A woman charged with the murder of a 74-year-old El Cajon man posed as his niece to hospital officials and authorized that he be taken off life support without notifying his immediate family members, according to preliminary hearing testimony Thursday.
Shirley Montano, 52, is accused in the Oct. 7, 2016, death of Robert Chagas, who lived with Montano in the years prior to his death.
Montano additionally is charged with elder abuse and identity theft in relation to Chagas, and also faces charges of kidnapping, false imprisonment, elder abuse and perjury in relation to a woman Montano allegedly held captive in a City Heights apartment for several years.
Montano is accused of collecting and spending the woman’s Social Security benefits while she was imprisoned within the apartment.
Chagas fell ill while allegedly in Montano’s care and was taken to Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, where he died five days later. Deputy District Attorney Rebecca Zipp declined to comment on how specifically Montano is accused of causing Chagas’ death.
The victim’s family members, which included his brother, sister-in-law and niece, testified Thursday that they were only informed of his hospitalization after he died. They were told that a woman claiming to be his niece brought him to the hospital. The woman, later identified as Montano, told family members that Chagas did not want them informed of his hospitalization, according to testimony.
Linda Long, a registered nurse at Sharp Memorial testified that Montano, who was the only listed family member contact for Chagas, was “adamant” that Chagas did not wish to be resuscitated in the event that he was near death.
Long testified that Montano told her that she had informed the family of his condition and they wanted to know how much longer he had to live. Though the family was aware Chagas lived with her, they testified that they barely knew her.
Chagas’ brother, Richard, testified that he was “slow,” possibly due to an accident that occurred at childbirth. Chagas was described as susceptible to being scammed and had lost exorbitant amounts of money to fraudsters in the past, leading family members to take an active role in assisting him with taxes and paying bills.
Montano previously pleaded guilty to an elder abuse count in relation to her one-time neighbor, Lorraine Vega, who Montano began caring for in early 2016.
Police took notice of Montano’s relationship with the woman when Vega’s daughter informed them that larger-than-usual amounts of money were being withdrawn from her bank account.
The wheelchair-bound Vega later told police that Montano was canceling her doctor’s appointments and keeping her from using her phone or purse.
Montano told police that she was using Vega’s credit card to shop for groceries and Vega’s medication, as well as pay contractors to maintain a nearby rental property that Vega owned.
The preliminary hearing will continue Friday, and is expected to last into the middle of next week.
–City News Service
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