Courts & Crime

Neighbor stole from cancer victim she pretended to help

FORT WORTH — Debilitated by breast cancer, Jody Short of Mansfield, Texas, was grateful two years ago when a neighbor offered to help care for her after she came home from the hospital.

Sixteen months later, Short learned that the neighbor, Janice Gast, whom she considered a friend, had begun using her identity, her credit cards and her bank accounts shortly after she took over Short's care.

Gast, 42, was sentenced to prison Monday after pleading guilty to forging Short’s name on documents and stealing more than $67,000 from her over about a year. State District Judge Sharen Wilson sentenced Gast to concurrent four-year prison terms on charges of felony theft and fraudulent use of identification, and to nine months in state jail on a forgery charge.

During the sentencing hearing in Criminal District Court No. 1, Short vehemently told Gast how she was devastated financially, physically and emotionally by Gast’s actions.

Short said that her cancer is in remission but that she lost her job as a corporate secretary during her treatment and recovery.

"For the longest time, I thought that July 24, 2007, the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer, was the worst day of my life," said Short, now 60. "I now know that the worst day of my life was the day I let you walk through my front door.

"I now know that there is something worse than cancer, and that is you."

It started in July 2007, Short said in an interview this week, when Gast approached her as a co-worker brought her home from her first biopsy.

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