Caretaker Charged in Woman's Overdose Murder Due in Court

RIVERSIDE (CNS) - A Palm Desert woman accused of causing a string of overdoses in a woman she cared for so she could gain access to the woman's estate and more than $200,000 from her bank accounts is scheduled to appear in a Riverside courtroom today in response to felony charges, including murder.

Marilyn Joy Zemek, 59, is accused in the June 17, 2016, death of Pamelia Powell, 69. Zemek is charged with murder, elder abuse, grand theft, identity theft, perjury and a special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain, meaning she could be eligible for the death penalty, should prosecutors pursue it.

She's scheduled to say at today's hearing how she wishes to plead.

Authorities allege that Zemek, who allegedly had Powell draft a new will leaving her possessions and bank account information, caused Powell's fatal overdose on phenobarbital, which the victim had been taking for several years to regulate seizures, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Zemek and Powell allegedly met at a Palm Desert “Botox party” in late 2015, and “within a few weeks, Zemek managed to become a major part of Powell's life,” the affidavit states.

On the date of Powell's death, Zemek reported it to police, who found Powell at her home at 81562 Avenida Viesca in Indio. Neighbors told police that Zemek entered the home and did not call 911 for about 90 minutes to report Powell's death.

In the months prior to her death, prosecutors say that Powell's health deteriorated rapidly, with three hospitalizations due to phenobarbital overdoses or intoxication that led her doctor to remove the drug from her medication list in April 2016.

However, after Zemek became her primary caretaker, she allegedly continued providing the drug to Powell, who suffered “altered mental states, disorientation, delusions and confusion” during hospital stays in early 2016, according to reports from medical records and accounts from Powell's neighbors and friends, prosecutors said.

Powell was not allowed to make medical decisions for herself, but was signed out of a medical facility in late May against doctor's advice, and allegedly at Zemek's behest. One week prior to her death, she drafted a new will giving Zemek her power of attorney, naming her the beneficiary on her Edward Jones account and the recipient of all her possessions, including “every item in the victim's house,” the declaration states.

That will superseded a will Powell drafted in November 2015 naming several others as her beneficiaries, according to court documents. Zemek was not among those listed in that document.

Following Powell's death, investigators found that more than 100 charges, totaling nearly $8,000, were made on her credit card, according to the declaration. When the account was frozen, prosecutors claim Zemek successfully restored access to the account by claiming she was Powell. She can also be seen on video footage making some of the purchases on Powell's credit card, officials said.

She also allegedly filed probate paperwork in Nevada to become appointed special administrator to Powell's estate and “withdrew $201,634 in three cashier's checks made out to herself from Powell's account,” the declaration states.

Zemek was taken into custody June 12 by Indio police near Frank Sinatra Drive and Portola Avenue in Palm Desert and is being held without bail, according to county jail records.

Photo: Getty Images

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