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Bond set at $3,000 for Richmond County coroner

Friday, Dec. 20, 2013 10:45 AM
Last updated Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013 12:51 AM
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A $3,000 bond was set Friday for Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten, the estimated value of the vehicle he is accusing of stealing.

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Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten looks to his family sitting on the front row as he is escorted out of the courtroom.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten looks to his family sitting on the front row as he is escorted out of the courtroom.


The 70-year-old Tuten was brought into Richmond County Superior Court in a jail-issued bright orange jumpsuit and shackles. Tuten was arrested Thursday in a joint state and federal investigation that continues.

District Attorney Ashley Wright said Friday that the FBI received information in July that something was suspicious about property kept by the coroner.

If someone dies with no immediately known heirs, the coroner is to secure any property left with the body, Wright said. If such property isn’t claimed after four years, it is supposed to be turned over to the school board, Wright said.

The nearly 10-year-old vehicle Tuten is accused of appropriating belonged to a man who died on April 11, Wright said. The owner had lived in an apartment, and in such circumstances vehicles have been stored at the coroner’s office, she said.

But Tuten is suspected of keeping the 2004 Nissan Altima and using it as his personal vehicle. In May the car was serviced and Tuten paid for it. The tag on the vehicle was issued for a trailer that Tuten owns, Wright said.

Although the case might be turned over to federal prosecutors and indicted quickly, the current charge is a state case, Wright said.

Wright requested special conditions for bond to prohibit Tuten from going to the coroner’s office or using any county IT network. She also asked for Tuten to surrender any county property and any firearms.

Defense attorney Danny Durham said Tuten had no issue with complying with the special conditions of bond. He is needed at home as the caretaker for his wheelchair bound wife, Durham said.

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Dixieman
17411
Points
Dixieman 12/20/13 - 11:49 am
10
3
He is accused of stealing...

...an old Nissan (2004) worth $3,000? I dunno...I wouldn't risk my job and reputation and freedom for that. Maybe a new Rolls...but a 2004 Nissan Sentra?

GiantsAllDay
10498
Points
GiantsAllDay 12/20/13 - 11:50 am
5
9
Stolen car with a fake

Stolen car with a fake license plate. Not exactly the crime of the century. Good news for the DA, however. Getting to go after a high profile citizen. Makes all those years of college worth it for a DA.

gargoyle
20968
Points
gargoyle 12/20/13 - 12:29 pm
6
2
If proved what a way to end a

If proved what a way to end a career

Red Headed Step Child
4490
Points
Red Headed Step Child 12/20/13 - 12:59 pm
6
2
You never know what makes

You never know what makes people do what they do. I too, would not risk my career and reputation for ANYTHING. Putting tags on it that were registered for a trailer? That speaks volumes to the fact that he knew he was doing something wrong, at least in my opinion.

Edward1968
624
Points
Edward1968 12/20/13 - 01:08 pm
7
2
Great Job!

DA Wright did a great job in preventing Tuten from entering the Coroner's office and also preventing him from access to the IT network. If he is so stupid as to steal a $3K automobile, he is stupid enough to try to spoliate any records in the Coroner's office to try to cover up any other wrongdoing. I suspect there may be other things coming to light soon.

GiantsAllDay
10498
Points
GiantsAllDay 12/20/13 - 01:42 pm
6
2
He wasn't very smart putting

He wasn't very smart putting a trailer plate on a car. Trailer plates have different letter/number sequences than cars. A cop would have noticed that pretty easily. Didn't this guy use to be a cop? How did he not know even that?

truthsetmfree
94
Points
truthsetmfree 12/20/13 - 02:40 pm
6
2
more than a car

that didn't arrest him for one car, wait till the FEDS start slamming him.

Marinerman1
5461
Points
Marinerman1 12/20/13 - 02:42 pm
10
3
I'm Not Impressed

Yeah, Ms. Wright can go after a 70 year-old slow guy stealing a $3000 Altima. Can't seem to indict Scott Dean's daughter, so he could POSSIBLY get a new trial. Has allowed some "strange" plea deals lately to come out of her office. And she didn't go after the death penalty, and give closure to Kay Parson's kids. Maybe I'm missing something. I just don't know.

Navy Gary
1615
Points
Navy Gary 12/20/13 - 03:41 pm
8
3
Political Move?

