October 23, 2017

Heard County Jail Administrator Resigns Amid Church Theft Allegations

Dena Thifault, the Heard County Jail Administrator who was arrested last week in Coweta County, turned in her immediate resignation Friday morning to Sheriff Ross Henry.

Thifault and her husband Gerard (Jerry) were both arrested last week after turning themselves in to the Coweta County Sheriff’s Department in Newnan.

The couple are alleged to have embezzled at least $124,000 dollars from the Oaklawn Baptist Church in Newnan where they served as treasurer and assistant treasurer.

The Heard County Sheriff spoke at length with us Friday afternoon in his office about the situation with Thifault.

According to Henry, Thifault expressed great remorse to him in a face-to-face meeting this morning and stated that she was very sorry for the embarrassment she had caused both him and the entire sheriff’s department.

“Dena is like family to me and everyone in this department. She has been a wonderful employee. We love her and she knows she made a mistake that she will have to answer for and she will,” stated Henry.

The sheriff was also able to shed some light on the events which led up to her arrest last week. He stated that on Monday afternoon December 12, Thifault was at work as usual when she received a phone call and had to go home.

Henry said that the following morning Thifault did not show up for work which was very odd for her. After not being able to reach her by phone, a search was initiated and a note was found at her home.

At this point the whereabouts of both Thifaults was unknown. Being concerned about their welfare, the sheriff’s office issued a BOLO (be on the lookout) Tuesday afternoon in an effort to find the missing couple.

Henry stated the Thifault eventually made contact with him on Wednesday through a relative and he was able to speak with her by phone.

Thifault told Henry that she and her husband were returning home and would be going directly to the Coweta County Sheriff’s Department to turn themselves in.

Thifault had been employed by the sheriff’s department as a bookkeeper since 1999 and according to Henry she had assumed all the bookkeeping and jail administration duties in about 2004.

When we asked Henry if he was concerned about the financials in the office, he replied that he didn’t anticipate any issues but that there would be a full investigation into the department records.

He stated that the majority of the departments financials are handled by the Heard County Commissioner’s Office with the exception of a few special accounts such as for the Christmas toy drive and things of that nature.

“We have an audit every year and the auditors always brag about the great job that she (Thifault) does. I don’t have any concerns, but we will do whatever we need to do make sure that there are not any problems,” Henry stated.

Sheriff Henry added that in addition to the regular yearly audit an extra audit would be done with an emphasis on all the sheriff department accounts.

He also speculated that most likely when a successor is hired for Thifault that all accounts would be closed and new accounts would be opened.

Henry is unsure of when he will name a replacement, but he expects it would be sometime after the holidays.

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