Man faces jail for stealing from Alzheimer’s patient

Robert Hitt

WOODSTOCK – A town man faces prison time for withdrawing money from the bank account of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s in 2016.

Robert Lee Hitt, 47, of 1286 Ox Road, recently pleaded guilty in Shenandoah County Circuit Court to two counts of obtaining more than $200 from Deanna Fravel knowing she suffered from mental incapacity, which he used to take money from the victim. Attorney Charles B. Ramsey represented Hitt on the two charges. Judge Dennis L. Hupp advised Hitt that he faces a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison on each of the charges. The judge scheduled sentencing for May 30.

Hitt also now stands charged with one count of unlawful wounding that authorities say occurred April 11 – less than two weeks before his scheduled hearing in Circuit Court on the earlier offenses. Hitt appeared in Shenandoah County General District Court on Friday where Judge Amy Tisinger certified his charge of unlawful wounding to a grand jury that meets in May.

At Hitt’s plea hearing in Circuit Court last week, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola provided Judge Dennis L. Hupp with a synopsis of the evidence. Hitt accompanied Fravel to First Bank in Woodstock on July 14, 2016 and July 15, 2016, according to a criminal complaint filed by Woodstock police investigator S.W. Leake. Fravel withdrew $200 on both occasions. Susan Sanderlin, who holds power of attorney for Fravel, brought the transactions to the attention of the police. Sanderlin has power of attorney due to Fravel’s diminished mental capacities, having been diagnosed by at least one doctor as suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s or dementia, the complaint states.

“Hitt admitted to taking money on two different occasions and going to the bank with Fravel,” the complaint states. “Hitt also admitted that he thought Fravel had Alzheimer;s and that she would not remember giving him the money.”

A checklist used by a magistrate to determine bail for Hitt completed shortly after the defendant’s arrest notes that he stated he tried to pay the victim back but police told him he needed to come to court. The magistrate set his bond at $2,500 unsecured after his arrest.

Authorities later arrested Hitt on a bench warrant for failing to appear in court Oct. 20. A magistrate recommended he remain in jail without bond. The magistrate’s checklist for bail determination notes that Hitt said he was voluntarily admitted into a hospital for mental health treatment. Hitt also told the magistrate he wanted to stay out of jail to help his ailing mother. A judge dismissed the contempt charges Oct. 30.

At the plea hearing April 20, Hitt told Hupp he was on medication but that it did not affect his ability to understand what was happening in court. Hitt said he was having trouble getting medicine at the jail to treat his mental conditions. Hitt told Hupp he had been in jail for about nine days. When asked whether or not he had spoken to Ramsey about his case and pleading guilty to the charges, Hitt said he talked to his attorney “a couple of times.”