Sonora woman jailed for elder abuse

August 22, 2002 12:00 am

By AMY LINDBLOM

A Sonora woman was sentenced Tuesday to one year in the county jail for swindling a home from a 101-year-old Jamestown woman she cared for.

Judith Laquita Hazeltine, a month shy of her 71st birthday, was found guilty by a Tuolumne County jury in July of one felony count of elder abuse by a caregiver. The maximum sentence Hazeltine could have faced was four years in state prison.

Hazeltine continues to maintain her innocence. She says she cared for Ruby Loving in a way Loving's own family did not, and in return, Loving deeded a house over to Hazeltine as payment for her services.

The jury, however, sided with Tuolumne County Deputy District Attorney Eric Hovatter who said Hazeltine coerced Loving into turning the home over and that Hazeltine took advantage of her caregiver position.

During the trial, jurors learned that within hours of Loving signing over the house deed to Hazeltine, Loving was taken to Sonora Community Hospital Long-term Care where she was admitted and still resides.

While waiting for the sentencing hearing Tuesday morning, Hazeltine gave her version of the damaging testimony that convinced a jury she swindled Loving.

"She (Loving) had asked for a particular bed in Long-term Care and told the hospital to call her as soon as it became available," Hazeltine said. "This was three months before she gave me the house. The call from the hospital came within an hour of us going down to turn over the house. You cannot just walk into a facility and have someone committed. It was all prearranged by her doctor and Ruby."

Hazeltine called the timing of the call an unfortunate coincidence.

Because of her frail condition, Loving, now 103, testified at the trial via videotape from her hospital room. She said Hazeltine was "on her" (Loving) until she caved in and turned the property over to her.