Lachs & Pillemer (2015) state that there are five primary forms of elder abuse including physical, verbal or psychological, sexual, financial or neglect. Of these, Melissa Ann inflicted physical, psychological and financial abuse to her partners. She was physically abusive in spite of the advanced age of her partners. She fought with her elderly husband, Rusell Shepard, on several occasions before the police finally intervened. After their divorce, she married Stewart whom she incapacitated for a long time by drugging using benzodiazepine. This weakened his ability to fend her off and made him vulnerable to her predatory attacks. In addition to this, Melissa also caused a lot of damage when she ran over Stewart with a car. This action was the height of physical abuse against him because he ended up dying on the spot. Melissa stated in her interview that she was desperate to get away from Stewart, showing that she had acted out of anger and frustration, and had taken it out on her husband with a fatal outcome. Her attempt to get away went overboard because she knocked Stewart down and ran over his body with the vehicle a second time.
Melissas husbands all suffered psychological and emotional abuse at her hands, especially through the use of words that causes emotional anguish for the elderly persons and drugs that cause mental infirmity. Melissa administered controlled doses of benzodiazepines to all her unwitting husbands. This drug is a psychogenic agent that depresses the mental faculties, and is usually administered under the prescription of a physician. The use of the drug became a pattern in her marriage because all her husbands, in one way or another, suffered from blurred vision, difficulty in walking and others even collapsed on several occasions and ended up in the hospital. A good example is in her marital arrangement with Alexander Strategos, whom she visited unannounced, stayed the night and subsequently moved in. However, during her stay with Strategos, he suffered a lot mentally. He kept having a blurred vision and collapsed frequently. He recounted that he remembered Melissa giving him ice-cream every night and then the blurred visions would start. Furthermore, when his sons started intervening in the case, Melissa had Strategos hand over his power of attorney to her. After a while, she had him transferred to an elderly persons home for caring. This brought a lot of anguish to Strategos who realized that he had signed over his fate to Melissa and was therefore living at her mercy.
Throughout her marriages, Melissa also demonstrated a lot of financial exploitation of her elderly husbands. To some extent, it became even clear that she had been targeting old men who had some fortune. Her marriage to Friedrich left her as the sole beneficiary after he changed his will in her favor. In addition to this, despite his sons court battles to get back their fathers wealth they did not succeed. She also exploited her third husband, Strategos. After she had acquired the powers of attorney, she tried to sign over his condo in her name. Strategos son, Dean, claims that she took off with money amounting to 18,000 dollars from his father, which was all his life savings.
Describe family dynamics
Melissa seems to select elderly people whose family dynamics create vulnerability to exploitation due to lack of a solid support structure. While each family is different by their member composition, income, beliefs and way of life, Melissas victims had the unique characteristic of having few and weak connections to loved ones, yet enjoyed significant economic resources. Even with the expanded definition by Rydell (2013) to include divorced parents and others with step-families or separated parents as part of the family, Melissas victims still lacked a trusted family member to watch over them and counsel or raise the alarm in case of abuse. The only exceptions were for Strategos and Friedrich, who had sons that intervened. However, given that these sons did not stay with them and also did not always keep in touch, the intervention was occasionally too late, and the victims had endured psychological, emotional, physical and financial abuse.
Describe the account of perpetrators
Elderly abuse can be orchestrated by any member of their family including their children, spouses or even caregivers from outside the family. In the case of Melissa Ann Shepard, she was the perpetrator of the abuses meted out against her husbands. In her interview with The Fifth Estate, she recounts her marriages with the different parties and their subsequent deaths. Her second husband, Gordon Stewart, whom she married in 1992, died as a result of her running him over with a car. Melissa described her marriage to Stewart as an abusive relationship that led to him raping her and in self-defense and the heat of the passion; she retaliated by running over him with a car. She, however, did not agree that she had a motive for killing him but that she ran over him in a bid to get away from him. Her account is less convincing as Stewart had been heavily drugged and hence incapable of committing such acts. However, Melissa maintains her story by saying that she ran over him twice, and that the second time was also not intentional as she thought that she had hit a log and not Stewart.
Describe how long it went on before detection and how it was discovered
Melissas first marriage was in 1970 to Russell Shepard but ended in divorce. Since then, she married four other different husbands between 1992 and 2012 (Mellor, 2012). Her misfortune with husbands continued after her divorce with her first husband. Melissa ran over her second husband in 1992 after a supposed rape and in her bid to escape from him. She was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison but only served two because of her virtuous conduct. Her third husband, Robert Friedrich also died after marrying her in 2000 due to a drug overdose after being continually in and out of drugs administered by Melissa. His death left her with his estate to use at her disposal despite challenges in court by the deceaseds sons. The sons also went to court suspecting Melissas involvement in their fathers death, but there was insufficient evidence to support their claim.
