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94-year-old forgot to pay $161 bill at care home and ends up in jail
She never imagined she'd spend her 94th birthday in a jail cell.
Ashley Brewer
08.06.21

Juanita Fitzgerald was always an upstanding, law-abiding citizen. That is…until the care home she lived at called the cops on her.

Fitzgerald had never expected to make it to the age of 94. She also never thought that she’d have to spend a birthday in a jail cell. But that’s what happened.

NBC4 Columbus/YouTube
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NBC4 Columbus/YouTube

Franklin House, Fitzgerald’s former care home, and Fitzgerald have differing accounts of what led to her imprisonment. The managers at the care home say that she had refused to pay rent for three months. They also say that she told them that she expected to die soon. Fitzgerald insists that she had tried to pay after forgetting but that the managers refused to take the money. She suspects that it was an attempt to get her thrown out due to the advanced support she needs.

According to Fitzgerald, the care home staff had been trying to throw her out of the home for years.

NBC4 Columbus/YouTube
Source:
NBC4 Columbus/YouTube

At 93, she had many medical needs that many of the staff members were reluctant to help with. When she missed a payment one month, they seized upon the opportunity to kick her out.

At first, the managers assumed that Fitzgerald would find alternative accommodation when they refused to accept her money.

NBC4 Columbus/YouTube
Source:
NBC4 Columbus/YouTube

But Fitzgerald was comfortable in her room. She was also good friends with many of the other residents. So she refused to leave.

The months passed by, and the managers became more demanding for Fitzgerald to leave. Fitzgerald pointed out that they wouldn’t accept her rent. So they called the cops.

NBC4 Columbus/YouTube
Source:
NBC4 Columbus/YouTube

When the police arrived, they didn’t listen to Fitzgerald’s pleas. Instead, they only listened to the care home managers, who insisted that the woman who had lived there since 2011 was trespassing.

The police officers could have heard Fitzgerald’s side of the story. Instead, they put her in handcuffs.

So Fitzgerald struggled out of the cops’ grips and lay on the floor. The officers heaved her up and dragged her out of the facility so hard that her arm would become badly bruised.

NBC4 Columbus/YouTube
Source:
NBC4 Columbus/YouTube

Fitzgerald only realized that she was going to be jailed when the cops drove up to the Lake County Detention Center.

For the next few days, Fitzgerald had to get used to incarceration. At 94, she was by far the oldest inmate in the jail. Some of the other people in the jail had seen some pretty shocking things during their troubled lives. But even they were appalled at the sight of a kindly 94-year-old woman having to suffer the indignity of being treated like a murderer.

NBC4 Columbus/YouTube
Source:
NBC4 Columbus/YouTube

Luckily, over the next few days, Fitzgerald was able to get in contact with one of her friends, who drove to the jail, paid the bail money and got Fitzgerald out of prison.

Fitzgerald then spent the holiday season living with her friend, trying to find a new place to live and preparing for her court date. Her charge was trespassing.

Soon, the public heard about Fitzgerald’s appalling treatment. They complained to anyone who had a say in the matter.

Jeffrey Imm/Facebook
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Jeffrey Imm/Facebook

Before the court appearance occurred, an employee at the State Attorney Office with an ounce of common sense threw out the charge.

Sadly, Fitzgerald struggled to find new accommodation. She soon moved into a motel. The local government tried to get her in touch with other suitable care homes. But by then, her trust in authority had eroded completely.

It looks like Fitzgerald may spend the rest of her days going from motel to motel, thanks to her justified lack of trust in law enforcement. It’s terrible that she had to go through this.

Watch the video below to see the news story on Fitzgerald’s ordeal.

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By Ashley Brewer
hi@sbly.com
Ashley Brewer is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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