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Special prosecutor drops stealing charge against Klebba

Special prosecutor drops stealing charge against Klebba

February 13th, 2014 in News

Teressa Klebba won't be going to trial next week.

Special Prosecutor Merilee Crockett - a Boone County assistant prosecutor - told Klebba's attorney this week she was dropping the case, with no plans to refile it.

"Essential witness testimony conflicted with physical evidence," Crockett told the News Tribune in an e-mail.

It was set for a four-day trial beginning next Tuesday.

A Cole County grand jury indicted Klebba, now 32, in December 2011, charging her with stealing at least $500, but less than $25,000 while working in the Cole County circuit clerk's office between July 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011.

Klebba's attorney, Emily Fretwell of Jefferson City, said Wednesday that before deciding to dismiss the case, Crockett had planned to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor.

"Ms. Klebba was accused of taking $50 in cash from a payment made by a defendant for his court costs," Crockett explained. "The circuit clerk at the time counted the money in the safe, and Ms. Klebba was $50 short.

"The next day, the clerk told the investigator that the $50 had mysteriously reappeared. Then, after Ms. Klebba had been escorted from the office, the $50 had vanished again."

The circuit clerk was Brenda Umstattd, who resigned April 18, 2012 - the same day a state audit report cited several problems with her office's operations, especially the way it handled money.

Umstattd fired Klebba on July 1, 2011, when the missing money first was reported.

However, Crockett said: "Ms. Klebba did not have access to the cash at the time it was discovered to be gone, reappeared and gone again.

"Multiple people had access to the safe for a short period of time before the first time the money was counted."

In her e-mail, Crockett noted she was the third Boone County prosecutor to handle Klebba's criminal case.

"I had to retrace and reinvestigate a great deal before I came to the conclusion that it was impossible to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, two things," she said. "First, that Ms. Klebba is the only person who could have taken the $50 from the safe.

"Second, that the money was ever actually gone to begin with."

After her firing, and before the grand jury's indictment, Klebba fought to get her job back - and won three different times.

First, a panel of three judges from other Mid-Missouri counties on Sept. 16, 2011, ordered Umstattd to put Klebba back to work and pay her back-pay.

That panel heard her appeal under a Supreme Court rule governing personnel issues in the court system, and found that Klebba "followed office policies regarding cash deposits; that she did not take the $50.00 in question or any money, ever."

When Klebba returned to her job, Umstattd immediately fired her again.

Klebba sued and Osage County Associate Circuit Judge Robert Schollmeyer ordered Umstattd to keep Klebba on the job and on the payroll. Umstattd appealed, but a three-judge panel of the state appeals court in Kansas City upheld Schollmeyer's ruling.

Fretwell noted Wednesday that Klebba no longer works for the circuit clerk's office, let go last fall for reasons "not related to this case."