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A cutting story from a key witness in Md. swindle trial

Nurse Sylvie Chen, one of the series of witnesses prosecutors used to secure a conviction Monday against widow-swindler Roger Greenberg, had a simple story to tell that cut to the heart of things.

It involved the widow's mixed terrier, Samantha.

To set things up: The Montgomery County prosecutors wanted to establish how the defendant, Roger Greenberg, 68, neglected Evelyn Zucker, 84, even as he ingratiated himself to her, moved into her home, and stole more than $100,000 in a check-cashing scheme.

At the time, Zucker cared deeply about Samantha, and grew dependent on Greenberg to take care of her dog just as she grew dependent on Greenberg to take care of her.

Chen, a nurse with the county's Adult Protective Services unit, described how the dog had been neglected and how Zucker didn’t seem to realize it. That cast blame on Greenberg and further established Zucker’s vulnerability.

Chen specifically talked about the afternoon of Dec. 9, 2008, when she went to the Sleep Inn hotel in Rockville to check on Zucker after detectives learned Greenberg had taken her there.

Chen said she knocked on the door.

"Go away," Zucker said from inside.

She knocked again. From inside, Zucker said she couldn’t get out of bed but that it would be OK if Chen enlisted a hotel manager's help to enter the room.

Inside, Chen told jurors, she saw clothes, rotten food and pills scattered around. Zucker was wearing only a small white Parka and was partially covered by a blanket. "It looked like a tornado had swept through the room," Chen testified.

At first she didn’t notice Samantha. Then she saw her in a corner, emaciated, shaking and appearing to be in pain.

"It looks like the dog is suffering," Chen recalled telling Zucker.

"No she's not," Zucker replied, adding that Samantha was set to have a pacemaker put inside her.

"She was forgetful and confused," Chen told jurors.

These days, inside the nursing home where she lives, Zucker keeps Samantha's ashes in a container on top of a dresser.

-- Dan Morse

By Dan Morse  |  March 2, 2010; 11:34 AM ET
Categories:  Dan Morse , From the Courthouse , Montgomery  
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