Family speaks out after mother becomes victim of elder abuse

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:

Duluth police said Phyllis Roberts was financially wiped out by another of her sons, Steven Lee Roberts.

DULUTH, Ga. - A local family is speaking out after their elderly mother lost her home and all her money, but died before the case ever went to trial.

The woman's son has been in the Gwinnett County Jail for nearly two years, accused of stealing nearly $400,000.

"She was devastated. She could not understand why she had to leave her home," Nan Roberts told Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh. Roberts said her mother-in-law suffered through her final days.

"She was terrorized," Fred Roberts said about his mother, Phyllis Roberts.

Duluth police said Phyllis Roberts was financially wiped out by another of her sons, Steven Lee Roberts.

Investigators said Steven Lee Roberts gave himself power of attorney, took close to $400,000 and took off to California.

"She never could comprehend that the money was gone," Nan Roberts said.

The family said she saved her entire life to afford the care required to die at home. She passed away in a nursing home.

"She kept asking, 'What's happening with my property? Can I go home? Is the money coming back?' I always had to put her at bay and say, 'Well, we're working on it,'" said Fred Roberts.

Nearly two years later, the family said delays have kept the case out of court.

Pat King of Georgia's Department of Human Services said her agency is working to change that.

"It's not that unusual a case," King said. "We are doing everything that we can to empower those who respond to the 911 calls and subsequently that will handle these cases."

Kavanaugh found DHS employees speaking to community care providers in Atlanta Thursday. They primarily train first responders and prosecutors on how to identify and promptly investigate elder abuse.

"A lot of them have had their eyes open to what these crimes really look like and how devastating it is for the individual themselves," King said.

"They should be a high priority at this stage of their lives. They worked their whole life and saved their whole lives, [and] someone comes along and takes it," Nan Roberts said.

Kavanaugh spoke to Steven Roberts' defense attorney. She said there has been no deliberate intention to stall the case and said cases cannot be rushed.

At this point, she claims they are ready to go to trial. They are just waiting on a date.

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