Bail was set at $500,000 this morning for a home health aide charged with murder in the beating death of an elderly Camden County man.
Yolanda Steele, 32, of Camden, was the full-time caretaker for Sidney Wenof, a retired meat wholesaler, and his wife in the couple's Cherry Hill apartment.
Wenof, 82, told emergency medical workers on Dec. 11 that he had been severely beaten by Steele with his own cane, according to court records.
Steele reacted with shock this morning at the court proceedings before Superior Court Judge Stephen Holden as she learned that Wenof had died and she was being charged with first-degree murder.
"Oh my God! Oh my God!" she said. "I'm so sorry."
Emergency medical workers responded to the Wenof's Frontage Road apartment Dec. 11 after receiving a 911 call. The caller said a man had fallen and had numerous cuts, said Ira Sloven, Assistant Prosecutor for the Camden County Prosecutor's office.
When Wenof arrived at Cooper University Hospital, he told doctors and nurses that Steele had attacked him with the cane and a telephone, court papers state.
Wenof lapsed into a coma soon after and never regained conciousness. He died Wednesday.
An autopsy determined Wenof died of blunt force tramua followed by pneumonia, spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.
In an interview with Cherry Hill police last week, Steele said Wenof had lost his balance while getting out of a chair, fell, and struck his head against a glass table. Steele told police she helped him up but Wenof fell against a piano, said Ira Sloven, a Camden County assistant prosecutor.
Theora Wenof, 82, told police she watched as Steele beat her husband.
In a second interview, Steele told a detective that Wenof became "very aggressive" as she was helping him up and she "just snapped," hitting him in the head with his cane numerous times, according to court records.
Steele, who had intially been charged with aggravated assault, was charged with murder Wednesday.
According to prosecutors, an investigation after the incident revealed Steele had forged Wenof's signature on stolen checks on more than one occasion. Wenof had noticed money was missing and was taking steps to identify who was responsible.
"It seems Steele was aware that he was looking into the missing money," Sloven said. "He may have questioned her about it."
Steele, who is unlicensed, is not affiliated with any home health care organization. Wenof hired her on the recommendation of a friend several months ago.
Steele remained at the Camden County jail this afternoon after failing to post bail.