Where is Ms. Deane? Little old litter lady disappears

DCF worker, priest, attorney remove 84-year-old from living facility

OVIEDO, Fla. – One day last month, a DCF worker, a priest, and an attorney showed up at the Tremont Independent Retirement Living facility in Oviedo, Ms. Deane's home for the past several years, and took her away.

Some of her fellow seniors at the Tremont watched it happen.

"All of a sudden you realized you're not seeing her," 92-year-old Libbie Asher said. "So I asked where is she? And they said she just went."

The sidewalks in front of the Tremont that line Red Bug Lake Road in Oviedo had been the cleanest in years, thanks to Ms. Deane.

Bernadine Lanzano, the 84-year-old with severe osteoporosis who is known as Ms. Deane, had been a fixture in Oviedo. Every day, rain or shine, hot or cold, she'd slowly stroll up the sidewalk with her walker, grabber and trash bag, picking up garbage. Some days she'd walk 3 miles.

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News 6 first featured Ms. Deane last year in a Getting Crime Results segment. Ms. Deane's friends and neighbors contacted News 6 again recently to help "find" her.

"I want to know where she is because I want to contact her and tell her how much she's missed and that there's people here who want to contact her," 86-year-old Hattie Goodman said.

Court records show Ms. Deane is now in the care of a court-appointed guardian for her own well-being and protection.

A Seminole County judge appointed a temporary guardian to care for Ms. Deane after someone from her church became concerned about her health and finances and notified Department of Children and Families.

She'd shrunk to 77 pounds, according to court records.

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Court-appointed doctors examined Ms. Deane and determined she is incapacitated and cannot care for herself.

Her court-appointed guardian's attorney, Kyle Fletcher, said the couple that was supposed to be caring for her had taken advantage of her.

"They were writing checks to whoever they wanted to, and she had no say whatsoever," Fletcher said. "This is a woman who is a math genius and knows her numbers and she'd forgotten what was going on. They'd taken over and were benefiting from her money, not her."

Fletcher said the couple transferred almost $750,000 of her property to themselves for a fraction -- $36,000 -- of what it's worth, they were paying themselves more than $14,000 a month from Ms. Deane's accounts, and they changed her trust to give them all of her assets -- worth millions of dollars --when she dies.

"They put themselves in a position to become multi-millionaires and they're trying to become multi-millionaires before her death, using her money," Fletcher said. "That trust was going to colleges and people other than them. And eventually it kind of evolved to multiple changes so they got everything, more or less."

Fletcher said there is a criminal investigation into the couple by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office Economic Crimes Unit and he is suing them for the assets and to have their names removed from Ms. Deane's trust.

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The couple has not been arrested or charged with a crime.

They told News 6 that Ms. Deane was like family to them and they always had her best interests in mind. 

They said Ms. Deane was paying them willingly but they said they earned it for the care they were giving her.

They denied changing the trust to make them beneficiaries of all of Ms. Deane's assets upon her death.

Ms. Deane's court-appointed guardian's attorney said she is in better health and has gained weight but will not reveal her new location in order to protect her.

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.