Crime & Courts
Convicted caretaker sentenced to 30 years
TAMPA - Jana and Don Mallory say they took in their 78-year-old neighbor and cared for the disabled woman until she died in August 2008. But a jury convicted Jana Mallory of second-degree murder and elderly abuse in the death of Peggy Albury Mehrman, who was given excessive levels of prescription medication. On Wednesday, Circuit Judge William Fuente sentenced Jana Mallory to 30 years in prison despite her protestations of innocence. For the victim’s daughter, no amount of prison time would be too much.“The only way to protect the rest of society from you is to put you behind bars for the rest of your life,” Janice Roberts told Mallory at her sentencing hearing. For the defendant’s family, the conviction and imprisonment is a horrible injustice; a wrongful punishment of an innocent woman who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression because of abuse she received in past relationships. “Jana gave Peggy very good care,” the defendant’s mother, Virginia Dail, told Fuente. And when Mehrman died, “She was just unbearably hysterical, and just very upset. You don’t get that upset if it’s someone you don’t care for.” Jana Mallory told Fuente she “loved Peggy much and I did everything I could do to take care of her. … I hope one day to get a chance to clear my name and a chance to prove that I didn’t do this.” According to prosecution evidence, in the months before she died, tens of thousands of dollars were drained from Mehrman’s bank account, although it’s not clear how much of that money Mehrman willingly gave to the Mallorys. The prosecution was able to directly connect Jana Mallory to $3,671. Defense attorney Dana Herce-Fulgueira said that amount doesn’t support the prosecution’s contention that the motive to kill Mehrman was financial. A defense expert testified during the trial, she said, that Mehrman died of heart disease, not a drug overdose. According to police investigation reports, Mehrman was so disabled she was unable to do anything for herself, including getting her own medication. Mallory told police she was the only person who gave Mehrman her medicine. A toxicology report found she had nearly 100 times the normal dose of one drug in her system when she died. A jury rejected charges of first-degree murder and aggravated elderly abuse, choosing to convict on a second-degree murder charge and a third-degree charge of elderly abuse. Under sentencing guidelines, Mallory faced a sentence of 22 years to life. The prosecution asked for a life sentence and the defense for a sentence of less than 22 years. Fuente imposed 30 years. Roberts said Mallory took advantage of her mother, stealing her money to pay her own property taxes and insurance while the bills on Mehrman’s home went unpaid. “You isolated her to keep your hands on her bank accounts,” Roberts said. “You are one of the worst, most dangerous criminals. You charm the world with a sweet smile. … You lack compassion. You prey on the most vulnerable people with no regards for others. You seem to think you can take anything you want. “You took my mother’s life, my heart, my best friend. She was nothing to you but a checkbook.”
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