About this series

The story of Mary Ellen Bendtsen is not just a private tragedy. Experts estimate that one in five elderly Americans will be victims of some form of financial exploitation, losing at least a third of their assets. For each case reported to authorities, 12 to 15 cases are believed to go unreported.

Project Team

Writer: Lee Hancock

Photographers: Michael Ainsworth, Tom Fox, Richard Pruitt

Videographer: Randy Eli Grothe

Multimedia Designer: Mindy Leichter

Multimedia Editor/Programmer:
Karen Dee Davis

Project Editor: Mark Miller

Print Designer: Cindy Smith

Copy Editor: Ed Sargent

Photo Editor: Alysia Oglesby Illustrator: Michael Hogue

Special thanks: Chip Scanlan/The Poynter Institute

Chapter 1: The world Mary Ellen Bendtsen created for herself revolves around 4949 Swiss Ave. As she grows older and the demands of maintaining the aging mansion rise, her grasp on that world weakens. Are Mark McCay and Justin Burgess an answer to her problems, or something more sinister?

Chapter 2: An intricate dance begins between Mrs. Bendtsen, Mr. McCay and Mr. Burgess. For a while, she keeps them at arm's length, even while enjoying their help and attention. But when an unexpected calamity occurs, Mrs. Bendtsen's carefully constructed world is threatened.

Chapter 3: Mrs. Bendtsen's future depends on 32 critical hours. What happens during that brief window in time will decide her fate, for better or worse.

Chapter 4: Who will claim 4949 Swiss? More importantly, who will protect Mrs. Bendtsen as she faces her most devastating crisis?

Postscript: The battle for 4949 Swiss continues.

Update: Admirers old and new vying for mansion title

Update: Estate sale draws hundreds

Points: Why is it so difficult to protect the elderly from financial exploitation?

Chat: Reporter Lee Hancock took readers' questions August 21 on elderly exploitation
> View the transcript

Multimedia: New video - Mary Ellen signs a new will. Plus, Mary Ellen signs a power of attorney for "the boys", vignettes of the characters, photo scrapbook, video interview with Frances Ann Giron, video of Christmas 2004 with her daughter and family, source box.

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If you have information about this case or others like it, please e-mail 4949swiss@dallasnews.com





© 2007 The Dallas Morning News Co.