What the Buzzard Saw

Three women were manipulated in death by the person they trusted most in life

And she was flirtatious. "Viola Drees was very fond of male companionship and interaction," Smith claimed in court papers. "Drees especially loved and coveted the attention of professional men, i.e. lawyers and doctors."

"She was -- how could I describe her personality -- very impressionable by men," Getman's husband, Tony, also 64 years old, said in a deposition.

Friends and neighbors say they noticed Brady stopping by a couple of times a week. At first people assumed her health was bad. But according to depositions Smith and the Getmans gave, Brady was simply socializing with Drees over drinks.

On April 4, 1996, Drees called Smith and asked her to come over and sign some papers. Smith says that when she arrived she found out that she was being asked to sign as a witness for a $30,000 promissory note from Drees to Brady -- the doctor was trying to borrow the money from Drees through an unsecured loan. "I thought it was very unprofessional of a doctor to be doing that," Smith says. She immediately objected and called Drees's lawyer, John Sullivan. "John Sullivan told [me] he thought it was okay for [Drees] to loan the money."

Smith was incensed. She called the Getmans. Vivian Getman recalled the conversation with Smith.

"She told me that the doctor was trying to borrow some money from Aunt Vi," Getman said in her deposition. "I called Mr. Sullivan. At first Mr. Sullivan said it was okay [to give an unsecured loan] and then we talked again and he said he found out that a second mortgage could be put on Dr. Brady's house for $30,000 and I suggested -- no, I told Mr. Sullivan -- I did not think it was a good idea because if he defaulted on the payment, my aunt would be long gone and dead before anything could be done about it."

Despite this detailed account, Maracini denies her client ever tried to borrow any money. "No matter how many times they say it, it doesn't make it true," the lawyer protests.

Sullivan told New Times he couldn't remember whether Brady tried to borrow money. Yet, following that conversation, his lawyer filed an affidavit on August 31 stating that he "never advised Sherrin A. Smith that it was all right for Viola Drees to loan money to A.H. Brady."

Smith says she contacted the state Department of Health's Investigative Services Unit to file a complaint but never heard back from them. (Complaints about doctors don't become part of their record unless they are substantiated.) Vivian Getman says she called the elderly abuse hotline, and later spoke with a man who interviewed her aunt and said she appeared fine.

The episode became a turning point in Drees's relationship with Smith.

"My aunt got very upset," Vivian Getman said. "She told [Smith] that she had no right getting involved in that, although they called her."

Afterwards Dr. Brady told Drees to make sure Smith was not around when he stopped by, according to the Getmans. Drees, in essence, "fired" Smith.

Drees explained to Tony Getman that "the doctor said that she didn't need Sherrin. The doctor said he would take care of getting the groceries. ... She didn't need anyone to be involved. That's what she told me."

Drees also stopped calling the Getmans as frequently. "We saw her less and less because of the doctor," Tony Getman said.

Two years later, in 1998, Drees changed her will. The Getmans said that Drees explained how Brady gave her a ride to the lawyer's office in order to do that. They believe this means Brady had knowledge he was a beneficiary.

In the first draft of her will, in 1992, Drees gave about $40,000 in cash to various friends (including $10,000 to Brady). "All the rest, residue and remainder of my estate to my niece, Vivian Getman," the will states. In 1994, she altered it to give 40 percent of her estate to Brady, another 40 percent to Smith, and only 20 percent to Getman. Then in 1998, she changed it again, for the final time. She eliminated Smith completely, and left only $1000 to Getman. After doling out about another $12,000 to friends, "All the residue of my estate, wherever situated, I devised to A.H. Brady."

In June of 1998, right before Drees changed her will, the Getmans spent a night in her house. When they arrived, Drees told them to wait outside because the doctor was in the house. When Drees finally let them in, Brady had gone out the back door. He didn't want to meet them. Tony Getman recalled seeing two cocktail glasses on the coffee table. "She got drunk that night and told us a lot of things about Dr. Brady," Tony Getman recounted. "She discussed him taking her out to supper. She discussed how he brought her flowers all the time." While recounting this Getman became upset. "I think this is dead wrong. I will tell him right to his face, öYou're nothing but a thief,'" he said.

It was the last time the Getmans would see Drees alive.

Viola Drees died on November 2, 2002, of heart failure. She was 92 years old.

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