Home nursing aide going on trial in death of Shores patient
Gina Albrecht, the Vero Highlands woman accused of swindling 81-year-old Marbrisa resident George May then leaving him to starve to death in late October 2012, will face a jury next week on multiple charges, including the manslaughter of her former patient.
Albrecht was assigned Certified Nursing Assistant duties in May’s home via a home-health agency in June 2011 after May’s wife died and he became unable to care for himself without assistance due to the onset of dementia.
Court documents say that the 37-year-old Albrecht gained May’s trust, kindled a romantic relationship with the man and moved her family into his Shores home – even pawning her husband Ryan off as a butler.
Prosecutors will try to convince a jury that Albrecht gradually took control of May’s finances, spent all his liquid assets estimated at more than $200,000, secured her inheritance of his home and his life insurance proceeds via a new will, then moved out of the Marbrisa home and left May to die in his bed.
The case has been postponed several times until this spring, Judge Robert Pegg instructed attorneys to be ready to go to trial on July 20. Defense attorney Bobby Guttridge had requested one more continuance in the case, but last Friday Guttridge withdrew that motion.
Guttridge is a partner in the law firm of Sullivan and Sullivan, and shares an office suite with Chuck Sullivan Jr. and with Charles Sullivan Sr., who was arrested two weeks ago on charges of sexual battery.
The allegations were made by a secretary who worked, in part, for Guttridge, and in part for Sullivan Jr., who represented Albrecht in matters related to the May case. When asked if the secretary’s departure contributed to his need to ask for the continuance, Guttridge said no, that it was simply a matter of witnesses being unavailable.
“I wouldn’t let something like that (the loss of a secretary due to allegations against Sullivan Sr.) interfere with my work,” Guttridge said, adding that the situation naturally makes preparing for trial more difficult. “It’s a big, huge case. It’s document-intensive,” he said.
“My client wants to get the trial done, it’s taken a long time and we want to get the trial behind us,” Guttridge said.
On Tuesday of this week, before the actual start of the trial, attorneys were scheduled to call three witnesses for testimony and cross-examination in the courtroom before Judge Pegg. Their testimony was to be videotaped to be played during the trial to the jury.
Guttridge said he planned to call two case workers from the Florida Department of Children and Families, who had been summoned to assess the situation in the home. The DCF case was cleared, and those witnesses, he said, are expected to present testimony favorable to Albrecht. “If not, I wouldn’t put them on the stand,” Guttridge said.
Assistant State Attorney Lev Evans, who heads up State Attorney Bruce Colton’s major economic crimes division, said his colleague Assistant State Attorney David Dodd planned to call a neighbor of Gina and Ryan Albrecht from the Vero Highlands, where the couple lived with their two young daughters.
Court records show neighbors told investigators that the Albrechts held numerous “tag sales” which may have involved furniture, dishware and other household items taken from May’s home.
Then this coming Monday, Guttridge and prosecutors Evans and Dodd will proceed with jury selection. Pegg has ordered 60 potential jurors to appear Monday and 60 more Tuesday, but if the process is completed on Monday, the parties will take Tuesday off and begin with opening arguments on Wednesday morning.
The state will present its case against Albrecht first, with plans to wrap up on Friday afternoon or Monday morning. Indian River Shores Public Safety officers, including the Shores’ only investigator, Det. Shawn Hoyt, are expected to figure prominently in the case for the prosecution.
Town Manager Robbie Stabe was the Shores’ chief law enforcement officer at the time of May’s death as Public Safety Chief. Indian River Sheriff’s Office detectives also worked the investigation as Albrecht is a county resident, and events that allegedly took place at her residence play a role in the state’s case. The investigation spanned six months after May’s death before Albrecht was arrested in May 2013.
After the prosecution rests, Guttridge will present the defense, which is expected to take several days, followed by any rebuttal witnesses and closing statements. The jury is expected to be sent to deliberate toward the end of the second week.