She once tried moving into an apartment, but was back home within three months. She was never able to cook full meals or complete basic household chores. She never maintained steady employment or had any significant relationships outside her immediate family.
Family members say Cheryl was “very low-functioning” — childlike in many ways — and susceptible to sudden mood swings. While not officially diagnosed, it was commonly understood that she suffered from some form of mental illness, according to her siblings.
It was that vulnerability, a lawsuit alleges, that allowed Cheryl to become a victim of financial exploitation in her final years as her parents’ health deteriorated and she was presented with more responsibility.
Her two siblings, who live in the western United States but made frequent trips back home, say Cheryl became increasingly isolated after their parents died. She stopped returning calls and apparently went months without leaving the house.
It was only after Cheryl’s death in May 2019 that family members say they learned the rest of the story. For several years, she had been communicating with a Colorado woman claiming to be a long-lost cousin, agreeing to keep their phone and email conversations secret.
And, the siblings discovered, Cheryl had made changes to several bank certificates that they thought were protected in a family trust. The alleged cousin, Laura Craig, had been named sole beneficiary of the life savings Edward and Charlene Shega had designated for their children.
The surviving children, Greg Shega and Nancy Weiser, say they were astonished to learn that the certificates totaled nearly $250,000 — a small fortune amassed by their parents through a modest lifestyle built on Ed’s 42 years of work in the Iron Range mines.
“(It was) everything Ed and Charlene worked for their entire lives,” said Amy Weber, Greg’s wife. “Everything they did was for their children. It’s like a destruction of someone’s complete life work, gone to people who couldn’t care less what it took from the family they stole from. It would kill Ed and Charlene if they knew where their life savings went.”
Cheryl Shega poses next to a snowman at her Hibbing home in 1989. She lived on the property on the southwestern edge of the city her entire life. (Photo courtesy of the Shega family)
A complaint filed in State District Court last summer accuses Laura and her husband, Stephen Craig, of exploitation of a vulnerable adult, unjust enrichment, undue influence, tortious interference, deception/fraud and intentional misrepresentation.