On Sept. 21, 2009, Shannon Michelle Wiggins pleaded guilty in Pulaski County Circuit Court to one count of felony theft of property and two counts of forgery. The victim was Quapaw Quarter United Methodist Church, whose pastor at the time was Rev. Betsy Singleton-Snyder, husband of then-Congressman Vic Snyder.
According to Singleton-Snyder, Wiggins had worked as the church administrator for at least four years, before it was discovered, in July 2007, that she'd been stealing from it. "Everyone considered her a friend," says the minister.
Judge Barry A. Sims sentenced Wiggins to 60 days in jail and five years' probation. She was 39 at the time. He also ordered her to repay the church: $48,017.71 immediately and another $2,800 within 30 days.
Through her attorney, Gregory E. Bryant, of Little Rock, Wiggins had worked out the plea agreement months earlier. By the time she signed the agreement, she had already paid the court the big sum. A few days later, she was able to get her attorney the remainder, to be delivered to the court.
Doug Butler claims that Wiggins got the money that kept her from having to go to jail from Shea Saenger, her aunt in Washington, and that Saenger had obtained the money illegally, by defrauding his elderly father, Norman Butler.
To support his claim, Doug Butler has posted on his website, butlervsaenger.com, copies of two cashiers' checks that Saenger made payable to Wiggins' attorney. The first, dated five months before Wiggins signed her plea agreement, was for $48,018. The second, for $2,800, was purchased on the day that Wiggins was sentenced.
While Butler was in Arkansas to appear in court in Phillips County against other relatives to whom Saenger has admitted sending money she illicitly obtained from Norman Butler, he stopped in Little Rock. He visited the church that had been repaid with his father's money. And he paid a call at the office of the Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley.
A deputy prosecutor there recalls meeting with Doug Butler, but says no formal complaint was filed. Larry Jegley, the county's chief prosecutor, wrote in an e-mail that someone from his office would be glad to talk with Butler again. However, he wrote, "With the amount of money involved, we would need an investigative file from a police agency before we could take any action."
At this point, no law enforcement agency in Arkansas is known to be investigating Wiggins or anyone else who received money from Saenger. To the contrary, even though Wiggins is still on probation from her 2009 conviction, she is employed by the Hazen Police Department.
"That really frosts my butt," Doug Butler says. "The money she paid in restitution was money stolen from my dad — and now she works at a police department."
Having taken leave after a heart condition and the birth of triplets, Singleton-Snyder is now at another church. When asked about the way her former church was repaid, she replied, "I think it's horrible. Of course, the church had no idea they were being duped again. Part of what people do in a church is put their trust in one another."
I'd just like to add my kudos to the chorus of compliments for the author…
That last line is a tough one.
Thank you, Roy, from one of your former students.
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