By MIKE DONOGHUE
A South Burlington coin and jewelry businessman has pleaded guilty to committing lewd conduct on a vulnerable adult woman while she was on her deathbed at the Burlington Health and Rehab on Pearl Street in July 2018.
Stephen J. Edwards, 71, will have to register as a sex offender with the State of Vermont.
The sentencing in Vermont Superior Court in June is likely to be contested, Deputy State’s Attorney Dana M. DiSano said. She said the prosecution is seeking 2-to-5 years in prison. Defense lawyer Harley Brown is expected to seek less.
Edwards, the longtime owner of Vermont Coins and Jewelry in the Blue Mall on Dorset Street, also could be fined up to $10,000.
Judge Marty Maley ordered the probation office to prepare a presentence investigation report outlining the life of Edwards before a sentencing. The lewd conduct happened when Edwards was visiting the woman, who was in her 90s. She died a few days later.
Edwards was interrupted by a staff member walking into the room, police said.
He was visiting the woman who was in hospice care and unable to communicate, Burlington Officer Kyle Yeh said in a sworn affidavit.
A nurse walked in to provide morphine and found a man committing a lewd act on the elderly woman, who was in bed, Yeh said. The nurse ordered Edwards to leave the room, court records show.
It is the second major criminal case Edwards has been battling during the past year. Vermont State Police arrested him in connection with buying stolen jewelry and other valuables from known thieves and burglars, records show.
Edwards received a suspended 3-to-6 month prison sentence last month after pleading guilty to failing to keep proper anti-theft records for precious metals and other treasures received at his store.
Judge Kevin Griffin also placed Edwards on probation for two years and assessed him $147 in fees and surcharges.
Edwards moved his business to South Burlington several years ago after having his shop on U.S. 7 in Shelburne next to Bay Plaza. The defendant, also known as John Edwards, lived for many years on Mount Philo Road in Charlotte.