Gail Louise Olson

Phoenix woman sentenced to 30 days in jail for bilking elderly man

Phoenix resident Gail Louise Olson will spend 30 days in jail and pay restitution for taking financial advantage of an elderly man she befriended for four years, a Jackson County judge decided Thursday.

Judge Lorenzo Mejia also prohibited Olson from serving as a caregiver for anyone outside her immediate family.

A jury found Olson guilty Thursday of first-degree criminal mistreatment toward the late John A. Becker of Phoenix, who gave Olson more than $110,000 in cash payments, signed over his car to her and took out a life insurance policy naming her as the beneficiary before he died in May 2012.

The verdict followed three days of often emotional testimony in court.

Olson was silent, often stoic, during the trial, but denied the charges brought against her after her sentencing.

"I loved John a lot. He was my best friend. I only did things to help him because he asked me to. He loved me like a daughter," Olson said, visibly distressed and wringing her hands behind her back.

"I don't know what to say. I didn't do anything wrong, I'm sorry. I can't admit to something I didn't do."

Becker's children John B. Becker and Sandy Becker both spoke to the courtroom through tears after the verdict was read. They said Olson's actions caused a rift in the family when members became suspicious of Olson, but their father refused to believe their concerns.

Sandy Becker said she found some comfort that her father seemed to understand what had happened in his final days.

"Things were so stressful and he was so angry for the last six to eight months, but the day he died, he had been asking for me," she said, wiping her eyes.

"I came back on Sunday and he opened his eyes and he looked at me and he reached out and grabbed my hand and he would not let go, so I knew that he knew I was there and that he loved me. ... With everything we went through as a family with the anger with Dad and the distrust, none of it was ever there until Gail came into his life."

John B. Becker spoke of regret for the time he was estranged from his father. During his testimony, Becker said the small amount of life insurance that Olson continued to try to claim — even recently — was not the family's focus.

"Unlike my sister, I don't think my dad ever did forgive me, which I guess I'll live with the rest of my life," he said. "But I'm not really a vindictive person and I don't want to see any harsh judgment really come to Gail other than I would not want to see her profit any more from what she's done.

"I also hope there's some way that she can be prevented from being a caregiver to another elderly person in the future, because what she did was obviously on purpose. And she may deny it, but I was there and I lost the last three years of a good relationship with a father who I've been close with for 60 years."

Olson's restitution will be set during a future hearing. Mejia (not the jury, as was reported in previous version) granted the defense's motion for acquittal on the second count of first-degree criminal mistreatment.

— Buffy Pollock

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