JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - A former caretaker who is being charged with the murder of one of her patients made her initial appearance in court Tuesday afternoon.
Judy Dearman, 62 of Laurel, was charged with first-degree murder, and a judge set her bond at $100,000.
Authorities said she also stole the identity of the elderly woman and changed the will to make herself the beneficiary.
Dearman was hired in early 2014 as a caretaker for an elderly couple in Jones County.
Some months passed and the elderly husband passed away, leaving Dearman to care for the widow.
Dearman moved in with the woman to continue caring for her.
On Sept. 1, 2015, Dearman went to a local attorney, presented herself as the victim and created a last will and testament, leaving everything to the caretaker, which is Dearman's actual identity.
The papers were drawn and Dearman paid for the legal fees using the victim's checking account. Thirty-six hours later, the victim passed away. Dearman immediately took possession of the property, which had an estimated value of $150,000.
According to the sheriff, after the victim's death, family members went to her residence to check on the property when Dearman met them at the door, presented them with the falsified will and told them to "get off my property."
The family quickly made contact with an attorney, who in turn contacted the Jones County Sheriff's Department.
Dearman was taken into custody and transported to the Jones County Adult Detention Center. She was charged with felony false pretense/fraud and felony fraudulent use of Identity with additional charges pending. Her bond was set on Sept. 22, 2015 at $50,000.
The investigation continued over several months, that included the work of toxicologists and forensic pathologists.
The Jones County Coroners office also played an important role in determining the severity of this criminal act.
It was determined that the victim died of a polypharmacy overdose. Some of the many medications found in the victim's system were actually prescribed to Dearman.
Those drugs are associated with causing respiratory arrest.