In less than a week, an 81-year-old Columbus woman lost $38,000 from her bank account before the Columbus Police Department stopped more withdrawals and launched an investigation.
Cpl. Ann Rene Depietri of the Financial Crimes Unit helped to restore care for the elderly woman and return her to her Oakland Park home. Efforts by Depietri led to an arrest of the woman's relative and earned her Officer of the Month for April at the department.
An 18-year veteran officer, Depietri said she's thankful that other members of the unit dropped everything to assist her with the case.
"I just thank my unit in being willing to help out," she said. "They are great."
Depietri, 47, said she went through many emotions in working the case of elder abuse.
"I just asked God for help because I'm a Christian," she said. "I start every day out with prayer, asking God to help me make the right decision and protect our officers."
She was assigned the case in early March after a credit union contacted police about possible elder abuse. The woman was in the care of a family friend until a relative came to Columbus and took control of her finances. The bank account was changed and money was being withdrawn from the account.
"I thank God for the bank that the unusual withdrawals were a rapid alarm," she said. "When I got the report, we locked down the account."
The relative also called animal control to pick up the woman's dog before sending her to an Atlanta hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Police found the woman in Atlanta and also discovered an injury on her right elbow.
The relative was charged with two counts of exploitation of an elder person over age 65 and held in the Muscogee County Jail on bonds totaling $150,000.
Police recovered most of about $9,000 worth of property taken from the home. Depietri and another detective went to Atlanta, returned the woman to her home and into the care of the longtime family friend.
"We had to unhook her door latch," Depietri said. "That was the best feeling in the world."
That moment reminded Depietri on why she loves police work.
"I love being a police officer because I love helping people the most," she said. "I just want to treat people the way if I had to take somebody to jail, I would treat them the way I want my family treated and with respect. They are human, too."
She hopes to finish her career at the police department. After 10 years at the department, she left for a year to work as an officer at the Pentagon. She became homesick and also returned to be near her sick father, Jim Beauchamp. A Major League Baseball first baseman and outfielder, he played from 1963 to 1973 for the St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets. He died at age 68 on Christmas Day in 2007.
"He used to be one of the coaches at the Atlanta Braves," she said. "I at least came back and spent three years before he passed away."
Depietri is married to Richard Depietri, a technician at the police department. They have two daughters, ages 17 and 6.