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Veteran's caretaker pleads not guilty to elder abuse

Arnold V. Bauer, 93, was found disoriented and living in squalor at his home near El Cajon. He was taken to the Veterans Affairs hospital in San Diego. His health aide, Milagros Angeles, allegedly wrote checks to herself from his account.

January 28, 2011|By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
  • Deputies arrived at the home of Arnold Bauer on Tuesday and found mounds of trash, rotting garbage and rat feces everywhere. His caretaker allegedly cashed numerous checks to herself from Bauers account.
Deputies arrived at the home of Arnold Bauer on Tuesday and found mounds… (San Diego County Sheriff's…)

Reporting from San Diego — A 93-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor and suspected victim of elder abuse was found disoriented, dehydrated and living in filth at his home near El Cajon this week, clutching his prized possession: a picture of the ship that he was serving on the day of the Japanese attack.

Arnold V. Bauer, suffering from dementia and prostate cancer, was taken to the Veterans Affairs hospital in San Diego, authorities said.

Bauer's caretaker for the last three years, Milagros Angeles, 63, pleaded not guilty Thursday to four felony counts of elder abuse, theft, forgery and false imprisonment. A judge set her bail at $1 million. The prosecutor said Angeles was sending money to her native Philippines.

San Diego County sheriff's deputies had gone to Bauer's home Tuesday after his bank notified the county's Adult Protective Services agency of what appeared to be irregularities in his account.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Danielle Hickman said Angeles had written 56 checks to herself totaling $5,600 from Bauer's account over the last two months and another 29 checks worth $1,800.

When she was arrested Tuesday, Angeles was wearing five layers of clothes and had $9,000 stuffed in her pockets, in a money belt and in her bedroom at Bauer's house, Hickman said. Deputies said Angeles tried to keep them from entering the home.

Inside, deputies found mounds of trash, toilets overflowing, rotting garbage in several rooms and rat feces scattered everywhere. Bauer was sitting in a chair clutching a framed picture of the repair ship Vestal, on which he was serving as a sailor when the Japanese attacked. The Vestal was moored next to the battleship Arizona.

In a 2010 NOVA documentary, Bauer told of being on deck the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor, and watching a torpedo rip through the water toward the Arizona. "I saw the track" of the torpedo, Bauer told the interviewer, adding that he ran to the other side of the ship to avoid the blast.

One of the enduring mysteries of the infamous attack has been the role of five midget submarines launched by the Japanese and whether a torpedo fired by one of the subs struck the Arizona, which eventually sank. More than 2,300 service members were killed in the assault, catapulting the United States into World War II.

The Vestal was damaged in the attack but, after being repaired at Mare Island in Vallejo, Calif., returned to the fleet and engaged in several major battles.

Stuart Hedley, president of the San Diego Pearl Harbor Survivors Assn., said he went to Bauer's home recently and was shocked to find the once-immaculate house and garden to be "a shambles" and Bauer to be confused, dressed shabbily and with a scraggly beard.

Bauer could not remember that his wife had died, but he remembered specific details of Dec. 7, 1941. "We talked about that morning and everything that happened," said Hedley, 89, who was aboard the battleship West Virginia.

Bauer, known as Max, spent a career in the Navy, retiring as a chief machinist's mate. He and his wife moved to the El Cajon area in 1960.

Sgt. Mark Varnau of the sheriff's elder abuse unit said Bauer has relatives in Santa Barbara and San Pedro, but they were unaware of his condition. Bauer's wife, Roma, died in 2007 and his health declined sharply. The couple had been married 62 years.

"We tell people they should check on their kids," Varnau said. "They should check on their parents too."

tony.perry@latimes.com

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