June 7, 2011
WEYERS CAVE - During his 15 years as a
prosecutor, Paul Greenwood has handled some
of the most egregious cases dealing with the
abuse and exploitation of senior citizens - from
violent crimes to financial scams.
Greenwood, a deputy district attorney in San
Diego County, Calif., spoke to about 100 police
officers, prosecutors and social workers from
throughout Virginia who gathered at Blue Ridge
Community College's Plecker Workforce Center
The lecture, sponsored by the Greater Augusta
Coalition Against Adult Abuse, was part of a
daylong course on how to investigate and
prosecute cases of “elder abuse.”
“Unfortunately, it’s being overlooked in the
country,” Greenwood said. “These are
prosecutable, provable cases. We want them to
be aggressively prosecuted…That’s our aim.”
During his presentation, Greenwood talked
about a recent case he prosecuted involving a
man who put up a booth at a San Diego home
The “contractor” duped several elderly
residents into paying for his services to
construct a sunroom. After receiving money for
the services, he completed some work but
vanished before the project was finished.
In one case, Greenwood said, the con artist
convinced one woman that she needed to store
about $11,000 worth of items in a U-Haul trailer
to get it out of the way while he worked on the
He later disappeared with her money and the
trailer full of household items.
“This happens very frequently,” he said, adding
that many victims are embarrassed and
therefore reluctant to report the crimes.
In 2010, 949 cases of substantiated financial
exploitation of the elderly were reported in
Virginia, according to the state Department of
Social Services, along with 1.917 neglect and
663 physical abuse cases.
In addition to Greenwood, Linda Matkins with
the Shenandoah Valley Department of Social
Services and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon
Burnham spoke to the group.
The Harrisonburg Police Department had three
investigators and the department’s community
resource officer at the conference.
Lt. Kurt Boshart, who oversees the criminal
investigations divisions. Said it’s important that
local law enforcement stay up-to-date on
current scams targeting the elderly, especially
with several large retirement villages in the area.
“We want to have the best, knowledgeable
people to work these cases,” Boshart said.
With the arrival of warm weather, he said police
have already received reports of several roofing
and paving scams targeting local residents.
Anne See, an elder law paralegal with the Blue
Ridge Legal Services, said the coalition has
made a concerted effort in the past year to raise
public awareness of abuse and to have
residents report potential crimes.
Now, See said, it’s time to follow through and
see that the perpetrators are adequately
“We want to make sure they get charged, so
that can get locked up and not have it happen
again,” she said.
Conference Highlights Elder Abuse
|Greater Augusta Coalition Against Adult Abuse
As for eight possible belt buckle wounds found
on Beach’s body during the autopsy, including a
bruise that covered the entire side of one arm,
Hymes was adamant that she never struck him
“Honest to God, no I didn’t,” she said.
Hymes also stated that Beach, who suffered
from dementia, was only out of her sight for
about 30 minutes before she found him
unresponsive on May 26, 2010. Later she
admitted it may have been three or four hours.
Robertson said hospital records put the gap
closer to seven hours, and said he believes
Beach was laying on the basement floor the
entire time. “Hypothermia had set in.” he said.
Robertson also said Hymes didn’t call the
rescue squad and instead drove Beach to the
A man lost
Brenda Morgan, the daughter of Beach’s sister,
said her mother grew concerned several years
ago after letters to “Uncle Russell” weren’t
answered. Morgan said her mother sent the
letters to a Staunton post office box and
assumed that Hymes, who rarely contacted the
family, was reading the letters to Beach.
“They tried to make it look like nobody cared.”
Morgan said. “But nobody could find him for
Morgan, who resides in McAllen, Texas, said a
few years ago she began using Google in an
effort to locate her uncle. She also contacted
Western State Hospital in Staunton, along with
several retirement homes, and checked with
Social Security to see if Beach had died.
“All kinds of places,” she said.
Finally her husband, Gary, who works as a
missionary in Mexican prisons, was on business
in Virginia when he met with Staunton police,
who in 2008 helped him track down the post
office box that belonged to Hymes. Gary
Morgan asked to see Beach the same day he
discovered his whereabouts. However, Hymes
put him off until the following day. But at least
the family now knew where Beach was living.
There was a second visit by Brenda Morgan’s
mother and an aunt.
“She said he was really skinny, and when he
stood up, his pants fell off,” Morgan recalled.
