Official accused of death threats ordered to seek treatment

GREENFIELD — A former Fortville town official will undergo mental health treatments as part of the sentence she’ll serve after admitting she sent menacing text messages to a local family, officials said.

Marcie Stafford, Fortville’s former clerk-treasurer, pleaded guilty this week to one Level 6 felony count of intimidation. Police said she used her town-issued cellphone to send text message to a Fortville family, threatening to burn down their home and kill their children. Stafford was still in office when the allegations arose.

Now she’ll spend the next two years on probation, during which she’ll undergo regular medical evaluations and treatment in addition to her meetings with probation officers, terms outlined in a plea agreement with prosecutors.

The probation department will decide what sort of counseling or therapy Stafford will undergo, prosecutors said. Should Stafford abide by the terms of the agreement and successfully complete probation, her charge will be treated as a misdemeanor rather than a felony; if she violations her probation, she’ll spend her remaining sentence in jail, prosecutors said.

Stafford was arrested in December and charged with four felony counts of intimidation, each a Level 6 felony; three of those charges were dismissed as part of her agreement with prosecutors.

A Fortville couple told police they received a series of threatening text messages and phone calls from Stafford over several months, according to court documents. A relative of Stafford’s had recently begun living with the couple when the threats began, and Stafford “became increasingly hostile” about the living arrangements as time went on, the victims told police.

The couple blocked Stafford’s work and personal cellphone numbers, but Stafford continued to contact them, having friends forward them her messages, court documents state.

At one point, Stafford told a relative of the victims “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.

Despite all this, the victims told prosecutors they wanted to see Stafford get help rather than sit in a jail cell, said deputy prosecutor John Keiffner, who handled the case.

The couple told investigators they have known Stafford for many years and knew she’d faced hardships in her work and personal life that made her behavior “progressively worse” as time went on, court documents state.

Stafford’s son, Logan, was killed in a car accident in 2012, and the couple told police she became prone to severe mood swings following his death.

At work, Stafford was regularly at odds with Fortville Town Council, as its members criticized her management of the town’s books throughout her term. Stafford lost her bid for re-election in May 2015.

The victims told prosecutors they didn’t wanted a felony on Stafford’s record, which could prevent her from getting a job one day, Keiffner said. They wanted Stafford to receive professional help for any psychological issues she might have, he said.

Stafford’s well-being was called into question several times during the case. Prosecutors asked that she undergo a psychiatric evaluation upon her arrest in December, but a judge denied the request.

Then in March, Stafford’s attorney, Ariel Schoen of Greenfield, asked for an evaluation as well, court records show. That request was granted, and a doctor was appointed to determine if Stafford was mental competent to stand trial. Records of the doctor’s finding were not made public.

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Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.