Merced County man lived with dead uncle for month, spent his money

Detectives arrested a Merced man Sunday on charges he lived with his dead uncle for about a month and withdrew money from the man’s bank account, using some of the funds for a trip to a casino.

Patrick Lara, 45, was booked on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter, elder abuse and theft from elder by a caretaker, according to Merced County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Tom MacKenzie.

Authorities found the body of a 63-year-old man inside a trailer in the 2000 block of Beachwood Drive just south of Atwater after a family member flagged down a deputy.

Relatives gave deputies a description of Lara and the car he was driving. A short time later, they pulled Lara over after he made a U-turn as he was driving toward the home, MacKenzie said.

Lara, the man’s primary caretaker, told investigators that his uncle fell and broke his arm on Jan. 22, according to MacKenzie.

He said he put the man in bed, but never called for medical attention. The man died shortly after.

“I don’t know why he didn’t call anyone,” MacKenzie said.

Detectives found recent receipts in the house. After obtaining a search warrant, they discovered Lara had been using the dead man’s ATM card and withdrawing money, even using it for a trip to Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino, MacKenzie said.

“We’ve had elder abuse cases ... but nothing where the guy has stayed in the place for 30 days and spent his money,” MacKenzie said. “That’s a first.”

Detectives also discovered a swamp cooler in the back of the single-wide trailer that had been turned on because Lara said the smell of body was starting to bother him, MacKenzie said.

The room where detectives found the body was covered with mold, and the leak in the cooler caused part of the ceiling to collapse on the victim.

Relatives had been trying to come to the trailer for some time, but Lara kept making excuses and continued stalling them.

He said the victim was dependent on Lara, and needed help walking around.

MacKenzie said the cause of death won’t be known until the conclusion of an autopsy. He said authorities are still waiting to positively identify the victim before releasing his name.

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