NBC 7's Dave Summers reports on the allegations of elder abuse connected to a La Jolla man who was discovered to be malnourished and dehydrated by family members.
Ninety-year-old Robert Stella owned a million-dollar home that was exposed last week. Inside were piles of trash and even dead animals.
Although Stella owned the house, the other tenants who lived there say Victoria Turner is the one who ran it.
They say Turner ran a “dog rescue” there, managed the finances and ran what was once a beautiful property into the ground.
One tenant even said Turner asked her to lie on Turner’s behalf.
Mary Ledvinka met Turner last September when she adopted the dog Boomer from Turner's Animal Rescue Coalition.
“It was disgusting and sad,” Ledvinka said after crews discovered animal feces and urine all over the floors and the skeletal remains of a cat inside Stella's home.
“It breaks my heart, and I'm very sad. I’m upset because it never should have happened,” she said.
Ledvinka is an animal activist and thought she could help. Last October, she traded cleaning and animal care services in exchange for room and board in the house.
However, she quickly found out everything was not as it seemed.
“This woman is not a rescuer. If anything, she's being cruel,” Ledvinka said.
Accounts of cruelty extend to former World War II veteran Robert Stella. A photo released by Stella’s family shows him in his eating space. He is surrounded by clutter, trash and mice droppings.
Current tenant Josh Curry did not want to speak on camera, but had much to say.
“She would tie him up to the bed and not feed him,” Curry said.
Curry moved to La Jolla from Arkansas eight months ago, after answering a Craigslist ad for a home caregiver.
“She would tease him with food and everything. She would put it pretty far away, and then she would tease him with it,” Curry said.
Curry and Ledvinka both say they filed complaints against Turner with Adult Protective Services. The house was raided last week, and Turner disappeared.
NBC 7 Investigates approached Turner in a La Jolla grocery store parking lot, but she walked the other way.
This was not a chance meeting.
Ledvinka, who moved out of the home in January, is suing Turner in small claims court for the return of her cat, court records show.
Concerned about the animals and in an effort to help NBC 7 reach Turner, Ledvinka called Turner and left a message.
Ledvinka says Turner called back the next day, asking that she write and sign a declaration outlining the treatment of Stella and the animals.
Ledvinka typed what she was told and emailed it to Turner. The email read, in part:
“At no time did I see a dead animal anywhere in the house.”
"Robert was happy and actively enjoyed being around the animals.”
"I declare under the penalty of perjury that these statements are true."
Ledvinka admitted these statements were all lies.
When Turner saw NBC 7, she tried to snatch the declaration from Ledvinka. NBC 7 tried to ask her questions about Stella, the animals and the condition of the house, but she just walked away quickly.
Turner has not been charged with a crime. San Diego police, Adult Protective Services and Animal Control are all investigating.
Stella’s family says he was near death when they rescued him from the house two weeks ago.
He spent the first few days in a hospital’s intensive care unit and is now in a skilled nursing facility. The family hopes to move Stella to a retirement home when he's walking and able to care for himself.