People v. Chenoweth, 116898.

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtJustice FREEMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Citation25 N.E.3d 612
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant, v. Barbara J. CHENOWETH, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 116898.,116898.
Decision Date23 January 2015

25 N.E.3d 612

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant
Barbara J. CHENOWETH, Appellee.

No. 116898.

Supreme Court of Illinois.

Jan. 23, 2015.

25 N.E.3d 613

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Springfield, and Jonathan H. Barnard,

25 N.E.3d 614

State's Attorney, of Quincy (Carolyn E. Shapiro, Solicitor General, and Michael M. Glick and Drew Meyer, Assistant Attorneys General, of Chicago, of counsel), for the People.

Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Jacqueline L. Bullard, Deputy Defender, and Janieen R. Tarrance, Assistant Appellate Defender, of the Office of the State Appellate Defender, of Springfield, for appellee.


Justice FREEMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Adams County, defendant, Barbara J. Chenoweth, was convicted of financial exploitation of an elderly person (720 ILCS 5/16–1.3(a) (West 2004)) and sentenced to four years' probation and ordered to pay $32,266 in restitution. A divided panel of the appellate court vacated the conviction, holding that the extended period of limitations (720 ILCS 5/3–6(a)(2) (West 2004)) had expired prior to her prosecution. 2013 IL App (4th) 120334, 375 Ill.Dec. 202, 996 N.E.2d 1258. This court allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010). We now reverse the judgment of the appellate court and remand the cause to that court for disposition.


¶ 3 The victim, Ella Stathakis, was born in 1928. Defendant was the daughter of Ella's husband and is Ella's stepdaughter. In 2003, Ella's husband died. In March 2003, Ella granted property power of attorney to defendant. In June 2004, Ella moved from her home of 25 years to the Sycamore Nursing Home, both of which are located in Quincy. Sometime after her move, Ella directed defendant to sell the house. In March 2005, defendant sold Ella's house and deposited some of the proceeds of the sale in Ella's checking account with Bank of America.

¶ 4 In September 2008, Ella granted property power of attorney to the West Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging in the person of Director Lynn Niewohner. In October 2008, agency employees contacted Detective Thomas Liesen, the elder-services officer with the Quincy police department. They informed him that money from the March 2005 sale of Ella's house was missing.

¶ 5 Detective Liesen testified at the preliminary hearing as follows. On October 15, 2008, he interviewed Ella at her nursing home. Ella, then 80 years old, could not see or hear well and required assistance to walk, but she could understand and verbally communicate. According to Detective Liesen, “[Ella] was wondering where the funds went from the sale of her home, wanted to know where it went. She had never been told, and she just wanted to know where it was.” According to Detective Liesen, “she had no actual knowledge at that time how the funds out of her account had been spent, whether it was lawfully or unlawfully.” He “had no real information as to whether the expenditures of [defendant] or the withdrawals from * * * Ella's account were lawful or unlawful.” Detective Liesen further testified: “[Ella] didn't know the nature of the transactions. I didn't ask her whether these transactions were authorized or not until after I received the information from the subpoena.”

¶ 6 Two days after interviewing Ella, Detective Liesen caused a subpoena to issue for Ella's Bank of America checking account records from December 2004 through July 2005. He received the records in the mail on December 2, 2008, and began to analyze them, creating a spreadsheet

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to track what he believed to be suspicious payments. Liesen regarded as suspicious checks payable to “cash,” checks payable to Mark Twain Casino, a check payable to the utility company for defendant's address, and a check payable to the telephone company for defendant's daughter's telephone.

¶ 7 The bank records also indicated that defendant presented several checks for deposit in Ella's checking account, but retained substantial portions of each check in cash and deposited only the remainder. For example, in March 2005, defendant presented for deposit a check for $44,007.75, which constituted the proceeds from the sale of Ella's house. However, defendant actually deposited only $34,007.75. Of the $10,000 defendant retained, she obtained a cashier's check payable to a local automobile dealer for $4,000 to purchase a car for her daughter Christina Shannon. Also, some of these partially deposited checks were drawn on a line of credit provided by Beneficial Corporation to fund renovations to Ella's house. At the time of Detective Liesen's investigation, the Beneficial loan was in default and the subject of debt-collection efforts.

