Church worker now accused of stealing more than a million dollars

| May 27, 2010

First Baptist Church of Morristown has now filed a civil suit against a former employee who is facing a felony theft charge, and the amount she's accused of stealing has grown to more than a million dollars.

Barbara Whitt is free on $175,000 bond.

She's accused of stealing more than $1,500,000 from the church where she worked for 47 years.

Her neighbors noticed a lot of purchases lately. They said Barbara Whitt gutted and refurbished her house, and her son bought several new trucks.

"Just like they won the lottery or something to me, that's what I thought," her next door neighbor Mike Parker said. "How can anyone spend that kind of money in these times?"

Investigators said the money came from First Baptist Church of Morristown: $1,500,000 embezzled over two and a half years.

"We believe that was accomplished by Ms Whitt altering over 1600 checks to make them payable to her, which she cashed in small increments over that amount of time," Morristown Police Major Michelle Jones said.

Church members are praying for the financial secretary they believe stole from them. And they're letting the legal system handle the consequences of her alleged actions.

"This is not our money, but it was God's money. And so we feel like we have a responsibility to try to retrieve it," Pastor Dean Haun said.

Since the missing money was discovered, the church has gone through shock, denial, anger, and forgiveness.

"Although she was not a member of our church, she was like part of our family. She's been here for 47 years," Haun said.

Her defense attorney, Tommy Hindman, said," Ms. Whitt wants to conclude this matter as soon as possible. All the facts in this case will come to light."

"Money was not the only thing taken. Trust was taken," Haun said.

For its part, First Baptist Church has implemented new accounting safeguards.

"I think we have to go back to what President Reagan said: trust but verify," Haun said.

The case will be presented to the Grand Jury July 2.

If convicted, Barbara Whitt could face 8-12 years in prison.

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Category: Church Security