SAN DIEGO - The attorney representing a caregiver accused of taking over the home of a 90-year-old widow told Team 10 his client had every legal right to be in the College Area house.
Lawrence Mudgett slammed a set of keys onto the defense table in courtroom C-73 downtown.
"The keys are on the table," he told the judge. "If they'll dismiss the case, they can have possession and we can all go home."
However, that didn't happen in the civil case that sparked community outrage, and led to criminal charges for 72-year old Cheryl Sherrell, a caregiver who refused to get out of the home owned by her 90-year old former employer, Fran Breslauer.
Sherrell was hired as a live-in caregiver by Breslauer, who told Team 10 she needed help with her ailing husband, Alan. Even before her husband's death in February, Breslauer said she tried to fire Sherrell with a handwritten note.
A lot happened over the next few months, as the women became hostile toward each other, according to court documents.
Both filed for restraining orders. Eventually, Sherrell left -- only to return after Breslauer went to live with a daughter out of state.
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Last month, Sherrell was arrested and charged with theft and elder abuse. She has been ordered to stay 100 yards away from the house on Prosperity Lane, even though her belongings are still inside.
Neither Sherrell nor her civil attorney would talk to Team 10 prior to her arrest. Now, Mudgett is breaking his silence.
"The only thing that's an issue anymore is the right to legal possession," said Mudgett. "We all know she's out. She's been arrested, there's a restraining order. She can't go there, so all that's left from an unlawful detainer standpoint is terminating the lease, severing the tenancy, forfeiting the agreement. That's all that is at issue."
Mudgett claims the employment agreement the women signed for Sherrell to be a live-in elder helper is actually a lease, because part of Sherrell's payment was room and board. Mudgett said that lease agreement was never severed in a way that satisfies the law.
Mudgett also claimed Sherrell continued to work as a caregiver to Breslauer after her husband died.
"Cheryl picked up Alan's ashes from the mortuary. She continued cooking for Fran, and laundering, doing household chores, those kinds of things for more than a month after Alan died," he said.
Sherrell's employment was clearly over when Breslauer moved out of state, so Team 10 asked why Sherrell moved back in and began renting out rooms.
"I've never argued she's a saint," Mudgett replied. "It's not necessarily the nice thing to do, but it's certainly not illegal."
While both the civil and criminal cases against Sherrell move forward, Breslauer still can't take possession of her house of 60 years because Sherrell's belongings are still inside.
The house is piled high with clothing, lamps, used appliances and hundreds of dollars' worth of vitamins and medications.
Fran Breslauer's daughter Jan said most of the items are Sherrell's, something Mudgett claims is false. He claims the stuff mostly belongs to Breslauer, who had begun packing it up for an estate sale.
"If all that garbage in the house is my mom's, then I wish opposing counsel would tell us that in writing and we'll just bring in the backhoe tomorrow," replied Jan Breslauer.
Sherrell is due back in court for her criminal case Nov. 17.