Deputy coroner had financial woes

The deputy coroner accused of stealing gift cards from an Augusta death scene was in dire financial shape.

Charlena Graham, 43, is still in bankruptcy court with a Chapter 13 petition, and next month her home is scheduled to be sold on the courthouse steps because she defaulted on her mortgage.

Richmond County Coroner Grover Tuten, who fired Ms. Graham after her arrest this week, said Friday that he talked with Ms. Graham about the foreclosure proceeding a couple of weeks ago. She told him she had taken care of it, Mr. Tuten said. Personal credit information is now considered confidential, he said.

According to a legal ad in The Augusta Chronicle , Ms. Graham's home on Tara Heights Court will be sold at public auction Feb. 5.

Ms. Graham filed for bankruptcy Dec. 20, 2005. She listed her assets at $88,762, and her debts at $111,987. The majority of her assets was her home, according to court documents.

"That doesn't help me, but maybe it explains some," Mr. Tuten said.

Ms. Graham is accused of taking gift cards from an Augusta hotel room where a woman had committed suicide on New Year's Eve.

Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Ken Autry said Friday that Ms. Graham is only charged with one count of theft for a Target gift card, but she is expected to be indicted on a theft charge for each of the five cards.

The sheriff's department also has received a few calls from family members who are suspicious that property might have been stolen.

The department has not completed any investigation, Maj. Autry said.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.