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Branson Woman Charged in Kirbyville School Theft

Charges have been filed in the theft of money from the Kirbyville School District.

The story below is by Jason Wert of the Branson Tri-Lakes News:

A Branson woman is facing up to 14 years in state prison if convicted on charges related to missing money from Kirbyville Middle School.

Alicia Rene Henderson is charged with two counts of forgery related to incidents the Taney County Sheriff’s Office said took place between October 2019 and March 2020. 

Court documents stated Henderson was employed by Kirbyville Middle School and part of her responsibilities was depositing money taken in from multiple school events including the school lunch program. 

Investigators found eight different deposits from October 2019 to March 2020 where only checks were deposited into the school’s account at Stockmen’s Bank, while the cash listed on school financial records were not deposited into the school account.

Christy Copeland, the school’s bookkeeper, told investigators the money is still missing from the school’s account.

Two petty cash checks made out to Henderson were found dated March 9, 2020 and March 31, 2020, and per school superintendent Carless Osbourn he did not approve the checks. The checks were signed “Carless Osbourn” but the superintendent said he signs his legal name Jerold C. Osbourn or Dr. Jerold C. Osbourn on checks for the district. 

Henderson is alleged to have told school staff $200 was taken in those checks for a “class trip.” Osbourn says because of COVID-19, the trip was never taken, and the money was never placed back in the school’s account.

When the school investigated the missing money, Henderson told Osbourn the school’s safe was open to too many employees and anyone could have taken cash out at any time. However, Henderson billed out the deposit slips, and would have noticed discrepancies. One deposit slip showed the cash deposit changed from $569 to $369 and then $269, all with AH initialed beside the changes. The slip in the school records showed $569.

Henderson was released by the school because of the missing money on March 13, 2020, but a computer monitoring system shows Henderson clocked on March 18, 2020 and accessed the school’s accounting system.

When investigators checked Henderson’s bank account at Academy Bank, they found the account in the negative for several months between September 2019 and March 2020, when it went back into positive balances.

Henderson initially told investigators the school’s safe was not in her office until after the missing money was investigated because she felt the safe had not been in a safe location. She said she took deposits to the bank but did not always check the deposits in the bag, and that she did not steal anything. Henderson’s attorney at the time then stopped any further questioning.

The superintendent of the Kirbyville school district declined to comment directly on the pending case, but sent the following statement to the Branson Tri-Lakes News:

“The Kirbyville R-VI School District is committed to protecting the public funds with which it has been entrusted,” Superintendent Carless Osbourn wrote. “While we cannot comment on individual former employees or pending legal matters, we want to stress that matters involving irregularities of the District’s finances are taken very seriously and are thoroughly investigated in accordance with Board policies. Those policies are designed to ensure the highest standards of accountability and transparency in the handling of public funds. 

“After discovering suspected financial irregularities around July 2020, the District conducted a full investigation and took such additional action as was warranted by the circumstances. Those actions complied with Board policy, and the District will continue to comply with Board policy in order to safeguard the financial resources of the District.”

An April 25, 2023 arraignment has been scheduled in Taney County Court.

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