Wow, why didn't the Sheriff just drop by Mr. Tutens office and tell him to put the car back? If he was intent on charging him, he could have just wrote him a summons to appear in court. Getting the FBI involved, all the media coverage, him in shackles and prison orange.?? WT* This is a 70 year old man who has served the county for decades. Seems a little much and dramatic to me. Dig deeper you news hounds!!

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 12/20/13 - 03:44 pm
4
6
Really, such a dastardly act

Really, such a dastardly act of stealing from the dead by an elected Coroner. Remember those idiots who were sentenced to prison for digging up graves? They went to prison for a few years, this is worse.

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 12/20/13 - 03:50 pm
5
3
Navy Gary, keep trying and

Navy Gary, keep trying and you will hit it right on one of these things. I do welcome you to the Chronicle boards.

OutnAbout
51
Points
OutnAbout 12/20/13 - 04:54 pm
4
2
Was he part of this or just in training?

Was he part of this or just in training?? Or trained her????

News 12 at 11 o'clock, January 23, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Richmond County Deputy Coroner Charlena Graham has been arrested by sheriff's deputies and charged with stealing property from a dead person.

"The events of the last 24 hours have destroyed my trust in that person that I greatly trusted when I hired her and put her in a position of trust. She betrayed me and betrayed the citizens of Richmond County," said Coroner Grover Tuten.

He told us the family of a deceased person called the Sheriff about a week ago to say when personal items were returned to them, some were missing.

The victim was 29-year-old Stephanie LeBlanc. Deputy Coroner Graham was called to the on December 31, 2007 and trusted with LeBlanc's body and her belongings.

Her boyfriend says that included five gift cards she had just received for Christmas, for Stephanie to use at places like Macy's, Victoria's Secret, Outback, and Target. Her boyfriend says Graham was seen on video surveillance using the card at Target with a friend.

"Based on the information we had, the video and information from the family, this afternoon we locked up the Deputy Coroner," says Capt. Jack Francisco.

The evidence is strong. Coroner Grover Tuten says the cards were photographed as part of LeBlanc's property, so they know she had them on her when she arrived.

"We spoke to her, she has cooperated. We have some of the property that was purchased with the gift cards," added Capt. Francsico.

But the recovered property does little to ease LeBlanc's family and law enforcement, Sheriff Ronnie Strength adding, "I'm very disappointed, this is a despicable offense."

Deputy Coroner Charlena Graham was one of two deputy coroners who assisted Tuten with investigating deaths in the county and had worked in the office for four years. He told News 12 he considered her a friend and that she had a good work record.

He adds this is the first complaint of this type he can remember in his 30 years in the coroner's office.

Deputy Coroner Graham was arrested Wednesday, and when deputies put handcuffs on her, she was fired.

The accusations are considered a felony because the accused violated her oath of office, according to Sheriff Ronnie Strength.

Truth Matters
8084
Points
Truth Matters 12/20/13 - 05:02 pm
3
4
"This is a 70 year old man

"This is a 70 year old man who has served the county for decades. Seems a little much and dramatic to me. "

So what is the magic age at which law enforcement can look the other way? One would hope that at age 70 an individual would have long before developed a moral compass that signals when an act is wrong, and illegal. For his wife's and family's sake, I hope the coroner has a very good reason for this situation.

Little Lamb
49093
Points
Little Lamb 12/20/13 - 07:47 pm
2
2
Thumbs Up

MarinerMan @ 2:42.

my.voice
5174
Points
my.voice 12/20/13 - 08:12 pm
5
1
Why would it be turned over

Why would it be turned over to the school board?

scoopdedoop64
2488
Points
scoopdedoop64 12/20/13 - 08:15 pm
4
3
I don't really get it?

Believe me when I say that I know what he did was wrong and is considered stealing BUT in reference to all the other stuff we see this seems overkill. Take the car away, fire the guy, first time offense then gives him 2 years probation and be done with it. Like I said, all this seems like an over exaggeration.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 12/20/13 - 09:13 pm
3
2
I have to agree snoop and can

I have to agree snoop and can someone tell me is it standard to put prisoners in shackles.....seriously, do you think you need to put a 70 year old man in shackles to appear in court for taking a vehicle?

Darby
29310
Points
Darby 12/20/13 - 09:22 pm
2
2
"Maybe a new Rolls...

but a 2004 Nissan Sentra?"

