LIMA — At 66, Carol Wilcox ate rotted apples, endured beatings with a baseball bat that left her with a broken back and ribs, all to survive until she had a chance to escape.
On Oct. 15, she made her way to a Save-A-Lot where she summoned help. Her months of torture finally ended. On Thursday she got justice as the two people who held her against her will for her Social Security benefits were sent to prison.
Wilcox did not appear in court but her brother, Ralph Hall, was there asking the same question on everyone’s mind.
“I just want to know why you did that to my sister?” Hall said. “What was going through your head?”
The principal player in the crime, Dawn Reser, 46, refused to answer. Judge David Cheney pressed Reser with the same question.
“Why?” Cheney asked. “This is beyond comprehension to me. Do you have anything to say to the family? A ball bat?”
Reser didn’t respond.
Cheney told Reser the injuries to a 66-year-old woman being struck with a baseball bat are horrific and could have killed her.
“Had that occurred to you at all?” Cheney said.
The judge called her behavior “not impulsive, it is calculated, planned and carried out.”
Cheney sent Reser to prison for six years on the charge of felonious assault. Reser’s codefendant, William Sheets, 57, was sent to prison for four years.
Assistant Allen County Prosecutor Tony Miller said the facts of the case were horrific.
“Simply evil,” Miller said.
Wilcox was so malnourished she lost 55 pounds. She was forced to go to the bathroom outside, Miller said.
“In some instances, she was treated worse than some people treat their dogs,” Miller said.
Sheets and Reser kept Wilcox at a home at 1118 Atlantic Ave. Sheets was on Social Security. The two were using Wilcox’s Social Security benefits each month for nearly five months that prosecutors know of — and possibly more than a year, Miller said.
Elysia Bush, an elder abuse social worker for Crime Victim Services, said this is the worst case she has seen. She said Sheets and Reser used Wilcox’s loving personality to take advantage of her.
“I think it’s that vulnerability and caring that she has that took her guard off enough she became a victim,” Bush said.
Bush said the exploitation of elder people is more common than people think, with one in 10 elders affected. She said they may be neglected, abused or exploited for financial reasons. She urges people to check on their elder neighbors and report any problems to authorities.