SHERIDAN — Caron D. Avery was sentenced this month in Sheridan County’s 4th Judicial District Court for involuntary manslaughter and two counts of felony forgery. Judge John Fenn assigned Avery suspended prison sentences for all three charges and instead assigned supervised probation.
Avery’s forgery charges stem from two incidents last summer when she forged endorsements on checks that were mailed to the previous tenant of the residence Avery rented at 273 Badger St., which she shared with her mother, Nina Avery. She then deposited the checks into an account she had set up at First Interstate Bank under the name of her 74-year-old mother.
The first check Avery falsely endorsed was a refund check for $1421.28 intended for the property’s previous tenant, who had refinanced a rental property in Gillette.
After Avery deposited the check into the account created in her mother’s name, she made several ATM withdrawals over the next few days until the majority of the account balance was depleted.
A few weeks later, Avery again deposited $1500 in the form of a credit card cash advance check, which was also issued to the previous tenant of the house where Avery resided. That money was again pulled out of the bank’s ATM machine in the following days.
Court records show Avery attempted to conceal her identity during most of the ATM withdrawals. She made one withdrawal with a printed scarf wrapped around her face and carrying an umbrella on a sunny day. Another time, she wore a parka with the hood pulled around her face and sunglasses.
“I think that goes to show the ineptitude that was involved,” Sheridan County Attorney Matt Redle said, adding the forgeries were not part of a well-orchestrated heist.
The bank ultimately flagged the account for suspicious activity and notified the police, who began an investigation.
On Sept. 14, police questioned Nina Avery and provided photographs of the person who had been conducting suspicious activity at the bank. Nina Avery had indicated the person in the photos looked like her daughter, Caron Avery. Later that night, Caron and Nina Avery became involved in an argument that became physical.
During the course of the altercation, Caron Avery said Nina Avery had broken several objects in the room with her cane and attempted to hit her as well. The fight migrated down a hallway in the home, and Caron Avery grabbed her mother, forced her into her bedroom and onto the bed. She then straddled Nina Avery’s chest and stomach in an attempt to hold her down while struggled for a considerable period of time.
Eventually, Nina Avery stopped struggling, and Caron Avery got off of her and supplied her with her oxygen tube. Caron estimated the altercation ended and she went to bed at approximately 4:30 a.m. Sept. 15, 2012. When Caron Avery awoke at 7:30 that morning, she found her mother dead and contacted police.
An autopsy performed at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Billings, Mont., listed the cause of death as asphyxiation by smothering, and determined Nina Avery had multiple rib fractures and three contusions on her head.
At the time of both incidents, Caron Avery was employed in the human resources department at the Sheridan Veterans Affairs facility. Avery, who has a law degree, is temporarily suspended from practicing law in the state of Texas for failing to keep a complainant informed of the status of a case, not accounting for $7,700 paid in advance for legal services and not responding to the client’s grievance in 2010. Her license is also administratively suspended because she did not pay required licensure fees, according to the State Bar of Texas.
Avery pleaded guilty to both forgery charges in a change of plea hearing. She was sentenced to three to five concurrent years for each offense, which was suspended on the condition of five years supervised probation. For the forgery cases, Avery was ordered to pay restitution and fines totaling $3,656.48.
On June 17, Avery’s charge of involuntary manslaughter was dismissed without prejudice and new charges of both second degree murder and involuntary manslaughter were refiled. Avery then accepted a plea agreement Sept. 4, admitting guilt to involuntary manslaughter, meaning the killing was accidental and without malice. Fenn sentenced Avery to three to seven years in prison, suspended, and six years of probation to run concurrently with her forgery sentence. He also assigned fines and fees totaling $4,440 and credited Avery with 389 jail days.
Redle said Avery entered what’s known as an Alfred Plea in the court, which means her guilty plea was an aknowledgement that existing evidence would likely lead to her conviction. Avery did not make other addmittances regarding the charges.