A Bellevue masseuse accused of kidnapping an elderly Issaquah man, marrying him, and attempting to withdraw funds from his bank account pleaded not guilty Tuesday, Dec. 30 to three felony counts.
The Bellevue woman faces a seven-year prison sentence if convicted.
Sunjinda Yahatta, 56, is charged with first-degree kidnapping, attempted theft, and obtaining a signature by deception or duress.
Co-defendant Kulany Roeksbutr, 29, pleaded not guilty to the same counts.
Yahatta’s attorney, David Gehrke, said his client married the 78-year-old dementia-stricken man out of love — not a desire to drain his bank accounts — and claimed the two had previously spoken about marriage.
Yahatta had been hired by the elderly man’s guardian for massage therapy after he suffered a stroke in September of 2008.
Yahatta is not a state-licensed massage therapist, and a police report stated that nursing home staff never saw her massaging the man.
On Nov. 19 Yahatta took the man from Greenwood Point Adult Family Home for about two hours and applied for a marriage license in Bellevue, the police report said.
She and Roeksbutr took him again on Nov. 22, despite nursing home staff objections, and brought him to a Bellevue court where they were married.
After the marriage, the group went to a Bank of America where Yahatta and Roeksbutr requested a cashier’s check for the balance of the man’s accounts — nearly $23,000. Bank tellers called the police because the women were “unusually friendly” and the man seemed confused and had a “vacant” look on his face, according to the police report.
When questioned, the man didn’t remember the marriage.
According to the police report, he was “adamant” that he did not get married, or sign a marriage certificate.
Gehrke believes the barrage of police and nursing staff questioning confused the man.
The judge who married the two questioned them beforehand and reported that the man seemed to understand what was going on, according to the police report.
Roeksbutr said she was acting as a translator for the couple.
During police questioning, she said that an impetus for the marriage was Yahatta’s belief that the elderly man’s guardian was stealing from him.
Katie Regan can be reached at email@example.com or 391-0363, ext. 5052.