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Son says father befriended seniors

Maurice McDaniel's friendship with Mildred and Harry Edgerly was just one of many close relationships McDaniel built with elderly people over the years, his son, Maurice McDaniel Jr., testified Thursday.

From the time McDaniel Jr. was a boy, his father befriended older people, often bringing them into the McDaniels' network of family, McDaniel Jr. said.

Both of his father's parents died years ago, he said, and his father had sincere bonds with many elderly people, including Mildred and Harry Edgerly, treating them as he did his parents.

With the Edgerlys, particularly with Mrs. Edgerly, that close affection was returned, McDaniel Jr. said.

"Her and Dad were always real close," McDaniel Jr., a 34-year-old sheriff's deputy, said. "She treated him like a son."

On the third day of Maurice McDaniel's trial, the testimony continued to focus on the relationship between two couples: Maurice and Anne McDaniel, and Harry and Mildred Edgerly.

According to the state, the McDaniels took advantage of the Edgerlys, cultivating a close relationship with them, then taking their money to build a large home and leaving Mrs. Edgerly to die alone in an assisted-living facility.

The defense says Maurice McDaniel truly loved the Edgerlys, taking care of them when no one else would and helping protect their money from the Edgerlys' former neighbors in Michigan.

McDaniel is accused of stealing about $450,000 from the Edgerlys and using some of the money to build a five-bedroom home in rural Inverness, complete with a three-car garage and marble bathrooms.

McDaniel faces five criminal counts: two counts of exploitation of the elderly, two counts of grand theft and one count of fraud, according to court records. McDaniel decided not to testify in the case, he told Judge Ric Howard on Thursday afternoon.

McDaniel's wife, Anne, testified against her estranged husband earlier in the week.

In her testimony she said the couple broke their promises to the Edgerlys by taking their money and leaving Mrs. Edgerly, then 87, in an assisted-living facility to live out her final days, while the McDaniels lived comfortably in a house that was built with Mrs. Edgerly's life savings.

Caregivers from the private facility where Mrs. Edgerly died testified Thursday morning, telling the jury about the last month of Mrs. Edgerly's life.

Amanda Wagner, a caregiver and the last person to see Mrs. Edgerly alive, remembered Mrs. Edgerly as a quiet woman who mostly spent her days watching television.

Mrs. Edgerly spent more than a month at the private facility, and the McDaniels came to see her a few times, Wagner said. Maurice McDaniel's visits lasted about 15-20 minutes, she said.

Mrs. Edgerly had everything she needed, Wagner said, but Wagner saw little reason why Mrs. Edgerly couldn't have lived with the McDaniels at their new home instead of staying at the facility.

On the night Mrs. Edgerly died, Wagner called Anne McDaniel and told her Mrs. Edgerly had trouble breathing. Anne McDaniel told Wagner to give Mrs. Edgerly a breathing treatment and said they would take her to the hospital the next day if necessary.

Wagner did as she was told, she said. When she came in to check on Mrs. Edgerly the next morning, she said, Mrs. Edgerly was dead.

Defense lawyer Patrick Doherty said the McDaniels provided for Mrs. Edgerly when she had no one else. They placed her in the facility because it offered the round-the-clock care she needed, he said.

Mrs. Edgerly's final days were yet another example of the McDaniels' attempts to care for her, he said.

The relationship between the McDaniels and the Edgerlys began early in 1999.

Shortly after they met, the Edgerlys changed their will, giving Maurice McDaniel power of attorney over their affairs and leaving him their considerable financial reserves after their deaths.

After Harry Edgerly died, Mrs. Edgerly also gave the McDaniels more than $200,000, money the McDaniels used to build a new home.

Prosecutor Phil Hanson argued the Edgerlys weren't capable of making sound financial decisions at that point in their lives and were influenced by Maurice McDaniel.

The witnesses called by the defense Thursday afternoon, including Maurice McDaniel's son, Anne McDaniel's mother, and Michael Kovach, the lawyer who prepared the Edgerlys' final will, testified Mrs. Edgerly was a smart, opinionated woman.

She seemed quite capable of handling her affairs, they all said, and a judge had declared her competent, too.

Kovach, an Inverness lawyer and longtime friend of McDaniel, prepared the Edgerlys' will, which gave most of their money to McDaniel after their deaths.

Kovach first met the Edgerlys when they asked him to draw up a will, he said. Maurice McDaniel drove the Edgerlys to Kovach's office and waited in another room as the Edgerlys and Kovach drafted a will that gave everything to Maurice McDaniel, Kovach said.

Kovach had represented McDaniel over the years and knew him socially, he said. His relationship with McDaniel didn't cloud his representation of the Edgerlys, he said.

Nearly everyone in a small community is connected in some way, Kovach said, and he didn't know the Edgerlys had already deeded their house over to McDaniel when they came to him.

When he asked the Edgerlys why they chose to give their money to McDaniel, they said, "Because he's taking care of us. He's doing what we want done," he said they told him.

"They didn't have anybody else they wanted to leave it to," Kovach said.

Kovach called the claims that Mrs. Edgerly was unable to make her own financial decisions "preposterous."

After Mrs. Edgerly learned her competence was in question, "she was spitting mad," Kovach said.

Others also testified to Mrs. Edgerly's intelligence.

Anne McDaniel's mother, Evelyn Patti, took Mrs. Edgerly out to social events, she said, including a dinner at the Republican Club. Although Mrs. Edgerly had some difficulty walking on her own, she was a feisty, opinionated woman who always looked well-kept, Patti said.

Patti paid for Mrs. Edgerly's dinner at the club, she said, because she thought Mrs. Edgerly had no money.

The McDaniels never told Patti that Mrs. Edgerly gave them hundreds of thousands of dollars, she said.

"I never thought she had that much money _ it's hard to believe," Patti said.

Closing arguments are set to begin today in Judge Howard's courtroom.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 860-7312 or vansicklesptimes.com.

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