Trial underway for caretaker accused of killing elderly Rancho Bernardo man

SAN DIEGO - A caretaker for an 88-year-old Rancho Bernardo man drained more than $500,000 from his bank accounts before killing him so she could carry out her plan to become independently wealthy, a prosecutor alleged Tuesday.

Denise Goodwin, 47, is charged with a dozen counts, including murder, and also faces a special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain in the death of Gerald Eugene Rabourn, who disappeared in October 2010. His body has not been found.

In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Bill Mitchell told jurors that in 2009, Goodwin stole from a man dying of brain cancer before being hired to care for Rabourn's 91-year-old wife.

Two days before Carolyn Rabourn died, Goodwin used the woman's credit card to buy a camera and software system, according to Mitchell.

Gerald Rabourn trusted the defendant and allowed her access to his bank account after she convinced him she could help him with his finances, the prosecutor said.

After that, Goodwin transferred $28,000 from Carolyn Rabourn's account to Gerald Rabourn's account, Mitchell said.

"She (Goodwin) had found her golden goose," the prosecutor said.

Defense attorney Ron Bobo told the jury that there was plenty of evidence linking Goodwin to misappropriating the victims' money, but it was a "giant leap" to suggest his client was a hardened criminal guilty of murder.

Mitchell said Gerald Rabourn was a "miser" who wanted to amass more wealth, and it was "unthinkable" that he would give away money.

Once Goodwin got her name on Gerald Rabourn's account, she changed the direct deposit so that she could gain access to his $3,000-a-month pension check, Mitchell alleged.

Many of Rabourn's signatures on documents were forged, the prosecutor said.

Goodwin signed a quitclaim deed on Rabourn's home and listed it for $381,000, and later took in the profits from the sale, Mitchell alleged.

After a neighbor complained that Rabourn might be getting ripped off, Adult Protective Services came to check on him, but the investigation was closed when he told authorities not to come to the residence anymore, Mitchell told the jury.

Rabourn's family contacts, cell phone use and financial activity came to an abrupt end after Oct. 21, 2010, he said.

The prosecutor said Mary Weaver, Rabourn's daughter from his first marriage, tried in October 2010 to persuade her father to move to the Midwest, but he said "he was planning to live with Denise and I said, 'Who is Denise?' He just went on and on about 'this wonderful person that wants to take care of me and she takes care of her mother and wants to take care of me, too and I'm going to go stay with her for a little bit.'"

Weaver asked about contact information.

"No, he didn't know her phone number, he didn't know her address, he didn't know her last name," she said.

When asked if she asked how much he had to pay for her services, Weaver said, "'Oh, she's an angel. She's not charging me anything.'"

She said she last spoke to her father on Oct. 19, 2010, but didn't report him missing until the following February, when she didn't get a birthday card from him.

A few days later, Rabourn's grandson got a call from a woman named Carmen who said "Gerry and I got married in Las Vegas," asking the family not to contact them, Mitchell said.

Later, Goodwin requested that $143,000 in Rabourn's assets be transferred into their joint account, Mitchell said.

The defendant used Rabourn's money to buy properties in Temecula, telling people she had gotten an inheritance from her father, Mitchell said.

Goodwin's plan to become independently wealthy had to involve the death of Rabourn, who died by "criminal means," Mitchell said.

Goodwin was arrested in July 2011 as she boarded a plane for a European vacation. If convicted, she faces life in prison without parole. Her trial is expected to last up to two months.

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