PAW PAW — The former Hartford Township cemetery sexton will spend the next 30 days in jail.  

Gerrie Heskett, 62, was sentenced Monday on one count of embezzlement by a public official of over $50.

Judge Kathleen Brickley ordered her to serve five years probation and pay $258 in court costs in addition to the jail term.  

A Van Buren County Circuit Court jury found Heskett guilty of the charge in July after four days of hearing arguments, plus three days of deliberation.

The jury found her not guilty of embezzling between $50,000 and $100,000 and disregarded the option given by the judge of a lesser charge of embezzlement between $20,000 and $50,000.

Heskett served as Hartford Township cemetery sexton from 1997 to 2016. She was in charge of maintaining Maple Hill Cemetery, and in 2000 the Township Board gave her authority over everything related to the cemetery, including taking payments, filling out the burial book and helping to issue deeds.

She came under suspicion in 2016 after someone reported giving her a payment for a grave and not receiving a plot certificate. After an investigation by police, and a forensic auditor went over the township’s records, Heskett was accused of embezzling $65,000.

During the trial it was determined that there were some discrepancies, and an averaged total, in the forensic audit. Brickley told the jury it was up to them to decide if they wanted to use the averaged total or the one minus the discrepancies. 

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman