Puyallup woman sentenced for stealing more than $82,000 from octogenarian relative with dementia

A woman accused of taking more than $82,000 from her husband’s dementia-stricken grandfather was sentenced Wednesday to more than two years in prison.

Jessica Sellers, 37, pleaded guilty last month to four counts of first-degree theft and four counts of second-degree theft for stealing from the man, who Pierce County prosecutors said had dementia. He died in April at the age of 88.

Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff noted at sentencing that Sellers had cared for the relative for a long time without compensation, and that when she started dipping into his funds it became a slippery slope.

“This is the kind of money that people take a lifetime to accumulate,” the judge said before imposing the mid-range sentence of two years, one month. “ … She took this money, and here we are.”

Defense attorney Scott J. Terry noted that Sellers and her husband helped care for her husband’s grandfather for years. The couple declined the man’s offers to compensate them for their assistance until a 2012 car accident put Sellers’ husband out of work, and they lost their family savings.

The Sellers asked to borrow money after the accident, and the grandfather told them to take what they needed, the attorney said in a pre-sentence statement he filed with the court.

“Regretfully, Jessica recognized that she used very poor judgment in taking the funds to spend on nonessential items and expenses, such as to purchase a new car, a classic car (for her husband), purebred dogs, aquariums, landscaping for their house which was put on the market, etc.,” the attorney wrote the court.

The Sellers have repaid almost $30,000, Terry said.

Prosecutors said Sellers volunteered to have power of attorney for the grandfather in 2006, and several years ago his granddaughter found his bank account almost empty. His house sold soon after that, and Sellers told the family the sale netted $50,000 less than it did, according to charging papers.

Sellers told the court she loved the grandfather, and thought she could repay him.

“I never had any intent to deprive him or to hurt him,” she said. “ … I know I made very poor choices.”

Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268, @amkrell