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Pair Deny Guilt in Abandonment Case : Sun Valley: Couple say they couldn't afford to care for woman's aunt, plead innocent to charge of elder abuse for leaving her in gang-plagued park.

October 25, 1995|SHARON BERNSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VAN NUYS — A North Hollywood couple pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of elder abuse for allegedly abandoning the woman's confused 78-year-old aunt in a Sun Valley park plagued by gang violence.

Mercedes Sepulveda, 41, and Leonel Rendon, 47, were arraigned on charges that they drove Sepulveda's aunt, whose name was not made public, to a Sun Valley Park and left her there in the middle of a hot August afternoon.

"It looks like they just wanted to relieve themselves of having to take care of her," said Assistant City Atty. Kenneth Tso, who is prosecuting the misdemeanor case. "Rather than finding a suitable place, they just took her to the park and left her there."

Sepulveda told police that, after 20 years, "she could no longer care for her aunt--it became too much of a burden" financially and emotionally, the city attorney's office said.

David Foley, Sepulveda's attorney, would not comment on the case. Mark Gilbert, the public defender representing Rendon, did not return repeated phone calls Tuesday.

Witnesses who say they saw the couple leave the woman at the park on Aug. 27 called police. Officers found the woman almost eight hours later and took her to a convalescent hospital where she now lives.

The woman suffers from Parkinson's disease and asthma, the city attorney's office said. When officers found her, she could not remember her name, a spokesman said.

Sun Valley Park, a hangout for gang members, has been the site of two killings in the past two years, the latest earlier this month.

Sepulveda and Rendon were released on their own recognizance and ordered to return to court Nov. 28 for a preliminary hearing. If convicted, each faces a possible six-month jail term and a $1,000 fine.

Tso said he plans to drop charges that the couple created a public nuisance by dropping off Sepulveda's aunt, because such allegations are difficult to prove.

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