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96-year-old woman recovering; guardian plans to seek charges

BRADENTON — The elderly woman who was left at a local Salvation Army shelter is doing well in the hospital, her guardian said Thursday.

Ruth A. Smith was well enough to request and eat a favorite meal — roast beef on brown bread with mayonnaise, said M. Ashley Butler of Aging Safely Inc., her court-appointed guardian.

“She’s doing pretty good, considering what she’s been through,” Butler said.

Smith, 96, was left at the Salvation Army’s 14th Street West shelter on Sunday night by her niece, who then left for a family vacation to Walt Disney World.

The niece, Beverly Edwards of Arden, N.C., says she had made prior arrangements to leave her aunt with the Salvation Army until she could be placed in an assisted-living facility. But Butler says no such arrangements were made and that Edwards “dumped” her aunt with no plans of returning for her.

Butler said she plans to pursue criminal charges in the case, but none had been filed as of Thursday.

A judge appointed Butler, whose agency is the public guardian in Manatee County, as Smith’s temporary guardian during an emergency court hearing Wednesday. The same day, Smith was admitted to Manatee Memorial.

Since then, Butler’s agency has been trying to learn more about Smith’s background, medical history and finances. Smith has been undergoing a battery of medical tests in the hospital, the cost of which will be billed to Medicare and Medicaid.

Much of Smith’s background remains unknown or unverified, Butler said.

Smith has said she previously lived in New York City, where her late husband was superintendent of an apartment building, before they bought a house in Amityville, N.Y., Butler said. Smith also said she and her husband, whose name was not available, later sold the Amityville house and moved to Florida.

Property records show Smith bought a house in North Port in 2004, but it’s unclear whether she ever lived in it. The deed listed her as a single person.

Edwards has said that she took her aunt from a North Port nursing home to live with her in North Carolina in 2007.

The Bradenton Herald’s story on Smith’s plight Thursday has elicited several offers of help, from financial assistance to rental housing.

But Butler said it’s likely her ward will be placed in a nursing home upon her release from the hospital.

“She’s not capable of living on her own at all,” Butler said.

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