¶ 8 On December 5, 2008, Detective Liesen again spoke with Ella at her nursing home. Ella stated that she had not given defendant permission to use her funds to make payments to a casino, or for cash, or for Shannon's car. Ella stated that her money was to be used only to pay her own bills.

¶ 9 Detective Liesen subsequently interviewed defendant. Shannon was also present. Defendant stated as follows. She gave some of the cash from Ella's account directly to Ella. Defendant also used cash from the account to buy Ella food and clothes, maintain Ella's house, and pay Ella's bills and loans. She used $10,000 of the proceeds of the house sale to repay those who helped to get the house ready for sale and to pay individuals for what they had done for Ella, including herself and Shannon. Defendant acknowledged that she obtained a cashier's check drawn on Ella's account to buy Shannon a car “for everything that she had done for Ella.” Defendant did not specify what Shannon had done to earn that $4,000.

¶ 10 Shortly thereafter, Detective Liesen interviewed the buyers of Ella's house, Amanda Phillips and her mother, Jeanette Phillips. They stated not only that very little had been done to renovate the house prior to sale, but also that the house had not even been cleaned. Liesen also contacted Beneficial Corporation, which referred him to the firm handling the debt collection on the defaulted home-improvement loan.

¶ 11 Pursuant to standard procedure, Detective Liesen then prepared an initial report detailing his investigation. Liesen forwarded the report to his sergeant for review. The sergeant then sent Liesen's report to the Adams County State's Attorney, who received it on January 22, 2009.

¶ 12 Liesen thereafter continued his investigation, subpoenaing defendant's and Shannon's checking account records, in addition to the records of the Beneficial loan. He submitted a supplemental report in March 2009. In December 2009, Detective Liesen testified regarding the case before a grand jury.

¶ 13 On December 21, 2009, the State filed a three-count indictment charging defendant with financial exploitation of an elderly person. All counts charged that defendant committed the offense between December 2004 and July 2005, with each count alleging that defendant had misappropriated a different amount of money.

¶ 14 Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment. She contended that the

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State did not commence prosecution within the standard three-year period of limitations (720 ILCS 5/3–5(b) (West 2004)), and that the indictment failed to allege any circumstances that would have placed the indictment within the one-year extended limitations period provided by section 3–6(a)(2) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/3–6(a)(2) (West 2004)). The State filed a motion that sought leave to file an information alleging why the extended statute of limitations had not expired, and to dismiss the indictment upon filing of the information. The circuit court granted the State's motion. The State filed an information charging defendant with the same three counts alleged in the indictment. Additionally, each count alleged that the one-year extended limitations period provided by section 3–6(a)(2) had not expired because defendant was indicted on the same charge on December 21, 2009, which was within one year of January 22, 2009, when the investigative file was referred to the Adams County State's Attorney and he thereby became aware of the offense.

¶ 15 Defendant moved to dismiss the information, contending that the State filed the charges after the extended limitations period had expired. The circuit court disagreed and denied defendant's motion to dismiss. The court found that the extended limitations period commenced on January 22, 2009, when the police report was delivered to the Adams County State's Attorney, and defendant was indicted within one year of that date.

¶ 16 Defendant waived her right to a jury trial. At the conclusion of defendant's bench trial, the circuit court found defendant guilty of financial exploitation of an elderly person. The court denied defendant's posttrial motions and entered judgment on the most serious charge. The court sentenced defendant to four years' probation and ordered her to pay $32,266 in restitution.

¶ 17 On appeal, defendant argued, inter alia, that her...

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  • People v. Casas, Docket No. 120797
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 5 Diciembre 2017 de novo because the construction of a statute is a question of law. People v. Chenoweth , 2015 IL 116898, ¶ 20, 388 Ill.Dec. 920, 25 N.E.3d 612 ; People v. Gutman , 2011 IL 110338, ¶ 12, 355 Ill.Dec. 207, 959 N.E.2d 621. ¶ 18 The principles guiding our analysis are well established. The ......
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