An Ada County judge on Tuesday dismissed all eight charges filed against April Rice, a former state worker accused of stealing money from a dead man’s estate.
After a six-hour preliminary hearing spanning two days, Magistrate Judge James Cawthon said the state lacked sufficient evidence to prove its case, and he refused to put Rice on trial.
Rice, 44, of Boise, was one of two women charged by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office with forgery and theft from the estate of Daniel Jullion, a friend of Rice’s who died in August 2014 without heirs. The other, Eleasha L. Jenkins, faces a preliminary hearing June 28.
Jenkins, 43, worked in the Ada County Treasurer’s Office, which handles the estates of county residents who die without a will or any heirs. Jenkins, who worked there from April 2013 to April 2015, administered those cases.
The state said Jenkins and Rice conspired to steal the check and forge Jullion’s will.
The treasurer’s office named Rice a trustee of Jullion’s estate based on documents it found, notified Rice in September 2014 and transferred the estate to her.
County employees delivered five boxes of Jullion’s personal papers to Rice. One contained a check from the treasurer’s office for $31,349. Rice believed the check was part of Jullion’s estate and deposited it into a bank account opened to hold his trust assets.
The check was proceeds from another estate the treasurer’s office processed; it should have been given to the state treasurer as unclaimed money, not Rice.
“I just do not find, after all this time, substantial evidence relating to the intent to wrongfully take or obtain this property or ... to say that there is an intent to defraud,” Cawthon said.
“There is no question the check was issued. There is no question the check that comes out the county treasurer’s office is not proper. It should be going to the [state] treasurer and it is not. There is no question that at some point Ms. Rice had the check and deposited it into the trust account. ... The question is, with regards to the grand theft, did she wrongfully take or obtain.
“When you take into account the existence of the trust account, the existence of the trust, all the things surrounding these documents, there is not substantial evidence of the intent, with regard to the Jullion estate, to wrongfully take and permanently deprive.”
Rice, a former state manager who oversaw security at the Capitol Mall and other state buildings, was suspended without pay from her state job in early February.
She filed a tort claim on Feb. 16 against the county and Treasurer Vicky McIntyre, alleging that lack of oversight led to Rice receiving proceeds from the wrong estate. A tort is a wrongful act for which someone can be held liable through a lawsuit. A tort claim is a preliminary step before a lawsuit is filed.
“Absolutely we will go forward with our lawsuit against the county,” Rice’s attorney, Chuck Peterson, said Tuesday. “As a result of the county’s action, she lost a really great job with the state. They owe her for that.”
Jenkins, who has since moved out of state, faces three counts of grand theft and two counts of forgery. Her preliminary hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 28, at the Ada County Courthouse.