CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) -- Relatives of Mickey Carroll, who played one of the Munchkins in "Wizard of Oz," are in court arguing that a caretaker in his last years bilked the actor of nearly $500,000.
Carroll, a hypopituitary dwarf, had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease when he died in May 2009 at age 89. He lived in the St. Louis County town of Bel-Nor.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Carroll's nieces and nephews sued caretaker Linda Dodge in 2011, after learning that much of the actor's estate had been depleted. A St. Louis County Circuit Court jury is hearing the case.
The family's attorney, Patrick McCarthy, said Dodge and maybe others slowly drained Carroll's assets that once amounted to $500,000.
"Linda Dodge wormed her way into the life of Mickey Carroll and started to isolate him from other family members," McCarthy said in opening statements Monday.
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Lawyers for Dodge dispute that claim, saying she was there for Carroll when his family was not, taking him to doctor's appointments and the store, helping with hygiene.
"Ms. Dodge genuinely cared for the decedent," attorney Christopher Blaesing said. "She treated him like family."
Blaesing said Carroll "was a small man but he was larger than life when it came to his spending." He said Carroll went out to eat almost every day, tipping generously, and gave lavish gifts to family and charities.
But Carroll's niece, Josephine Romeiser, the personal representative for his estate, testified that he was frugal. She said almost everyone in the family had lost contact with him in his later years. When it was time to manage his estate, Romeiser said, relatives learned his house had been emptied and records were scarce.
Dodge's attorneys plan to argue that Carroll was competent and in control of his financial decisions.
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