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Violent “Evelyn” Alberts, a wealthy 96-year-old woman killed in a plot to steal her lavish California home, made herself an easy target by isolating herself with a “mistrusting” attitude and fear that those around her wanted her money, her former stepson told Fox News Digital.

When she was found dead in bed at her Montecito home in May 2022, ingredients to bake cookies in celebration of her upcoming birthday were found laid out on the table.

Porter Ranch resident and caregiver Pauline Macareno, 48, was charged with elder abuse, fraud and manipulation of legal documents in relation to Alberts’ death, according to the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a press conference last Friday that she tricked Alberts by offering her a reverse mortgage and “orchestrated a series of transactions, including forging documents and establishing fraudulent entities to gain control over Alberts’ assets unlawfully” in 2022.


Violet Evelyn Alberts

Violet Alberts, 96, is fondly remembered as a beloved resident of the Montecito community. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office)

Macareno was sentenced to six years behind bars for the fraud, according to court records, and now faces charges of solicit to commit murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Brown said she was “referred” to Alberts for her care but did not specify by who or which agency. 

Alleged accomplices Harry Basmadjian, 58, Ricardo MartinDelCampo, 41, and Henry Rostomyan, 33, face charges ranging from murder to conspiracy and solicitation of murder in the plot.

Attorneys for Macareno, MartinDelCampo and Rostomyan could not immediately be reached for comment. Basmadjian “suffered a life-threatening medical emergency that left him totally incapacitated with a grim prognosis” after his arrest, the sheriff said.

“In the eyes of Pauline Macareno, Miss Alberts was living too long,” Brown said at a press conference last Thursday. “And so the acceleration of her death is presumably what was … behind the murder.”

“Without any immediate family nearby, Violet relied on her friendships and connections within the neighborhood, through which she achieved a sense of belonging with a tight-knit community,” Brown said.

Bruce Anderson, Alberts’ former stepson from a previous marriage of hers, said he and his wife had no idea his former stepmother had been murdered until his California-based brother read about it in local newspapers.


Macareno, MartinDelCampo and Rostomyan's mugshots

Ricardo MartinDelCampo, Pauline Macareno and Henry Rostomyan are all suspects in Violet Alberts’ murder case. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office)

Anderson said Alberts, who went by her middle name, Evelyn, met his father, John Anderson, when he was the president of the California Rare Fruit Growers Society and she was a member.

The pair married in 1991. Although they divorced in 1996, they remained close friends until the elder Anderson died in 2005, paying frequent visits to each other’s homes in Santa Barbara County. 

Alberts’ first husband died in the 1990s, Brown said last Thursday. When she died in 2022, Brown said, Alberts had aged out of her savings and was in a distressing financial situation.


But Alberts’ hilltop property, within walking distance of Oprah Winfrey’s home and Michael Jackson’s compound, was her major point of pride, Anderson said. 

The property was dotted with rare fruit and nut trees, he said, and Alberts had a prized Koi pond with fish imported from Japan, some worth thousands of dollars. She had a “real interest in Japanese culture,” and had a six-foot-deep Japanese soaking tub and Japanese design features throughout her nearly 5,000 square foot home.

Violet Evelyn Alberts' home

Alberts owned her sizable property on Park Lane in Montecito, just a stone’s throw away from Oprah Winfrey’s home, since 1989. It was last appraised at just under $5 million. (Google Earth)

Assessment records show the home was last appraised at just under $5 million.

Alberts also kept a chicken coop on her property and was known for years in the Montecito community for selling eggs at local farmer’s markets.

“Here’s a lady that’s got millions of dollars and she’s selling eggs down at the farmers market just to talk to people. That’s the kind of person she was – very outgoing and talkative,” Anderson said.

But although she was known for her impeccable homemaking and hosting, Anderson said, she wasn’t “overly trusting.” 

“She questioned a lot of things,” Anderson said on Tuesday. “Apparently she was [too trusting] in the end. … I don’t think she was an easy mark, but she might have been later in life.”

Brown said at Thursday’s press conference that Alberts was having difficulties with her “memory and cognition.”

Aerial shot of Montecito mountains

This aerial view shows the Montecito neighborhood of Santa Barbara, California, on March 5, 2021. (David McNew/AFP via Getty Images)

Since he had become estranged from her around 2005, Anderson said, his former stepmother “might have been more inflicted with memory problems and dependent on other people.”

Anderson’s wife, Darlene Anderson, said that “vivacious” Alberts “always thought that someone was trying to get something over on her.”

It was “painful” when Alberts “did not want to keep in contact” because “she always thought that the only reason we would be checking on her would be to try to get into her will,” Darlene Anderson said.

“I never would have thought that us not doing something would have us not know that she was in that type of trouble,” she said. “She had enough money that we just thought she would be able to take care of herself … we forgot that when you are in your 90s, you don’t always have the mental faculties to do that.”

Hearing of the heinous crime in the star-studded town where “people knew each other, ran into each other in the grocery store [and] shared the same doctor” was a shock, she said.

“In the eyes of Pauline Macareno, Miss Alberts was living too long.”

— Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown

Darlene Anderson said that Alberts had a difficult financial start in life, and that “every time her family contacted her, it wasn’t to say, ‘Hey, I was just thinking about you today and I wanted to tell you that I love you.’”

“When they called, it was ‘You have all this money and I don’t have any and I need this, you need to send me $10,000.’… You get to the point where you don’t want to pick up the phone,” she said. “I think that’s something that’s extremely sad. You definitely want to take a look at that and never want to be in that position in your life.”

The Andersons said that the role of family in Alberts’ life was a “major bone of contention” in Alberts’ relationship with her second husband that contributed to their divorce. 

“She loved my father-in-law completely, [but] she was a little bit jealous of his family because she didn’t have children of her own,” Darlene Anderson recalled. “She didn’t understand the dynamics of a family.” 

Another point of contention, they said, was that Alberts “wanted to give her estate away to a cat shelter” when she died. 

“[My father-in-law was like, ‘A cat is a cat and it’s not supposed to have millions of dollars,'” Anderson said. 

Montecito California

Alberts lived in the Montecito neighborhood of Santa Barbara, California. (David McNew/AFP via Getty Images)

Regardless, Darlene Anderson said, it “wasn’t up to [Macareno] to decide whether Evelyn was going to will her money the way she wanted it.”

“[Macareno’s] job was to take care of her … someone abused her, scared her, probably told her that if you didn’t do this or do that, they would take away those contacts that she had,” she continued. “Can you imagine the fear that woman went through? It makes me extremely angry.”

Although this type of murder in affluent Montecito – an area with residents such as Meghan Markle and Prince Harry – is “extremely rare,” Pasadena-based criminal defense attorney Brian Claypool told Fox News Digital that “serious crime in posh, affluent areas in California has been on the rise.”

“Last year, a lovely young lady working at an upscale furniture store in West Los Angeles was murdered in broad daylight,” Claypool said. “Serious smash-and-grabs happened in Beverly Hills before the holidays. Prosecutors are soft on crime in certain counties, like Los Angeles, which has emboldened criminals.”


The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department did not return Fox News Digital’s requests for comment on the case at press time.

Christina Coulter is a U.S. and World reporter for Fox News Digital. Email story tips to [email protected].

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