The St. Petersburg Times is not naming the woman for her protection. She suffers from short-term memory loss and diabetes to the extent that her ability to care for herself is impaired, a police report says.

Valu Lodge front desk clerk Chuck Lucas said Friday the woman had been there nearly a month when he called police two weeks ago.

"It was nothing but a gut feeling that told me something was wrong," Lucas said.

Zimmerman would drop by every so often and pay for more nights for her, Lucas said. He said Zimmerman told him they were doing renovations on their home, and "we don't want mom breathing all that dust and stuff."

"He had a good line," Lucas said.

After police checked on the woman, she was taken from the motel on U.S. 19 to a local hospital for treatment of low blood sugar, then returned to her motel room.

Two days later, the report says, she went to a post office to pick up her Social Security check, but it wasn't there. After she reported the missing check, authorities placed her in an assisted living facility.

A detective got her son on the phone Thursday and asked him if he knew where his mother was. Zimmerman replied that she was at the Valu Lodge. The detective found Zimmerman, the missing Social Security check and a pipe full of marijuana in Room 210 of the Comfort Inn at 11801 U.S. 19.

Zimmerman, whose criminal history includes convictions for marijuana sales and aggravated battery, admitted to police that he took the proceeds from the sale of his mother's home. He doesn't work, he said, and he smokes crack.

He was being held in the county jail Friday in lieu of $11,000.

Steve Thompson covers crime in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245. His e-mail address is sthompson@sptimes.com

[Last modified May 28, 2005, 00:23:54]


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