FORTVILLE — A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a Fortville official who police said used her town-issued cellphone to send texts threatening to kill a local family.
Fortville Clerk-Treasurer Marcie Stafford faces four felony charges amid allegations she used her work cellphone to send menacing text messages, including threats to burn a family’s house down and kill their children.
Stafford, who took office in 2012 and lost her bid for re-election last spring, is charged with four Level 6 felony charges of intimidation, court records show. She was expected to turn herself in Thursday morning, but Hancock County Sheriff’s Department officials said they have yet to locate her. Calls to her home and personal cellphone Thursday went unanswered.
A Fortville couple told police they both received threatening phone calls and text messages from Stafford for the past few months after a relative of Stafford’s began living with them, according to court documents. Stafford had “become increasingly hostile” with each new exchange, leading them to block Stafford’s work and personal cellphone numbers, the couple told police.
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But Stafford didn’t stop, court records state. She used other means to contact the couple, asking others to forward her text messages to the couple, court records state.
In late October, Stafford sent a message asking a friend to forward a text message to the couple, stating, “I will come burn your … house down,” adding the couple would “lose something” if they didn’t comply with Stafford’s demands to have her relative contact her, court records state.
Police obtained copies of the text messages as evidence, court documents state.
Last week, Stafford got into an argument with a relative, court records state. During the conversation, Stafford told the man “she was going to apply for a gun permit and get a gun, and she was going to kill (the couple’s) children,” according to court documents.
The couple contacted police immediately after hearing from the man what Stafford had said, court records state. They feared for their children because of the comments, court records state.
On Dec. 3, police met Stafford at her office in Fortville Town Hall to question her about the alleged threats.
Stafford admitted she had threatened to burn the family’s house down, but she said had no intention of going through with it, court records state.
“I would like to, but then I’d get in trouble,” Stafford told police, according to court documents.
Stafford then told officers, “If I wanted to do what she had done to me, I would kill her kids so she could then suffer,” court documents state.
Stafford told police that she did not own a gun and did not have means of getting one, court documents state.
The couple told police they have known Stafford for many years and have watched as her “behavior has gotten progressively worse” amid trouble in her personal life.
Three years ago, Stafford’s son, Logan, was killed in a car accident. The couple told investigators Stafford has been prone to severe mood swings and has acted erratically since Logan died, according to court documents.
Stafford’s professional career has been equally tumultuous, town officials have said.
During her first year in office, Stafford, who makes about $40,000 a year as Fortville’s bookkeeper, was accused of sending text messages to a local police officer suggesting she would try to get him “a raise and a car or two” in exchange for erasing a family member’s traffic ticket, police reports state. She was not charged after she told investigators she was only joking, and prosecutors determined her conduct fell short of the state bribery statute.
Fortville Town Council members have criticized her management of the office throughout her term, citing issues with the town’s books. A 2013 state audit found the town’s financial records were inaccurate during Stafford’s first year of her term; the town’s reported receipts were short $1.8 million, while disbursements were $1.6 million short, the audit states.
A warrant for Stafford’s arrest was issued Monday; that evening, Stafford attended the Fortville Town Council’s monthly meeting; no uniformed police officers were in attendance.
Police said they have been looking for Stafford since Tuesday morning. Dispatch records show officers went to Stafford’s home Wednesday morning, but she was not home.
Sheriff Mike Shepherd said he spoke to Stafford on Wednesday afternoon and informed her of the warrant. Stafford told him she would turn herself in Thursday morning, he said. By press time, Stafford had still not been arrested.
Shepherd said he has not spoken to her again, and Fortville Police Chief Bill Knauer said Stafford was not at town hall Thursday.
Fortville Town Manager Joe Renner said he has not seen Stafford since Monday’s meeting. He declined to comment further.
Elected officeholders convicted of felonies are not eligible to remain in office; those charged with crimes, however, may continue their duties while the case is pending under Indiana law.
Stafford’s term ends Dec. 31.