A onetime assistant at a nursing home in Red Wing, Minn., is ready to admit that she stole a wedding ring worth thousands of dollars from the finger of a severely ailing 93-year-old resident, then pawned it while on her lunch break.
Erin K. Russell, 24, of Red Wing, has a settlement conference scheduled for next week in Goodhue County District Court. At that time, according to prosecutor Elizabeth Marie Spang Breza, “the hope is” that Russell will plead guilty to the theft at the St. Brigid’s at Hi-Park home in July. “She’ll have to plead to something,” Breza said. As of now, Russell is charged with felony theft.
Russell admitted in an interview Thursday to taking the ring, but she said she hopes to avoid jail time.
“I’m trying to see whether they will drop the charge down from a felony,” to a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, she said.
The $4,000 ring belonged to Alice Tackaberry, who was in hospice care at the time of the theft and “was unable to communicate,” reads the charge against Russell.
According to the complaint: The ring’s absence from Tackaberry’s finger was first noticed by niece Sherry Houghton during a visit to the nursing home on July 28. Houghton said she always checks Tackaberry’s possessions out of concern for theft and because she is “always in a sleeping state,” the complaint read.
Houghton said she checked Tackaberry’s hand for the ring, and it was missing. The niece said “it is very unlikely the ring fell off because Tackaberry’s fingers are always swollen,” the court document read.
“She took the ring right off her hand,” Houghton told the Star Tribune. “It was always on her.”
Three days later, officers located the ring at the Red Wing Pawn Shop, the charging document continued. Tackaberry, a longtime resident of Frontenac, Minn., died 17 days later.
Shop owner Chad Evans told the officers that the niece had already come in asking about the ring and helped find it in the store’s inventory.
Evans said the person who pawned the ring came in wearing purple medical scrubs and was identified on the receipt as Russell. Video surveillance at the shop showed her there with her name tag on. Evans said Russell has pawned other jewelry and televisions there previously.
Police determined that Russell was on her lunch break at the time the ring was pawned.
In a meeting with police and nursing home administrators, Russell denied knowing anything about the ring and said she didn’t want to speak further to police. The administrators fired Russell on the spot, and she was handcuffed and arrested.
Tackaberry, whose husband of 37 years died in 1984, taught school in Belle Creek Township and worked for the Riedell and Red Wing footwear companies as well as at Mount Frontenac Golf Course.
Houghton said police turned the ring — pawned for $200 — over to her.