Mitchell's family and friends believe Mirza took advantage of a sick woman. Asked whether there was any possibility her aunt knew what she was doing when she signed the papers, Dana Hughes says emphatically no. "None whatsoever," she said. "I would base my life on that.There is no way she would sign away her house without a lawyer, on a handwritten contract, and get nothing in return."
When we talked with Mitchell five days after her move into the nursing home, she was unable to provide clear answers about the house or the transaction, a lapse that is characteristic of Alzheimer's victims.
Vicki Mabrey: Do you remember your house in Brooklyn?
Mitchell: Yeah, in Brooklyn, yeah. It's a house that a friend of ours had given to us.
Mabrey: Really? In Fort Greene?
Mabrey: What's happened to it?
Mitchell: No, it's still there.
Mabrey: Who owns it now?
Mitchell: Ah, my husband is there with it so it's OK.
Mabrey: Who's your husband?
Mitchell: (pause) I'm trying to remember who he is but that's OK.
In fact, Mitchell and her husband were divorced and he died two years ago. The house was purchased; it was not a gift from a friend.
Mitchell is equally confused about the deal with Mirza.
Mabrey: Did you sign your house over to him?
Mitchell shakes her head. Mabrey: Does he own your house now?
Mitchell: (shakes head no) 'Cause I told him that he didn't.
Mabrey: Did he try to buy your house from you?
Mitchell: He tried.
Mabrey: What did he say?
Mitchell: I said, "Excuse me, because you ain't coming into my house. That's what I told him. 'This is my house, it ain't your house.'"
The Hugheses says they have appealed to Mirza, asking him to provide some funds to help pay for Mitchell's long-term care. Public records indicate that since acquiring the deed in June 2005, he has taken out two loans against the property, totaling nearly $1.5 million.
Meanwhile, in Colorado, Blanche and Wayne Hughes will foot the bill for Mitchell's care, which now comes to $2,900 per month. As Blanche says, "That's my biggest fear and struggle right now, making sure she has the finances to take care of her in a nice place, because she worked hard and it would be nice for her to live in a nice place."
It has been a tragic descent for Dr. Janet Mitchell. The disease has robbed her and her family in so many ways.
"You have to say goodbye to the old Janet," Blanche Hughes said. "That's the only way you can do it. I can't keep thinking about, 'Oh, it's so sad, she used to be like this.' Well, yeah, look at her, so who is she now?"
As Mitchell breaks down crying in the nursing home, her sister holds her. "It's going to be Ok. Trust me," she says, "I'm your little sister who you can trust."