Postal service investigates after Alzheimer's patient gives $2 million to Coupeville woman
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
December 17, 2010 · 4:25 PM
Special agents with the U.S. Postal Inspective Service served a search warrant Thursday at a Coupeville home as part of an investigation into a 60-year-old woman who's been ordered to pay back $2 million she received from an Alzheimer's patient.
The agents are investigating whether Coupeville resident Shea Saenger, who happens to be a convicted murderer, broke any laws when she talked an elderly Ellensburg man named Norman Butler into sending her large amounts of money over a four-year period. Saenger currently lives with her husband in a trailer park for people who are 55 and older.
The postal agents did not make any arrests, but left after a couple of hours with boxes of evidence.
"The investigation really has nothing to do with the mail except the fact that the money was sent through the mail," Saenger's attorney, Tim Leary of Seattle, said. "It's about (Butler's) decision to give her money and the circumstances in which he gave her the money."
On Dec. 13, Kittikas County Superior Court Judge Scott Sparks ruled that Saenger owned Butler's family $2.26 million. Butler's son had filed a "petition for recovery of assets of vulnerable adult" against Saenger after he discovered that his 80-year-old father had drained his life savings by sending Saenger checks, court documents indicate.
Leary said the judgement is "highly suspect" and that his client is appealing it to the Court of Appeals.
Rose Winquist, a private investigator from Kenmore working for the Butler family, said she alerted a number of agencies, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FBI about allegations against Saenger.
In court papers, Winquist and Butler's son, Douglas Butler, claimed that the elderly man suffers from Alzheimer's disease and that Saenger took advantage of him. Saenger and Butler apparently met at an online dating website and started a romantic relationship, the documents indicate.
Douglas Butler found a long trail of emails between his father and Saenger. She had allegedly told the elderly man that she was a widow, even though she is married. Over the years, she told him she needed money for cars, real estate, mobile home payoff, sick and dying relatives, funeral expenses, household repairs and medical bills, the court documents state.
"I don't know how many breasts she had removed," Winquist said in an interview.
But Leary pointed out that the court documents are simply the angry family's version of events and that there's another side to the story. And an investigation by a federal agency doesn't mean a crime has been committed.
"There's a question as to whether or not he can do whatever he wants with the money," Leary said, referring to Norman Butler.
In her investigation, Winquist said she discovered that in the 1980s Saenger was convicted of second-degree murder in Arkansas in the stabbing death of a man. Saenger's name at the time was Sharon Lumpkin; she changed her name and Social Security number after serving time in prison, according to documents provided by Winquist.
But according to the documents, Lumpkin claimed that the man attacked her and she brandished the knife in self defense.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.