Still, nobody in the family suspected abuse.
On March 30, with a jury trial and a possible 20-
year prison sentence looming, Hymes pleaded
guilty to a subsection of Virginia’s abuse and
neglect statute, admitting she caused serious
injury or disease, but not Beach’s death. She
now faces a potential 10-year prison term.
Circuit Judge Humes J Franklin Jr. immediately
ordered Hymes jailed following the guilty plea.
“I think he was a prisoner,” Robertson said of
Beach. “Like he was living in a concentration
camp. It was horrible whet he had to go
Although the guilty plea reduced Hymes’
potential maximum prison term by 10 years,
Robertson said he was satisfied because
proving that Hymes caused Beach’s death could
have been problematic. The prosecutor said
sepsis, a bacterial infection, was the official
cause of death.
“A lot of things can contribute to causing
sepsis,” he said.
Asked how Hymes was faring behind bars,
defense attorney William Little said last week,
“Not good. She’s never been in jail in her life.
She’s 50 years old.”
Little said his client gave Beach good care, but
said she eventually became overwhelmed. The
defense attorney said when Hymes is
sentenced on September 6, he plans to call
about 20 character witnesses, some of them
clients that she cared for in the past.
When Jeanette Hymes first came across him,
she made his life better,” Little said.
reservations by a caseworker, signed off the
case when Beach made the decision to live with
Hymes. For years, she collected $1,400 in cash
every month from his two bank accounts where
he received a pension check and Social
Security, almost without fail taking the money
the day after it was deposited.
Darlene Stewart described her uncle as “too
trusting” and “naïve.”
It doesn’t appear that much of the money went
toward Beach’s care. Upon his death, Hymes
could only provide police investigators with
scant amounts of clothing, none of which fit
Beach, and he had been living in her dank
basement for at least several months before he
died, perhaps, even years. Beach’s emergency
room visit in May 2010 was the first time he had
seen a medical professional in three years.
Hymes Dodges and Weaves
Interviewed twice by Staunton police
investigators, transcripts show Hymes was
frustratingly evasive as she changed her story
several times and refused to answer simple yes
or no questions.
“I’m asking you,” said investigator Jeff Hylton,
“just say yes or no. Were you feeding him?”
“Wasn’t I feeding him for 15 years?” was Hymes
Asked point blank if her daughters ever helped
her take care of Beach, she replied: “Well, what
do you mean?”
Hymes told investigators different stories as she
tried to recall the events leading up to Beach’s
hospitalization. A dog had spilled coffee on his
foot, causing a burn injury that eventually led
him to falling outside on a porch when he tried
to stand. In another story, Hymes said she
found Beach unresponsive in a chair.
Police, though, had already discovered a fresh
spot of blood on the basement stairs of Hymes’
North Jefferson Street home.
Hymes also claimed Beach was mobile – despite
his crippling injuries – and said he used a
walker to get around. A search of the home
could not produce a walker, a wheelchair or
even a cane. Asked for Beach’s clothing, Hymes
collected just two pairs of pants, one with a 42-
inch waist and the other with a 36-inch waist,
neither of which came close to fitting Beach.
When queried about where Beach slept, Hymes
took investigators through a series of rooms.
First she tried to pass her room off as Beach’s,
but police said they doubted her stiry after
seeing feminine hygiene products on the
dresser. Then she showed police another room,
her son’s, where there was a picture of rapper
Tupac Shakur on the wall. Finally Hymes said
Beach slept in the den on a bed that had been
quickly removed following his hospitalization.
Police found no indentations on the carpet
indicating the recent presence of a bed, and
their probe showed that none of the furniture in
the room had been moved for some time.
Pressed by investigators, Hymes finally
confessed that Beach had been staying in the
“He wasn’t a prisoner, was he?” Hylton asked.
“No, he would go outside. I already told you. He
would walk around outside the. Didn’t II already
tell you that? Hymes said in police transcripts.
“No ma’am,” Hylton said. “The neighbors haven’t
seen him. They haven’t seen him in some time.
Had the case gone to trial, one witness for the
state would have testified that Beach slept on a
dog’s blanket in the basement near a washer
and dryer. Police also found a soiled mattress
propped on a basement wall that reeked of
urine. Robertson said Beach was living in the
basement since 2006.
In trying to explain the multiple injuries found on
Beach during an autopsy, Hymes said, “Russell
used to bump himself like this all the time.”