Protecting elders from harm is a priority for The Billings Gazette and a priority for County Attorney Scott Twito.
Twito proposed changes to strengthen Montana law against abuse of elderly and disabled adults. The 2013 Legislature and Gov. Steve Bullock made that tougher law effective last spring.
Last week, The Gazette reported on the appallingly violent attacks on three Billings women, ages 76 to 90, in their own homes. Two of the women were seriously injured by an intruder who stomped on their heads. They were hospitalized at St. Vincent Healthcare after the Aug. 14 attack. The other woman, whose home was invaded on Aug 13, was in fear for her life throughout the ordeal.
Pray for sisters
These attacks are especially outrageous because the two seriously injured victims are retired Sisters of Charity who personally served this community for decades with compassion and dedication to lifting up the marginalized and poor among us. We pray for the sisters’ speedy recovery.
One suspect, age 32, has been arrested in this case – driving a car that had been stolen from one of the elderly women. The Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office charged him Monday with two counts of aggravated burglary in the attack on the nuns. Conviction on each of those charges carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. The person or persons who committed these crimes deserve the maximum.
The suspect remains in jail with bond set at $250,000.
Good police work
Additional charges are expected, and Billings police were seeking other suspects who may have used credit cards stolen from the elderly women. As the investigation continues, it is unclear from public reports how many criminals were involved in these two home invasions.
The Billings Police Department made the first arrest in this case just two days after the second invasion. We call on BPD to continue to work this case aggressively until every suspect has been arrested. The women whose homes were invaded deserve to know that these criminals are no longer on the streets.
“I’m a little nervous,” the 76-year-old victim told a Gazette reporter. “I look over my shoulder. I’m tired. I’m just kind of worried they’ll come back.”
The community deserves to know that people who attack, abuse or steal from elderly citizens will be held accountable under the law.