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Counterclaim Filed Against Day Care Owners

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January 16, 2011 by wcobserver

By Susan McCarthy

susan@wcobserver.com

WEST FORK-  A former employee of Growing God’s Kingdom, Inc. has filed a counterclaim in Washington County Circuit Court against the daycare’s owners Justin Harris and his wife Marsha of West Fork.  Justin Harris is the Arkansas State Representative for Dist. 87.

Kimberly Crabtree filed a counterclaim on Dec. 22, claiming she was falsely accused of theft and falsely arrested and prosecuted for theft.   Crabtree was arrested in July 2010 for theft of property, a Class C Felony, but criminal charges were dismissed Oct. 29, 2010 due to lack of evidence according to court documents.

Also in July, Growing God’s Kingdom filed a civil lawsuit against Crabtree seeking restitution for monies they claim were stolen while she worked for them.

“We have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt and had some proof problems and let them proceed on a civil basis,” said Dave Bercaw, Washington County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney.  “On a Nulle Pro, we have up to one year to re-file that if we get new evidence.”

A “Nulle Pro” refers to Nulle Prosequi, a legal phrase that means criminal charges are discontinued before trial.

Harris said he and Marsha met with Bercaw on Oct. 29 and decided to drop the charges after learning costs to prosecute would be higher than the judgment sought.

“We’re not into ruining her life, but we want her to do the right thing,” said Harris who said the Washington County Observer’s call was the first he’d heard of the counterclaim.

According to court documents, Crabtree was employed as a secretary and administrative assistant between the late summer of 2008 and April 2010 and was charged with pocketing tuition payments made by parents.  She was also accused of receiving health benefits without deducting payments these benefits from her pay check; Crabtree also performed bookkeeping as part of her responsibilities at Growing God’s Kingdom.

Crabtree’s counterclaim seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for costs she incurred to defend herself against unsubstantiated theft charges, including bail, attorney fees and travel from Nebraska where she now lives.  The claim also states that Crabtree has suffered mental and emotional damage as well as suffered damage to her reputation and character.

“She’s wanted to countersue on the case of slander.  She’s contended that she’s never taken a penny,” said Crabtree’s attorney, Erwin Davis of Erwin L. Davis Law Firm.

Davis said the dismissal of the criminal charges allowed Crabtree to move forward with a countersuit.

“Kimberly Crabtree really does resent the accusations against her.  She knows it’s a topic of conversation…between the owners of Growing God’s Kingdom and the parents.”

Davis said the case was scheduled to be heard by Circuit Court Judge Mary Ann Gunn on Jan. 21, but said the countersuit makes the case more complicated and that it is likely to be continued.   A motion filed at the time of the counterclaim shows that Davis requested a jury trial.

“We’re prepared to go forward in a civil case to prove there is no basis for the case,” stated Davis.

Timothy Hutchinson, the attorney for Growing God’s Kingdom was unavailable for comment.

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