Wizard of Oz "Munchkin" Mickey Carroll Was Not Exploited; Jury Sides With Caretaker
For five days last week, the family of the late Mickey Carroll suggested that their uncle's caretaker manipulated and financially exploited the Wizard of Oz actor prior to his death in 2009. Yet those arguments failed to sway a St. Louis County jury that needed just two hours to clear the former caretaker, Linda Dodge, of all 31 allegations brought up in the weeklong trial.
Mickey Carroll with his Wizard of Oz memorabilia. | Jennifer Silverberg
When Carroll passed away at the age of 89, both he and his disabled nephew, Frankie Parenti, were living with Dodge and her then husband, Gus, at their Crestwood home. Just how and why Caroll and Parenti ended up living with Dodge became a focus of the trial.
In court testimony Dodge denied ever receiving a dime from Carroll. Instead, her attorneys painted a picture that she and the actor were like family, and her care for Carroll was done out of love and admiration. The four-foot-seven Carroll was just a teen when he was cast as one of the Munchkins in the famous 1939 film. The role would define his life, with Carroll (born Michael Finocchiaro) using his minor celebrity status to entertain fans and serve as an honorary guest at charity events and other gatherings. Dodge first met Carroll at a fundraiser and soon began chauffeuring him and Parenti to other engagements around St. Louis.
Carroll's relatives accused Dodge of "socially isolating" Carroll and Parenti and convincing Carroll to change the telephone number he'd had since the early 1990s so that his family couldn't contact him. According to the family, it was Dodge who also convinced Carroll to take out a $100,000 line of credit to remodel his north-county home just months before his death.
Carroll on the set of the Wizard of Oz.
"Linda Dodge wanted to take over every aspect of Mickey's life, especially the money," stated attorney Patrick J. McCarthy, who noted that two $27,000 checks for the home renovation were made out simply to "cash."
Moreover, the family suggested that Dodge was also negligent in her care for Carroll, with a social worker with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services finding Carroll and Parenti sharing the same bed at Dodge's home. A bizarre video shown during the trial suggested further neglect. In the video, Carroll sports a massive contusion on his forehead and seems confused as he rides around town in a taxi with two intoxicated strangers. The video was presumably shot at a time that Dodge had power of attorney over Carroll.
Watch the video on page two. Plus, find out how Carroll's financial adviser became concerned with his client's spending.