CLEVELAND, Tenn. (WDEF) — After three years of court trials and hearings, the family of Forrest Coleman finally has justice. In just about 38 days, Rick Stevison stole thousands of dollars of jewelry, cash and other items from an elderly Cleveland man he was hired to care for. Now, the family wants to warn others about the dangers of allowing strangers to care for loved ones.
Stevison pleaded guilty to a class D felony theft charge last Thursday, and now Coleman’s niece urges others caring for elderly family members to be extra careful when hiring outside help.
“I’ve learned to never trust anyone with my loved ones again,” said Janie Coleman, Forrest Coleman’s niece and conservator.
She looked after him and cared for him before his death in 2017. She hired Stevison in June of 2015 to help her uncle with day-to-day activities while she worked. Her uncle had dementia.
A few weeks later, the bank notified her that her uncle was taking out large sums of money with Stevison — a total of $4,000 cash in a month’s time.
That’s when Janie and other family friends got suscipious.
“Truthfully stole over $85,000 worth of things that we know of. His coins are missing. He had a coin collection that’s missing and his guns are missing,” Coleman said.
Stevison was in and out of trials, and finally last February he thought the charges had been dropped, and started threatening to sue the sheriff’s department.
However, the case had just been moved to the grand jury.
Now, almost a year later, he pled guilty to a felony charge theft and faces a restitution hearing with the family in March.
“And that’s what we wanted,” Coleman said. “We wanted him to not be able to do this to anyone else because we trusted him when we first hired him to take care of our uncle.”
Coleman says she just wants to warn other families to make sure this doesn’t happen to them.
“If you are going to have a caregiver for your loved one, friend, anyone in your family get them vetted very carefully. Do a thorough background check, credit check, whatever you can. And going through a company is probably the best thing because they’re licensed,” Coleman said.
Coleman’s family says they’ll finally have closure when they confront Stevison at the restitution hearing.