Former church secretary charged

The question of what happened to money missing from the Good Hope Baptist Church’s bank accounts may have been solved.

A former secretary for the church, located on Eagle Street in Dunkirk, has been arrested on a secret Grand Jury indictment warrant charging her with grand larceny in the third degree. City resident Myra A. Murphy, 42, of South Zebra Street, was arrested after a lengthy investigation by the Dunkirk Police Department. It is alleged that she stole funds from the church over a period of time while performing duties as the secretary for the church.

Murphy turned herself in to Dunkirk Police and was subsequently arraigned before for County Court Judge John Ward and released under supervision of probation. The investigation is continuing.

Murphy was one of 20 plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit earlier this year seeking a judgment against the pastor, Leo J. Nixon, along with church members Jean Jackson, Chad Butts and Charles Butts Sr. The judgment sought included that the defendants be individually charged with the loss to defendant Good Hope Baptist Church due to their malfeasance, bad faith, breach of contract, breach of trust and fiduciary duty as set forth in the complaint.

Murphy and the other plaintiffs asked that the church be repaid any monies, with the plaintiffs then reimbursed for their costs bringing the legal action. A court-appointed receiver of church property and an accounting of church finances were also sought, along with Nixon being enjoined from interfering with the business affairs of the church, as set forth in the complaint.

Besides Murphy, the plaintiffs in the case included: John Butts, Henry Boyd, Bill Pittman Sr., Jerry Murphy, Dennis Hardwick, Jaquan Anderson, Catherine Tell, Johnnie D. Thompson, Betty R. Tell, Alberta Battle, Katrina Tirado, Randy Thomas, Earlene Smith, Emma Hooten, Douglas Lockett, Jesse Lockett, Melissa Babcock, Joshua Febus and Alberta Lockett.

Attorney John C. Gullo is representing the defendants in the case. In May he told the OBSERVER the defendants took control of the church’s finances in November 2013 after elections.

“At that time, the finances of the church were depleted to under $1,000 by the prior church leaders. This is very significant because less than two years prior the church had a bank account balance of over $45,000. The now-current trustees were not aware of this issue because the previous leaders refused to disclose the bank records. We subpoenaed those bank records last fall and have turned them over to law enforcement for their investigation.”

According to state law Section 155.35 grand larceny in the third degree, a person is guilty of grand larceny in the third degree when he or she steals property and when the value of the property exceeds $3,000. Grand larceny in the third degree is a class D felony.

According to Section 155.40 grand larceny in the second degree, a person is guilty of grand larceny in the second degree when he steals property and when the value of the property exceeds $50,000.

In any prosecution for larceny committed by trespassory taking or embezzlement, it is an affirmative defense that the property was appropriated under a claim of right made in good faith, according to Section 155.15 under larceny defenses.

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