Steamboat Springs The former Steamboat Springs resident accused of faking cancer and stealing thousands of dollars in charitable contributions has committed suicide, according to a former friend.
Elizabeth Emilie Bateman, 35, had been charged with felony theft. She was scheduled to appear in court Thursday and accept a plea offer that would have involved her paying back at least $7,000 she had raised at bogus fundraisers in Steamboat.
Bateman’s attorney, Cheryl Hardy-Moore, told Judge Shelley Hill during the hearing Thursday that she had spoken with Bateman’s father Wednesday and he said Bateman was dead. Moore said a death certificate would be forthcoming. Bateman had been living in New Mexico.
Bateman’s former friend, Michele Beck, originally reported the fraud to police in March.
Beck learned Wednesday night that Bateman had killed herself Wednesday morning.
“I have many mixed emotions about this,” Beck wrote on her Facebook page. “Even though she caused a lot of chaos — and in my heart I knew she may take this route — my heart still breaks.”
A message left with the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator about the death was not returned Thursday.
When reached Thursday, Beck said it was a tragic end to a drawn-out story.
“It’s not exactly the closure you want,” Beck said. “I would have preferred to see something else.”
Beck said she fell victim to Bateman’s lies.
Bateman claimed that she had been diagnosed with a terminal form of leukemia four years ago and that she did not have long to live. She moved to Steamboat from Texas in 2009.
Beck believed the story and offered to help Bateman.
Without any of Bateman's family nearby, Beck allowed Bateman to move into her house, where Bateman lived for about seven months.
Beck said she did not work last winter so she could help take care of Bateman, who used a wheelchair and oxygen. Beck said she would wake Bateman in the middle of the night to give her a shot of what Beck thought was liquid morphine that needed to be administered every six hours.
Eventually, Beck learned that the liquid with which she had been injecting Bateman was a saline solution, according to the arrest warrant.
Police identified 28 victims who donated money to a cancer charity that Bateman claimed to have established. The Friends Through the Fight charity supposedly was created to raise money to make wishes come true for adults who have cancer. Police said Bateman spent the donations on herself.
Friends began becoming suspicious of Bateman’s cancer claims in March after Beck made her go to the emergency room at Yampa Valley Medical Center because Bateman claimed she was vomiting blood.
Beck said doctors told her Bateman was not physically sick. Friends confronted Bateman, and Bateman posted on Facebook four days after the hospital visit that she never had cancer.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland
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