SAN DIEGO -- Fran and Alan Breslauer raised their two daughters in the modest College area home they designed and built when they were newlyweds. That was more than 60 years ago. Now, months after Alan died at the age of 91, Fran Breslauer says she's homeless.
The person living in her home was hired as a live-in caregiver to help 90-year-old Fran take care of her husband during the final months of his life.
“I thought she was strong enough to help me. She was 20 years younger and 20 pounds heavier. So I thought she was up to the job," said Breslauer, who was impressed by the woman she found through a Craigslist ad.
“She spoke very nicely. She was on her best behavior, and I thought I was doing a benefit for her because she had a place to live with her dogs.”
Breslauer said she had a local agency do a background check on Cheryl Sherrell. There were no red flags, so Sherrell moved into Fran's converted art studio at the front of the house.
It didn't take long, Breslauer said, before Sherrell became a problem.
"My husband came to me and said Cheryl’s acting inappropriately. I said Alan, what did she do? He said I’m a gentleman, I’m not gonna tell you, but please fire her."
Fran Breslauer gave a handwritten note to Sherrell in December 2015. It was mistakenly dated December 18, 2016. It read: "I Frances Breslauer owner of [**** **********] Lane do not need services of Cheryl Sherrell to care for my husband -- and I am giving her 30 days notice to leave!"
Breslauer claims Sherrell not only stayed on, she refused to help. And the situation got even worse after Alan Breslauer died in February. “The day he was dying, he was taking his last breath, she was screaming about money," said Breslauer, calling Sherrell's actions "inappropriate", considering all that was going on.
Then it got ugly. Both women filed for restraining orders against each other. Breslauer accused Sherrell of turning up the temperature on the hot water heater so Breslauer would be scalded.
Sherrell accused Breslauer of punching and shoving her and said in a declaration filed with the court: "I need this protective order to ensure my physical and emotional safety. I feel that without a protective order in place respondent (Breslauer) will continue to take advantage of her age. However, I do fear for my safety as she is aggressive and manipulating police officers to believe I am victimizing her. She is making my life impossible."
Judge Tamila Ipema granted Sherrell's restraining order. It says Breslauer can't "physically or financially abuse, intimidate, contact, molest, harass, attack, strike, threaten, sexually assault, batter, telephone, send any messages to, follow, stalk, keep under surveillance, block movements, destroy the personal property, or take any action to obtain the addresses or locations of Cheryl L. Sherrell."
Sherrell moved out for a short time, but when Breslauer decided to spend time with one of her daughters in Oregon, Sherrell moved back in, according to court documents.
Six months later, Sherrell is still living in the house. A legal war is being waged by both sides. Sherrell's attorney claims in documents filed with the court that she has a right to live there since Breslauer had vacated the premises. Breslauer's attorney writes that Sherrell has no claim to the property and should not only move out, she should pay more than $10,000 for rent and utilities during her stay.
Team 10 visited the house twice. Old appliances were in the driveway on both occasions. What appeared to be a camper shell was leaned up against the house, along with pieces of wood and other construction materials. On our second visit, Sherrell slammed the door saying "I don't want to talk to you."
Moments later, a young woman left the property, locking the front gate behind her. She would not say whether she lived there. A second woman was seen walking from the art studio to the front door. We could hear dogs barking.
Neighbors told us there is a constant flow of people bringing stuff into the house by the truckload, then leaving with other pieces of furniture, bags of clothing and miscellaneous items. We also learned Sherrell was featured in a 2010 episode of "Hoarding: Buried Alive".
"It looks like a junk yard right now," said Breslauer, who has friends in San Diego who stop by on occasion to see if Sherrell has moved out.
“I’m a lawyer and I feel helpless," said Breslauer's daughter, Jan. "If I feel helpless as a lawyer, how are other people who aren’t familiar with the law gonna feel? She’s 90 years old and because of the way the law is and the statutory scheme is set up in California, I can’t do anything to fix this situation except go through a long process where the defendant can delay and delay and delay. And in the meantime, my mother has had her only asset, which is her home, taken away from her and has to spend her savings, what little she had, fighting this battle with this woman who’s just conducted this vendetta against my mother."
Jan Breslauer said she plans to work with California lawmakers to change the law so other elderly people can't be taken advantage of.
Fran said her late husband would be heartbroken if he knew what transpired after his death. “ The last thing he said, Honey, I know I’m gonna go, but you’ve got a lovely house to be in. You’ll be safe and you’ll be well in that house. That’s the last thing he said to me.”
Team 10 contacted Sherrell's attorney, Lawrence Mudgett III. He said he had no interest in talking to us about the case.
San Diego County Deputy District Attorney Paul Greenwood heads up the Elder Abuse Division, which deals with situations like this on a regular basis. Greenwood talked to Team 10 about what you can do to protect your family from problems with caregivers and the elderly.