The End Game

A widow just wanted her home. But that was asking too much.

Green may be painting herself as more of a novice than she is. Her husband, Steve, is an estate attorney. And, as Green admits, she wrote the original letter to the court that started the process.

Judge Wood told the women that he thought Green would be better equipped to make the tough decision: to force Sanjakian into an assisted care facility. He even chose the place, Colonial Oaks at Braeswood. (Kornblit says the judge only suggested that facility; Green and Berberian say they believed Wood ordered it.)

Getting Sanjakian there wouldn't be easy. She had refused to come to the hearing and refused to give Berberian power of attorney -- had she done either, she might have been spared from Wood's decision. Now she was livid about being forced from her home. She told Green she wasn't leaving. If they came to get her, she vowed, she'd come out shooting.

Rose Berberian wanted to keep her elderly godmother at home.
Daniel Kramer
Rose Berberian wanted to keep her elderly godmother at home.

When deputy constables arrived on December 30 to move her, Sanjakian bit them and pulled their hair. They had to use handcuffs to take her away.

Today, in Sanjakian's room at Colonial Oaks, an aide watches as she naps and entertains visitors. Her room is tidy, if impersonal. The framed black-and-white photos of Sanjakian and her late husband are the only real reminder of her earlier life.

When Berberian comes to visit, Sanjakian kisses her and proudly tells the assistant, "That's my goddaughter." A tiny woman with a long white braid and sunken cheeks, she looks nothing like the robust image framed on the wall. Her Turkish accent is thick; her voice, high and quavering.

She gets her hair washed every other day, which she loves. The staff is kind, she says.

But she wants to go home.

"That Jackie wants to sell my house," Sanjakian announces angrily. "She is a bad girl. If she comes in here, I will call the police."

Green knows her former neighbor blames her. Sanjakian refuses to see her, Green admits, and has told her to go to hell. "She says she's going to get out in a year and sue me," she says. "But the doctors say she doesn't have a year to live."

Unknown to Sanjakian, her things were sold last month: her dresses, her husband's ties, her perfume and china.

Everything that didn't sell was packed up and taken away, to be given to charity or rummaged at later sales. Nobody has need for her reams of colorful scarves, or records of Armenian hymns, or dozens of pairs of white gloves.

Her house will be sold soon, too, and likely demolished. The county values the lot at $500,000; the old house is more liability than asset in such a tony neighborhood.

She's a rich woman. Although she worried constantly about money, she had some $200,000 in the bank, according to court records. While Green and Berberian each suggest that money is the only thing the other cares about, neither will get any of Sanjakian's funds. There's enough to pay for her care at Colonial Oaks and attorney Kornblit, who has earned $8,200 to date and continues to handle the widow's legal affairs.

After she dies, whatever funds are left will be sent to an Armenian hospital in Istanbul. And that, at least, is what she wanted. Sanjakian was hardly organized, but she had her own unique filing system.

Just before the estate sale, Green found her will, tucked carefully into her box of Depends.

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