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Merced man allegedly lived with dead uncle for nearly a month, spent his money [Updated]

February 23, 2011 | 11:30 am

A Merced man allegedly lived with a dead relative for nearly 30 days, using the dead man's ATM card to get money for shopping and spending at casinos, authorities said Wednesday.

Patrick Lara, 45, was supposed to be taking care of his 63-year-old uncle, Adrian Lugo, who fell last month and injured his arm, said officials with the Merced County Sheriff’s Department.

Instead, Lara is believed to have left his uncle in bed to die without notifying anyone.

Lara, currently on disability from his job, began taking care of Lugo, who also was on disability, Jan. 22 when Lugo fell inside his home, said Deputy Tom Mackenzie.

Lara, who lived with his uncle as a caregiver, helped Lugo into bed and left him there, checking on him periodically, Mackenzie said. At some point, Lara realized Lugo had passed away but did not call paramedics or family members.

Instead, he allegedly took Lugo’s ATM card and spent his money shopping and visiting casinos, authorities said.

Some of Lugo's relatives went to his house in the 2000 block of Beachwood Drive in Merced on Sunday for a visit while Lara was gone and discovered the body, Mackenzie said.

Deputies were able to identify Lara’s car a few blocks from the house. When they walked up to the vehicle, they found Lara inside. They detained and interviewed him, and he was being held Wednesday at Merced County Jail on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter, elder abuse and theft by a caretaker.

Bail was set at $125,000. Authorities were still considering possible murder charges, but an autopsy showed no clear cause of death.

[Updated at 12:04 p.m.: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the home's address as being on Detroit Avenue.]


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