SANFORD, Fla. (AP) _ A nurse's aide accused of draining $50,000 from an 84-year-old patient's bank accounts and of neglect that may have contributed to his death will keep the money and avoid trial because prosecutors say they have no case.

Seminole-Brevard State Attorney Norman Wolfinger said Monday he lacks evidence to prosecute Patricia VanDyke, 42, on charges of grand theft and exploitation of the elderly.

Ms. VanDyke, who is free on $2,000 bond and lives in a Sanford mobile home she bought with George Reek's money, said Monday she has been vindicated.

The investigator who ran the case, however, said prosecutors have plenty of evidence.

''If I didn't feel that I had a case, I wouldn't have directed the investigator to go over and arrest the woman,'' said Seminole sheriff's Sgt. Steve Walthers. ''She broke the law and she needs to be prosecuted.''

And a state Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services counselor, Harry McLaulin, said in a March 3 report that Ms. VanDyke exploited and neglected Reek.

''There are reasons to believe that said neglect directly contributed to Mr. Reek's death,'' he said. Reek died March 22 of tuberculosis.

The day Ms. VanDyke gained control of Reek's accounts, she withdrew $38,000. She withdrew $6,000 the next day, sheriff's reports show. Detectives say a total of $91,000 is missing from Reek's estate. They traced $50,000 to Ms. VanDyke and charged her May 10.

Florida's speedy-trial law requires that people charged with felonies go to trial within 175 days of their arrest. The deadline for Ms. VanDyke's trial passed Nov. 1, meaning she can petition to have the case dismissed. She said Tuesday she would file a petition within a few days.

Wolfinger could fight the petition, but would have to try Ms. VanDyke within 15 days.

Ms. VanDyke said she took the money because Reek wanted her to have it.

''We loved each other. I took care of him,'' she said. ''I cry every day because I loved that man so much. I loved that man more than anything in the world. I love working with elderly people.''