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Pasco couple sentenced to 10 years for stealing elderly woman's home

NEW PORT RICHEY — For four years, Eloise Mudway has waited for justice for the people who promised to be her caregivers but ended up mistreating her and stealing her home.

On Thursday, the 92-year-old woman watched as a judge sent them to prison for 10 years.

Joseph and Cynthia Clancy, convicted last month of grand theft of a person 65 or older, also were ordered to transfer ownership of the Hilltop Drive home back to Mudway.

That house was the center of the dispute between Mudway and her onetime friends. Cynthia Clancy, who used to work in Mudway's doctor's office, befriended the elderly widow. In 2001, she and her husband Joseph moved in, allowed to live there for free on the promise they took care of Mudway in her old age.

But the relationship went bad.

"I stayed in my room most of the time," Mudway testified on Thursday.

"I was not allowed to have company. It was like I was in prison."

Mudway has said that, for a time, the couple fed her nothing but bologna sandwiches and pickle loaf, and made her do their laundry and wait on them. At one point the Clancys even charged her rent to stay in her own home, prosecutors said.

In 2004, Mudway signed papers transferring the ownership of her 5-acre homestead, then worth $370,000, to the Clancys. Mudway testified last month that she didn't know what the paperwork was.

The defense contended that Mudway knowingly transferred the deed after asking the Clancys for help in refinancing the property, which was heading toward foreclosure.

After she fell ill and had to be hospitalized, the Clancys sent Mudway to live elsewhere while they stayed in her house, authorities said. Mudway said the couple also burned through her bank accounts.

State wanted 30 years

Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis asked for the maximum sentence of 30 years, hoping the Clancys' punishment might deter others from committing elder abuse.

The Clancys' public defenders wanted something much less harsh. Numerous friends and family members testified about what hardworking, caring people they are.

Friend Angela Littlefield said when she visited the Clancys, they were always kind and respectful to Mudway.

The Clancys, dressed in orange and white jail jumpsuits, also took the stand.

Cynthia Clancy, 47, choked up as she spoke of her poor choices.

"I tried to help a friend," she said.

"Should I have made better decisions? Probably. Should I have handled things differently? Absolutely."

Joseph Clancy, 56, said he never wanted Mudway's house.

It's still unclear what will become of the property, which went into foreclosure and is in disrepair.

Because of the debt on it, Cynthia Clancy's attorney speculated that by transferring the deed back to Mudway, the mortgage holder could call the debt due.

Nevertheless, Circuit Judge Shawn Crane ordered it back to Mudway, calling that the right thing to do.

As the hearing — and the protracted case — finally concluded, Halkitis tapped Mudway on the arm and told her, "You won't be seeing them for a while."

"Oh, thank God," she replied.

Pasco couple sentenced to 10 years for stealing elderly woman's home 10/22/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 22, 2009 8:57pm]
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