Submitted on Briefs: January 23, 2019
FROM: District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and
For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DC 15-35-IN Honorable
Karen Townsend, Presiding Judge.
Appellant: Colin M. Stephens, Smith & Stephens, P.C.,
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Mardell
Ployhar, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana
Kirsten H. Pabst, Missoula County Attorney, Karla Painter,
Deputy County Attorney, Missoula, Montana
Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court
Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum
opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as
precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition
shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of
noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and
Defendant Sara Louise Snyder appeals from her judgment of
conviction on two counts of elder exploitation in the Montana
Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County. We affirm.
Prior to her death in 2002, Jaynet Brown (Jaynet) owned and
operated the Busy Elves Bridal Shop (Busy Elves) in Missoula.
Jaynet was married to Horace "Bud" Brown (Brown)
who was the elected Missoula County Surveyor. Brown met Sara
Snyder (Snyder) when she was working at Busy Elves from 1997
to 2000. After Jaynet passed, Brown endeavored to operate the
bridal shop, eventually re-hiring Snyder to assist him.
Over time, Brown and Snyder developed a close relationship.
Snyder viewed Brown as a "lonely" man whom she
regarded as a father-figure. Brown, who had no children and
no family in Montana, similarly considered and held Snyder
out to the public as his adopted daughter. He had a similarly
close relationship with Snyder's daughter and referred to
her as his granddaughter.
In 2011, Brown began experiencing memory problems. In
November, accompanied by Snyder, Brown saw a doctor who
evaluated him for onset of dementia. A CT brain scan revealed
microvascular changes but he was able to pass a diagnostic
memory test. Brown nonetheless experienced difficulty driving
as of December 2011. Following a traffic accident in regard
to which law enforcement cited him for a moving violation
citation, Brown again saw a doctor with Snyder in May 2012
and, for the first time, failed a dementia screening test. A
consulting neurologist subsequently diagnosed him with
Snyder drove Brown to medical appointments in August 2012 and
twice in 2013. In coordination with his physician, Snyder
became actively involved in monitoring Brown's medication
and blood sugar levels and generally assisting in his overall
care. However, in a letter to Adult Protective Services (APS)
dated December 10, 2013, Brown's physician reported that
Brown's "needs were not being met in the current
system . . . [and] somebody should be helping him."
Brown owned a home on property that also included two rental
units. Prior to 2012, Brown had never missed a mortgage
payment on his property. However, the bank stopped receiving
payments on Brown's mortgage in late 2012 and, following
several unanswered calls and demand letters, initiated
non-judicial foreclosure which terminated with a
trustee's sale of his property in November 2013.
Upon serving a subsequent notice to vacate at his home, a
bank employee found Brown surprised and mystified as to what
had happened. As Brown accompanied the bank employee through
his home, they encountered a locked room Brown described as
"her" room-"she keeps that locked[, ] I
don't go in there." The bank employee testified at
trial that Brown told her it was his granddaughter's
room. As she proceeded through the home, the bank employee
did not see any of the demand letters or foreclosure notices
sent to Brown. One of Brown's tenants subsequently told
the bank employee that ...