An unbelievable tale which highlights the worst of humanity is just now coming to light – two years after it was resolved. Neighbors of a woman who made her home in Los Angeles assumed the elderly woman had died when she went missing. The woman was found alive four years later in a dilapidated shack all the way across the country in Maine, a victim of a family who took advantage of her age and willing nature. After earning her trust, they sold the house in which she had first lived with her mother and then by herself for decades.
The story appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday and told the tale of an 89-year-old woman, Sarah Cheiker, who went missing in 2008. She was discovered four years later in the Maine coastal town of Edgecomb in a rural area of Lincoln County, abandoned in a rundown cabin. Although alive, she was not well. Sheriff’s Detective Robert McFetridge described the cabin as “a place I wouldn’t let my dog live in.” All the food in the shack had gone bad, and the lone source of light had burned out.
While trying to determine just how Cheiker came to be all alone in the Maine cabin, they discovered a Los Angeles Police Department missing person report. It had been filed by Jim Caccavo, a neighbor of Cheiker. After her disappearance, her home had been demolished, leaving Caccavo to assume that his neighbor was deceased, until the phone call in 2012 from a Boston FBI agent who told him that she was, indeed, alive.
Caccavo remembers the family who appeared sometime in what he thinks was 2006. The three family members started to help out Cheiker by taking her on errands and to her doctor’s appointments. Caccavo distrusted the sudden appearance of the family, who were not related to his neighbor but claimed only a knowledge of Cheiker’s dead mother. After her house was damaged in a fire, she moved in with them. He urged her to be careful.
Speaking to The Associated Press, Caccavo remembered that in autumn of 2008, “all of a sudden, Sarah disappeared.” He watched as her belongings were packed up and removed from her empty house Caccavo remembers being told that the items were simply being stored until the home was repaired. Not much time had passed before a stranger informed Caccavo that the home had been sold. It was demolished to make way for a new, larger home.
Authorities believe that three members of the same family – twins aged 41 and their godson, 21 – took Cheiker from Los Angeles. The twins are identified as Nicholas and Barbara Davis and the godson as Jonathan Stevens. Caccavo says these three are the same people who showed up all of a sudden and began “helping” his neighbor.
Property records reveal that Cheiker’s home was sold in 2009 for $712,000 by a living trust set up in her name. Money in hand, the family headed east to Maine with their victim in tow, spending their ill-begotten money along the way.
Maine prosecutor Andrew Wright said that Cheiker was chosen randomly by the family, who simply knocked on her front door. Once they gained her trust, they used her money to buy several properties throughout the U.S. Wright said that he has seen some “egregious” things, but never before had he seen “a person taken across the country, stripped of their assets and left to die.”
The attorney for Nicholas Davis, Derrick Banda, refutes the prosecutor’s version of events. He says that Nicholas Davis treated Cheiker like a member of his own family. He says that the threesome were checking on her welfare and bringing food every day. According to Nicholas Davis, after they had all moved to Maine, he had company visiting that summer and Cheiker complained about the noise, so they rented a cabin for her to live in temporarily. Somebody with what he calls the “nosy-neighbor syndrome” called police. Officials say that the person who phoned police had been told that the cabin was being rented for an middle-aged artist who wanted to live in solitude. Authorities surmise that the Davis’ and Stevens more than likely hoped that Cheiker would die in the cabin and be found later, unidentifiable and with no clues as to where she belonged.
All three face felony charges for endangering the welfare of a dependent person. Court records show that they pleaded no contest and were given probation. Cheiker currently resides in a Maine nursing home. Efforts to reach her have been unsuccessful. Caccavo, however, visited Cheiker in the nursing home while he was in Maine. He describes her as “angry and feisty.” She swears she did not sell her home.
As far as the swindle that the Davis’ and Stevens are alleged to have engineered – because it happened in California, officials in Maine say they cannot investigate. There was no comment on this by the FBI.
By Jennifer Pfalz