A Petaluma woman accused of stealing from the college and savings funds of her stepchildren was sentenced Thursday to 90 days in jail and ordered to pay $39,824 in restitution, said District Attorney Jill Ravitch.
At the sentencing, the two children and their father told the court that they felt a "staggering" degree of betrayal, Ravitch said. The sentencing came after Kendall Yvonne Mathis, 44, formerly Kendall Yvonne Joaquim, pleaded no contest to one count of felony grand theft in December.
The charge stems from a period between June 2011 and August 2012 when Mathis stole from her stepchildren's savings accounts and from an annuity meant to pay for the older child's college expenses.
The annuity was created through a settlement over the medical misdiagnosis of the childrens' biological mother, who died from cancer when they were very young, said Deputy District Attorney Robin Hammond. Hammond prosecuted the case. The annuity was designed to provide four yearly payments to cover each child's educational expenses beginning on each child's 18th birthday.
The father related to the court that his dying wife had gained great comfort from the fact that the annuity would give her children the ability to go to college, causing her to smile even when she was in great pain, Hammond said. Mathis had known this, the father added. The crimes Mathis committed against him and his children were also crimes committed against the children's mother, he said.
Despite that knowledge, Mathis intercepted the first annuity payment, using it to finance "her extravagant lifestyle," Ravitch said. The older child discovered the theft when she tried to use the funds for her college expenses.
At the sentencing, that child told the court the college money was a gift that Mathis "has taken away from not only myself, but from my mother."
The younger child, in high school, said that Mathis was the only mother figure he had ever known and that her actions had seriously damaged his ability to trust.
Mathis is also accused of using her husband's identification to make him the guarantor for a student loan taken out for her own biological child.
The children's savings accounts were depleted over the course of a year, but fortunately just one check from the older child's college fund was intercepted before Mathis was found out, Hammond said.
(You can reach Staff Writer Jamie Hansen at 521-5205 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter at @JamieHansen.)