An elderly Los Angeles woman, long believed by neighbors to be dead, was found alive but seemingly abandoned in a Maine shack in 2012.
The Los Angeles Times recently reported the strange tale of Sarah Cheiker, who disappeared from her neighborhood under suspicious circumstances in 2008.
Maine police found 89-year-old Cheiker living in an old cabin in the rural, coastal town of Edgecomb in 2012. They had no idea where she came from or how she got there.
“It was a place I wouldn't have let my dog live in,” said Detective Robert McFetridge of the sheriff's department in Lincoln County, Maine.
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“I think they were hoping she'd expire and it would be called an unattended death,” he said of the people who left her there.
There was no fresh food in the cabin and the home’s only lightbulb had burned out.
When investigators began looking into the woman’s history they came across a missing person report from Los Angeles. The information from the report was turned over to the FBI and an agent from Boston eventually called Cheiker’s former neighbor, Jim Caccavo, the man who filed the 2008 report.
“I was shocked. We figured she was dead,” Caccavo, who still lives in the Los Angeles neighborhood, said of the call.
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He told The Associated Press that in 2006 Cheiker was befriended by a family of three who began caring for her, taking her to doctor appointments and providing rides to the grocery store.
He said he was always suspicious of the family’s motives and told Cheiker to be careful.
Then “all of a sudden, Sarah disappeared,” Caccavo said. That was in 2008.
The following year, a living trust bearing Cheiker’s name sold her house for $712,000.
Investigators were eventually able to piece together that the the family who befriended Cheiker had sold her home and moved east across the country with her; buying property and spending the proceeds from the home sale along the way.
The family, 41-year-old twins and their 21-year-old godson, were eventually arrested on felony charges of endangering the welfare of a dependent person once Cheiker was discovered in the cabin.
The twins, Barbara Davis and Nicholas Davis, and Jonathan Stevens, the godson, pleaded no contest to the charges and received probation, according to court records.
Andrew Wright, the prosecutor for the case in Maine, said he had seen people take advantage of the elderly before but Cheiker’s case was exceptional.
“I've seen things that were egregious, but I'd never seen a person taken across the country, stripped of their assets and left to die,” Wright said.
Nicholas Davis’ attorney, Derrick Banda, said his client never abandoned Cheiker.
“They were checking on her and bringing her food every day,” Banda said. “My client's position was she didn't like the noise from a lot of company visiting them that summer so they put her up in a seasonal rental cabin. Somebody called the local authorities: It was the nosy-neighbor syndrome.”
Cheiker now lives in a nursing home in Fryeburg, Maine. She is under state guardianship and authorities refused to grant reporters access to her for interviews.
Caccavo, however, did visit her during a recent trip to the East Coast.
“Sarah told me she definitely did not sell her house,” he said. “She was still angry and feisty.”