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Police say Detroit woman killed her benefactor, 71

DETROIT — A Detroit woman’s kindness ended up getting her killed, Detroit police say.

Margaret Theut was slain 17 years after she rescued an 8-year-old Teresa Alvarez and her brother from homelessness.

Alvarez, now 25, is charged with killing her 71-year-old benefactor as part of a plan to steal thousands of dollars Theut had saved to donate to charity. Alvarez dumped Theut’s body on the outskirts of the same park where as a child she once huddled with her brother and grandparents, police say.

A probable cause hearing will be held May 14 in Wayne County Circuit Court for Alvarez, who is in prison on a probation violation after being convicted in 2011 of stealing from the Taco Bell restaurant she managed.

Alvarez planned for weeks to kill Theut, police allege.

“(Alvarez) told her friends that Margaret killed herself by overdosing on pills,” Detroit police homicide investigator Lance Sullivan told The Detroit News (http://bit.ly/ZgOsKs ). “Then she got dressed up and told everyone she was going to the fake funeral.”

Defense attorney James Schlaff declined to comment.

Theut was a retired General Motors secretary who lived for years in a neighborhood two blocks from sprawling Rouge Park. Her next-door neighbor would sometimes leave her two kids, Alvarez and her older brother, Jesus, in Theut’s care.

When the neighbor died of breast cancer, the maternal grandparents were awarded custody, said Janet Jenkins, the children’s great-aunt.

“Things never really were stable with them,” Jenkins said. “They’d get an apartment and lose it and end up living in the park again.”

Theut and Jenkins, who lived five blocks from each other, decided to adopt the kids in 1996. Jenkins was awarded custody of Alvarez, and Theut adopted her brother.

While Theut had problems with her adopted son — Jenkins said he went to prison on a larceny conviction — Alvarez graduated from high school and became a manager at a Taco Bell.

But Alvarez was convicted in 2011 of embezzling nearly $2,000 from the restaurant and was given 18 months of probation.

While on probation, Alvarez came up with the plan to kill Theut and clean out her bank account, police say.

Theut was reported missing in November 2011, but there were no breaks in the case until May 2012, when a woman hunting for mushrooms near the Rouge River stumbled upon what appeared to be human bones wrapped in a bathrobe and blankets.

Dental records showed the remains belonged to Theut.



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