A San Diego caregiver accused of kidnapping and abusing elderly clients and extorting them for social security benefit checks changed her plea to guilty Friday.
Shirley Montano, 52, of City Heights pleaded guilty to false imprisonment of an elder, perjury by false information, and voluntary manslaughter. Prior to her change of plea, she faced charges including first-degree murder, kidnapping for ransom, and harm or death of an elderly or dependent adult.
Tamara Chagas testified she was estranged from her brother-in-law who was under Montano's care, and had tried to meet with Montano to learn the circumstances that led to his death.
She said she would often speak to her brother-in-law Robert Chagas once or twice a week but that changed in 2011.
In October 2016, she learned about Robert’s death from a secretary at a local cemetery because she was the family contact on the file.
Unaware her brother-in-law had been ill, she asked to meet with the defendant. She said in that meeting, the defendant was very calm and unemotional.
Chagas said her brother-in-law, whom she described as very tall and approximately 250 pounds when she knew him, looked very different at his funeral.
“He looked emaciated to me,” she said.
Another patient named Josefina was found beaten and starved in Montano’s apartment, according to prosecutors. The victim's last name has been withheld to protect her privacy.
Court documents allege that Montano held Josefina captive for 11 years, but it’s possible she could have been in captivity for as many as 23 years.
Montano was hired as a caregiver for the 59-year-old woman and eventually took away her phone and walker and canceled her doctor appointments, prosecutors allege.
At one point, Josefina only weighed 81 pounds, according to the Associated Press.
Montano has already been convicted of abusing a third patient, Lorraine Vega, and was sentenced to a year behind bars.
Recorded phone calls played in that case revealed how Montano impersonated Vega while on the phone with a bank and withdrew money from Vega's account. Purchase records showed Montano bought tires, purses and other items with Vega's money.
Montano will be sentenced to 13 years behind bars on March 6.