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Crime & Courts

Johnsburg woman who claimed found money has died

WOODSTOCK – An elderly Johnsburg woman who laid claim to $150,000 her neighbor found in his vegetable garden has died.

Two parties have come forward claiming ownership of the money found by Wayne Sabaj in August 2011 – a Naperville liquor store owner and Dolores Johnson, who was 87.

Following a court date on Monday, Sabaj's attorney, Robert Burke, said the case likely will go to trial, although a trial date has not yet been set.

Another interim court date has been scheduled for March 11, with depositions to be taken in February.

According to the McHenry County Coroner's Office, Johnson died Dec. 11.

Because Johnson died, however, the case will have to be proved through her daughter, Burke said.

"It's going to depend on whether the daughter can identify the money," Burke said. "Is she going by what the mother told her? That's hearsay and that's inadmissible. Is the daughter going to say that she personally saw the money?"

However, there had been an issue before Johnson died in that she suffered from dementia, Burke said.

"I don't think she would have been able to testify, either in terms of identifying the money or saying what she did with it," he said.

The packaging of the money was distinguishing, Burke said, and Johnson's daughter was able to describe it well.

Johnson reportedly "got rid of" the money because she believed it was cursed.

Sabaj found the money in his garden after going to get some vegetables for dinner.

Under the law, finder becomes keeper if the owner doesn't come forward one year from the last date of a published public notice. In this case, the notice was made in September 2011.

The other party to come forward claiming the money was Nazco Enterprises, which owns Extra Value Liquors in Naperville. An attorney filed documents saying that a masked gunman robbed the company's president on Sept. 13, 2010, in the parking lot of Pebblewood Plaza, taking about $150,000 in bundles of mostly $20 and $50 bills.

In the meantime, the money is being held by the court clerk with an order that no examination of it allowed without approval by the court.

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