Anne and Maurice McDaniel broke their promise to an elderly couple by taking their money and putting the elderly woman in an assisted living facility after her husband died instead of letting her live out her remaining days with them, Anne McDaniel testified Tuesday during the first day of her husband's trial.
"I feel like we're guilty," Anne McDaniel said. "We didn't live up to the promise."
The promise, she said, was to care for Mildred and Harry Edgerly, a retired couple from Michigan whom the McDaniels befriended in 1999.
The McDaniels were arrested in February 2002 after authorities accused them of bilking the Edgerlys of nearly a half-million dollars, leaving Mildred Edgerly nearly penniless after her husband's death. Both McDaniels were charged with seven criminal counts.
Anne McDaniel, 41, cut a deal with prosecutors in early 2004, pleading guilty to one count of exploitation of the elderly in exchange for testifying against her husband, who is 58. The couple are estranged and divorcing.
Maurice McDaniel now faces five criminal charges: two counts of exploitation of the elderly, two counts of grand theft of more than $100,000, and one count of organized fraud, according to court records.
Because they were married when the events in question took place, and conversations between married people are privileged under the law, Anne McDaniel's testimony Tuesday reflected only conversations that occurred when others were present.
In their opening statements Tuesday morning, the lawyers for the state and the defense painted very different pictures of the Edgerlys and their relationship to the McDaniels.
The McDaniels befriended the Edgerlys, then swindled them out of their nest egg and used the money to buy a large house, prosecutor Phil Hanson said.
While Maurice McDaniel cultivated a close relationship to the Edgerlys, even calling Mrs. Edgerly "Mom," he took their money and misrepresented his own financial situation so they would agree to build a home with him, Hanson said.
"The "big house' was built with Mildred Edgerly's money," he said.
Hanson said McDaniel would frequently quote John Wayne, telling the Edgerlys he could "buy and sell them," in order to give the impression he was wealthy.
When Mrs. Edgerly became ill and needed extensive supervision, the McDaniels put her in an unlicensed assisted living facility instead of hiring someone to care for her at home, Hanson said. The McDaniels even notified caretakers that Mrs. Edgerly should receive generic and cheap drugs because she was living off her monthly Social Security check, Hanson said.
Mrs. Edgerly died at the assisted living facility in 2000, virtually penniless, while the McDaniels lived comfortably in the five-bedroom home in a rural part of Inverness, he said.
Defense lawyer Patrick Doherty said Maurice McDaniel was the only person the Edgerlys could count on to care for them at the end of their lives.
McDaniel is the one who changed Harry Edgerly's bandages when his legs became infected, he said. McDaniel invited Mrs. Edgerly into his small, two-bedroom condominium after her husband died and gave Mrs. Edgerly his bedroom, Doherty said.
When Mrs. Edgerly became sick and had to be hospitalized, Maurice McDaniel was there for her, making sure she was cared for, he said.
The Edgerlys had no children and were in a battle over property with their next-door neighbors in Michigan: a couple who had been among their closest friends.
"If not Maurice McDaniel, who gets this money?" Doherty said.
Since Maurice McDaniel met Harry Edgerly after seeing Edgerly fall near his mailbox one day and helping him, McDaniel became the one person they could count on to come to their aid, he said.
Their reliance on Maurice McDaniel and his efforts to help them explain why the Edgerlys wanted to give McDaniel their money, he said.
When the Edgerlys drafted a new will in 1999, they hired Inverness lawyer Dan Snow. Snow became suspicious when he learned the Edgerlys had known the McDaniels for only a couple of months before making them the beneficiaries to their life savings and properties.
Snow filed a petition with the court to determine whether the Edgerlys were competent to deal with their own affairs, leading to an investigation by the Department of Children and Families.
This investigation had a devastating effect on the Edgerlys, Doherty said.
"Can you imagine living that long and having someone question whether you can be an adult?" he said.
Mrs. Edgerly was declared competent and continued to give money to the McDaniels, he said.
"No one deserved their gratitude more than him," Doherty said.
Anne McDaniel told a different story of the relationship, though. The couple deceived the Edgerlys by offering to help them and then not following through, and by persuading Mrs. Edgerly to join them in building a 4,500-square-foot home to share with them.
The McDaniels told Mrs. Edgerly they were well off financially and would share the construction costs, Anne McDaniel said. However, while the McDaniels paid about $6,000 for the plot of land, it was more than $200,000 of Mrs. Edgerly's money that paid for the construction.
The construction costs, among other purchases, swallowed up Mrs. Edgerly's savings, Anne McDaniel said. By the time Mrs. Edgerly broke her hip and was put in the assisted living facility, little of her money was left, leaving her to survive on Social Security, she said.
Snow, the Edgerlys' former lawyer; the DCF investigator; and the Edgerlys' former financial adviser also testified Tuesday about the nature of the relationship between the McDaniels and the Edgerlys.
The trial is expected to last through the week in Circuit Judge Ric Howard's courtroom.
Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 860-7312 or vansicklesptimes.com.