In 2005, she married another man, Alexander Strategos in Florida who she met through online dating. However, soon after their marriage, Alexander started having blurred visions and collapsed a couple of times ending up in the hospital. His son, Dean, suspected foul play and also found traces of benzodiazepine drugs in his fathers laboratory results which were not part of his prescribed drugs. In addition to this, his fathers bank account started running out. Alexander soon got admitted to a nursing home, and the court sentenced Melissa to five years in prison for other charges including grand theft and forgery. Her final victim was Fred Weeks, another survivor of her drugs, after a long time in recovery in the hospital. Fred Weeks also survived two murder attempts through poisoning from Melissa. Soon after Weeks recovery, the police arrested Melissa in 2012, and her pattern realized when Chief Justice Phillip Kennedy made the statement that people who have contact with this lady should be careful. In addition to this, an order was also given forbidding her from accessing the internet.
What medical treatment was necessary in the case?
Melissa, being a perpetrator of violence against her husbands had power over them because she administered drugs to them against their will. These drugs weakened their mental resolution to her advantage. For the deceased husbands, traces of the used drug, benzodiazepine, was found in their systems after their deaths. However, in the case of the two survivors Alexander and Fred Weeks, the drugs were discovered in their systems early enough. For Alexander, his son Dean was very alert and skeptical of his fathers marriage to Melissa hence the presence of benzodiazepine in his system was a call for alarm. As a result, Melissa took off knowing that Dean had blown her charade. However, the best treatment that could have been accorded to the two surviving victims was quick medical attention. In the case of Alexander, he should have seen a doctor immediately after his first episode of blurred visions and collapsing while in the presence of Melissa. The same applies to Weeks, who had a similar episode while they were on honeymoon. With the help of the owner of bed and breakfast, they should have seen a doctor immediately and tried to determine the source of the drugs in his system.
Identify whether there have been any court cases associated with the defendant
The defendant, in this case, Melissa Ann, had appeared before the court on very many charges since her first marriage in 1977. The charges against her have ranged from manslaughter, forgery, grand theft to fraudulent acts. However, with relation to the death of her husband, her first arraignment in court was in 1992 on a charge of manslaughter after she ran over her husband Stewart twice with a car instantly killing him. After serving two years, she was released on parole. In 2005, another case was brought before the court following her marriage to Mr. Strategos and charged with exploitation of the elderly when she convinced Mr. Strategos through drugging, to sign over his power of attorney to her. The prosecution also charged her with fraud and forgery among other charges. She pleaded guilty to several counts and the court sentenced her to five years in prison. In 2012, she married Weeks, and after his almost near-death experience while driving after being drugged by Melissa, she was arrested again and sentenced to three years in prison.
Detail in your own words why you believe this abuse occurred
Melissa committed these acts of felony out of hubris. She wanted to obtain the money of these old men, and therefore sought to kill them subtly, leaving her as the legal guardian of the estates. This proposition is supported by the fact that she killed men to whom she was married and even tried to sign over their powers of attorney to herself. Furthermore, her acts show a willful execution of the crime. During her interview with The Fifth Estate, she states that the death of her second husband was an accident. She says that she did not mean to kill him but was trying to escape after he had raped her. However, investigations into her story proved futile after the police established that Mr. Stewart had been so drugged and incapable of committing the acts propounded by Melissa. The investigation also determined that Mr. Stewart would have still died because the level of the tranquilizer in his system was too high. In addition to this, if Mr. Stewart had indeed done as Melissa alleged, running over him twice was unwarranted. Further, after the murder, Melissa appeared in the police station to report the murder herself. In her statement, she remarks that she did not know that Mr. Stewart was there after running over him the first time as she thought that she had hit a log of wood. This story does not add up, and it is evident that Melissa killed her husband by running over him twice.
Clearly, Identify missed interventions
The first instance where an intervention occurred in Melissas marriage malpractices was to Robert Friedrich whose son Dennis Friedrich, reached out to a friend who worked with an organization, Elder Abuse Agency after suspecting Melissa and the effect he had on his father. The Agency visited Mr. Friedrichs home and made a recommendation for Friedrich to be moved to elderly peoples home to be cared for better by professionals. However, Melissa refused the suggestion bei...
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