SOUTH HAVEN — There is enough evidence for the former Hartford Township cemetery sexton to go to trial.
That was the ruling this week by Judge Arthur Clarke in Van Buren County District Court in South Haven.
Gerrie Heskett is accused of embezzling $65,000 from the township during her time as cemetery sexton. She was employed from 1997 to December 2016.
Clarke heard testimony from Hartford Township Clerk Julie Sweet and arguments from attorneys at a preliminary hearing in March. He was further given a report from a forensic accountant.
Heskett’s attorney, Joseph Fletcher, had asked for the case to be dismissed on the grounds the statute of limitations is up and the prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence. Clarke denied that motion.
Thirty-nine thousand dollars of the alleged $65,000 embezzlement involves grave plots and how payment for them were recorded or not recorded. The rest of the money involves other grave plots and grave openings.
Fletcher argues that the main grave plots in questions were reported in a burial book as required. Prosecutor Jay Blair argued that the payment for the plots also needed to be recorded.
Sweet testified in March that the burial books are not the permanent records.
Blair said it’s possible Heskett could have taken deeds and wrote whatever date she wanted on them because in 2000 she was given control of all the books and papers relating to the cemetery.
“There is no record of any payment ever being made in the ’90s for those grave plots,” Blair said at a hearing in January. “I think that’s why it needs to go to a jury. Let them decide if she actually purchased them.”
Heskett will appear for a pre-trial hearing at 1 p.m. April 23 in Van Buren County Circuit Court in Paw Paw.
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