SANDY, Ore. -- Viola Wharton had enough money put away to live on after her husband passed away. At 79, she had enough money to pay the bills, pay taxes and keep the lights on.
That was, until her ex-daughter-in-law Jacki Lynn Newman showed up about two years ago.
“She didn't have no place to go,” Wharton said. “She was living in a car. So I said 'well you can come stay with me.' Well the staying - I thought it was gonna be a week and she was so good and nice to me, which is weird, that she just kept on staying here you know? I didn't think nothing about it.”
Sheriff's investigators believe Newman's smiles hid something sinister. They suspect she slowly took every dime Wharton had.
Cody Giusto grew up next door to Wharton and handled her home insurance. Over the summer, Giusto started wondering if something was wrong. Newman (photo at right) started making up excuses to keep Giusto from talking to Wharton, he said.
When Wharton's insurance was canceled because of non-payment, Giusto went up on the porch at Wharton's home, shoved past Newman, and told Wharton what was going on.
Giusto says Wharton couldn’t believe it. “She's like 'I have plenty of money. I have 12-thousand dollars. My checkbook's balanced.' But her Internet's shut off. Well, she wasn't letting her have internet. She couldn't log into her bank. Her passwords were all changed for some weird reason.”
Wharton can’t understand how the woman who she fed and sheltered for two years, somehow took advantage of her.
“I thought I was smart enough not to let something like that happen to me,” Wharton said.
Newman headed for the Medford area, investigators said. Clackamas County detectives want to find her. Giusto wants Newman to answer for what's been done to Wharton.
“She's nice enough to take in her ex-daughter-in-law and yet, she gives her a place to stay, food on the table,” said Giusto. “Doing all that like any mother would do for her kid. And she is not only taking that from her but, I mean, taking everything.”
Newman is described as a 47-year-old white woman who is five-foot-three and 120 pounds. Anyone who sees Newman or knows her location is asked to call the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.