MERCER — Nadine Carson struggled to hold back tears in the courtroom Thursday as she asked Judge Daniel P. Wallace to give her stepfather’s abuser a maximum sentence.
“This past year has been very, very hard on me and my dad,” she said of Melissa Ann Miller Thursday in Mercer County Common Pleas Court. “They had him brainwashed.”
Miller, 41, formerly of Henderson Road, Shenango Township, was sentenced Thursday of charges stemming from accusations that she spent more than $6,000 of her elderly patient’s money and took his personal possessions while he was under her care.
Wallace ordered the former home health care worker to serve from 6 months to 2 years in Mercer County Jail, plus three years probation following her incarceration. She was also ordered to pay more than $40,000 in restitution.
Miller pleaded no contest last month to theft by deception.
“I look at this as a case of elder abuse,” Wallace told Miller after her attorney, Randy Hetrick, asked the judge to sentence his client to house arrest and probation. “And I am going to treat it like that, and I am going to incarcerate you.”
Hermitage police said Miller made more than $6,000 in purchases at various retail stores, restaurants, the Cleveland Air Show and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from a bank account belonging to Don Cameron, her patient and Carson’s stepfather.
Cameron is an 87-year-old veteran who served 25 years in Army intelligence. He receives about $5,000 a month in Veteran’s Affairs and Social Security benefits.
In a social media post, Carson said Melissa Miller had been her stepfather’s home health care worker and moved her family into his house, telling Cameron they were homeless. Cameron said about nine people lived in the double-wide trailer on and off, along with several animals.
Cameron said conditions in his home began to deteriorate and that the stress took a toll on his health. He had a heart attack and underwent two heart surgeries.
Police said Miller obtained Cameron’s power of attorney during his hospital stay.
Once discharged from the hospital, Cameron said he was never taken to any follow-up doctor’s appointments for chronic health issues.
Cameron said Miller dropped him off at Whispering Oaks, an independing-living community in Hermitage, claiming that his house was unsafe for him. But he was evicted from the apartments after three months for nonpayment of rent.
Miller then picked Cameron up from Whispering Oaks but did not take him home, he said. Instead, she paid a month’s rent for him at Hermitage Hills Apartments in Hermitage.
District Judge Mary Ann Odem ordered the Millers’ eviction in February 2018, and they were removed from the premises. But that didn’t mean Cameron’s problems were over.
“Our home was totally destroyed,” Carson said. “When I walked in to give them the eviction notice, I couldn’t hardly stand the smell of urine. There was garbage piled up everywhere. I just couldn’t believe it was my parents’ home they had worked so hard for, and they were totally ripped off by these parasites.”
The house was filled with trash, inside and out, Carson said, and Mercer County humane officers found five dead kittens in the deep freezer.
Carson said anything of value left in the house, including antiques, jewelry and her stepfather’s military rings, was gone when she arrived.
Miller downplayed the accusations when Wallace read her sentence, and claimed she didn’t take advantage of her former patient.
“Your honor, it was all for him,” she said.
Hetrick told the judge that Cameron actually accompanied the Millers on a number of their various restaurant trips, adding, “but she can’t really prove that.”
Miller said her husband suffers from epilepsy, and she is solely responsible for taking care of him and driving him to all of his doctor’s appointments.
After she was sentenced, Miller turned to her husband who was sitting in the gallery and mouthed, “See? I told you.”
“That’s all right,” he responded. “If anything happens to me we’re going to sue (Carson).”
Miller will be eligible for work release.