.
Well, dixieman, it's been said that everyman has his price. Are you establishing yours?

Darby
29310
Points
Darby 12/20/13 - 09:25 pm
2
2
OK, Grover...... you got out on bail.

I'd just as soon not have to feed and shelter you for the next ten years...

How about you dye your hair, grow a beard and head for Mexico? Yeah, that's the ticket...

kiwiinamerica
982
Points
kiwiinamerica 12/20/13 - 10:27 pm
0
0
Public enemy
Unpublished

Yep, this geriatric needs to be put in leg irons and cuffs. He might run out of the courtroom and vault over the railings. He's a danger to society for sure and there's no telling what he might do next.

I mean seriously, folks. Talk about overkill. This article reminds me of one of those "kindergarten student arrested for bringing water pistol to school" stories. Yes, he broke the law and justice must be served but they've got him shackled up like he's Ted Bundy.

paladin5
311
Points
paladin5 12/20/13 - 11:04 pm
5
1
TOO DRAMATIC?

1. Theft by Taking of property of a Deceased person (WHAT IF...The property belonged to one of your Deceased relatives?)
2. Violation of Oath of Office (WHAT ARE....Your Expectations of a Public Servant (Regardless of Age).
3. Arrested/incarcerated suspects appearing court wear Shackles (Policy for All). Watch in Court in Richmond and Columbia.
4. Disappointing?....Yes, but the Public Trust issue is Primary Focus.
5. Columbia County Tax Commissioner....Public Trust and Service and abuse of Resources paid for by the public....Same issue of Public Trust Expectations.
6. Investigations still ongoing until the full story or truth is determined...Be Patient ....Justice is not about Age or Popularity

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 12/21/13 - 07:27 am
2
2
Tip of the Iceberg

It seems thefts of the property of the deceased has been going on for awhile. The atmosphere in the office was one of not obeying the law and protecting the property of the deceased.

Truth Matters
8084
Points
Truth Matters 12/21/13 - 08:30 am
1
1
Like others, I now wonder if

Like others, I now wonder if there was a culture of this kind of disregard for the belongings of the deceased. Reading the coroner's response when his assistant was arrested for gift card theft from a deceased, it is difficult to not expect a higher standard of behavior from the head of the department.

truthsetmfree
94
Points
truthsetmfree 12/21/13 - 12:52 pm
0
1
out on bond

Grover Tuten should resign today, and appointment should be made and that person should dismiss everyone working in that office. There is not now nor has there ever been any accountability for people's property in that office. Grover didn't wake up yesterday and take a car. When the investigation is complete I am afraid we will find that he has been stealing for some time. What is even more astounding is that Mark Bowen the experienced investigator, and long time Tuten friend, should have known what his boss was doing, after all he claims to be second in charge. How does an experienced investigator miss the clues. It is certainly time to clean the office and start over. In order to develop a professional office once Grover is gone his assistant should follow.

Riverman1
93737
Points
Riverman1 12/21/13 - 03:19 pm
0
1
Someone in the RCSO

If there's someone in the RCSO interested in the position, this is an opportunity for Sheriff Roundtree to put him/her in charge. It would go a long ways toward the person gaining experience and name recognition in a favorable way before the election.

geecheeriverman
4642
Points
geecheeriverman 12/22/13 - 09:00 am
1
0
Guilty

I suspect the Coroner is guilty as charged, however putting hum in leg irons was a little bit of overkill or grandstanding by the DA. I have seen pictures of rapist and murderers entering the courtroom less shackled. This is an awful way to end what I think was a hard working man.

geecheeriverman
4642
Points
geecheeriverman 12/22/13 - 09:00 am
0
0
Guilty

I suspect the Coroner is guilty as charged, however putting hum in leg irons was a little bit of overkill or grandstanding by the DA. I have seen pictures of rapist and murderers entering the courtroom less shackled. This is an awful way to end what I think was a hard working man.

Marinerman1
5461
Points
Marinerman1 12/23/13 - 12:09 pm
0
0
@LL

Figured you'd like my response. It's sad, but everything I said is true...

Darby
29310
Points
Darby 12/23/13 - 01:58 pm
1
0
"If there's someone in the RCSO interested in the position,

this is an opportunity for Sheriff Roundtree to put him/her in charge."

.
And for the sheriff to build and reinforce his empire.

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