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Caregiver acquitted of stealing from dying Pasco man

NEW PORT RICHEY — Sharon Amberslie nursed and cared for Victor Johnson while he battled cancer until his death in September 2006 at age 63. In the meantime, authorities claimed, she was stealing his life's savings.

But earlier this month, a jury decided that wasn't the case at all.

Amberslie, 47, of Port St. Lucie, went to trial and on Oct. 8 she was found not guilty of grand theft and grand theft motor vehicle charges. Authorities also had accused her of exploitation of the elderly, but that charge was dropped before the trial.

"I think the jury was able to see through to the truth," Amberslie said in an interview this week.

She and Johnson knew each other from New York, where they were both part of a small community of Jamaican transplants in the Bronx. Their families had been friends for years.

In 2005, Johnson bought a house in Wesley Chapel's Meadow Pointe neighborhood to escape the harsh northern winters. Early the next year, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Authorities said Johnson hired Amberslie to work as his in-home nurse.

But Amberslie said she was not Johnson's paid nurse but his girlfriend. They had taken weekend trips together when he was healthy. After he got sick, she took him for cancer treatments and eventually moved from New York to be with him.

He talked about marriage, but they never wed.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office said its investigation revealed that Amberslie had transferred nearly $100,000 of Johnson's money to herself and took title to his Acura.

Amberslie said Johnson was a generous man who paid her bills and gave her money because he wanted to.

In the trial, she said, the jury was shown a paper trail proving Johnson's intent to sign his car over to her. She took the stand in her own defense.

"I told the jury about Victor's and my relationship, how I came to live with him," she said.

In the interview, she called his family greedy and said they fabricated the accusations against her so she wouldn't inherit any of Johnson's money.

But Amberslie said she never wanted it anyway.

"I know that I wasn't in (his) will, and I didn't care," she said. "I wasn't with him for the money. I was just there because I loved the man."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Caregiver acquitted of stealing from dying Pasco man 10/21/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 9:58pm]

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