The celebration for a local couple accused of exploiting the elderly could be cut short. Panama City Police say the State Attorney's Office may have dropped the charges, but this case is not closed.
Thursday Panama City detectives opened their case against Jim and Elaine Sansom for reporters’ eyes, but Panama City Police say that couldn't be further from the truth. They say the Sansom’s are still under investigation.
Detectives arrested Jim and Elaine Sansom in June for their relationship with an elderly couple, Lester and Beulah Hale. The Sansom’s are pastors at Zion Ministries Church.
Police say the Sansom’s illegally took control of the Hales' estate. According to court documents if the Hales became "incapacitated" the Sansom’s would have power of attorney, but according to detectives a judge never legally declared the Hales "incapacitated", and that's why detectives say the numerous checks the Sansom’s wrote to themselves and their church in the Hales name are illegal, like one Jim Sansom wrote for $18,000 in cash to himself and others to a dentist the Hales never saw.
Detectives say the Hales aren't the only couple the Sansom’s exploited. They say the pastors conned $50,000 from another elderly woman, by promising to take care of her son. The woman later wrote a series of letters asking the money to be returned. It took the Sansom’s almost two years to return the money.
The Sansom’s say this is all retaliation by the Hales' grandson, who was upset about the changes cutting him out of their will.
Elaine Sansom says, "When I spoke to him the day after his grandmother died the first words out of his mouth were what did you do with the coin collection, not how's my grandmother.”
Police also say the Sansom’s repeatedly lied to officials at the Hales' assisted living facility and the Hales' bank, listing themselves as the Hales' only living relatives
Panama City Police Lt. Tom McCarthy says he's never seen the State Attorney's Office drop a case of this magnitude, without any discussion. He says the case is still open; the Sansom’s still under investigation, and detectives are pursuing other avenues for prosecution.