Drew County Museum case finally over
After nearly a year of ruffled feelings, the case of the missing Drew County Museum money has finally come to a close. But it’s not the closure most people following the case or friends of the musuem wanted or expected.
Terri Wolfe, 56, who served as Treasurer of the Drew County Historical Society from Jan. 1, 2011 to her resignation on Sept. 8, 2015, allegedly misappropriated $182,446 by writing checks to herself and family members out of the museum’s account to pay for fictitious work done at the museum.
Back in January, Wolfe and Elizabeth (Beth) Thurman were charged by Tenth Judicial District Prosecutor Thomas Deen with theft of property following a lengthy legislative audit of the finances of the museum. The charges followed a state police investigation and state audit of financial records.
Tommy Gray, then president of the historical society and a member of the museum commission, told the Advance-Monticellonian he was satisfied with the charges and said the future of the museum is bright.
“I feel like we’re going to come out better because of this investigation,” Gray, who initially uncovered the discrepancies and brought them to the attention of Deen, said at the time. “As a businessman, you get a feel for your cash flow—and something was definitely wrong.”
In Drew County Circuit Court Friday, Wolfe pled guilty to Class B felony charges and was sentenced to five years of supervised probation, along with paying court costs and fees and paying restitution to the Drew County Historical Society/Museum in the amount of $156,306.
It was determined by the state auditor that $26,140 of the missing money was spent on legitimate museum work, according to court documents.
Thurman was cleared of all charges.
In Wolfe’s sworn statement to the court, she said that Thurman was unaware of her actions and “had nothing to do with the improper transactions.”
Wolfe’s statement also said that checks that appeared to be endorsed by Thurman that were deposited into Thurman and Wolfe’s joint bank account, were fraudulently endorsed by Wolfe.
The prosecuting attorney for the case, Tenth Judicial District Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Frank Spain; along with Hani Hashem, legal representative for Thurman and Wolfe; Jack Bennett, current president of the historical society; and Drew County Judge Robert Akin were in agreement on the recommendation of dropping all charges against Thurman, according to court records.
This plea deal comes just before the pair was set to appear in court the week of Nov. 27.
Wolfe will serve no jail time and according to court officials, the $156,306 in restitution has been paid in full to the Drew County Sheriff’s Office.
The conditions of her supervised probation are standard for those charged with Class B felonies.
On behalf of the historical society, Bennett submitted a resolution on Nov. 16 to the court, which read:
“Whereas, the Drew County Historical Society has been advised of a potential agreement in the matter of the state of Arkansas v. Elizabeth Thurman and Terri Wolfe, Drew County Ciurcuit Court case No. CR-16-175, whereby, in exchange fora plea oif guilt and the immediate payment of $156,300, Terri Wolfe will receive a sentence of five (5) years probation and the charges against Elibeth Thurman will be dismissed;
“Whereas, we believe that this resolution is in the best interest of the Drew County Historical Commission and the citizens of Drew County, Arkansas. We are requesting that the prosecuting attorney accept this plea offer.”
Yet, Gray, still a member of both organizations, said a lot of people are upset with the court’s decision. He noted it was the preference of some the case go forward to a jury trial and that the entire sum of $182,446 be returned to the museum.