Updated Sat, Jun 7, 2014 2:16 pm
The Wee Cats cheerleading group of Trimble had been a group to which many businesses and area organizations donated to help children realize their cheerleading dreams.
But with a charge of alleged theft hanging over the former coach and organizer of the team, parents say the group is ruined and the good name can’t ever be fixed.
“Even if the parents wanted to take up the group, no one would donate,” said Amber Matusik, a parent whose twin daughters were a member of the group. “That name is ruined.”
Christa Shutts has been charged in Athens County Common Pleas Court with a fifth-degree felony theft which alleges, according to a bill of information, that she stole from the financial account funds of the Wee Cats cheerleading team in an amount more than $1,000 but less than $7,500. The theft allegedly occurred on or about Feb. 14.
With the charge against Shutts, parents of the Wee Cats cheerleaders say the organization can’t continue.
“There is no such thing as Wee Cats without Christa,” said Tonya Cochran, another parent with a daughter in the group.
The group had once been affiliated with the Trimble Local Schools, according to participants, where Shutts had worked as a varsity cheerleading coach. But after the school decided to no longer run the group, Shutts took over in March 2013.
Trimble Local Schools Supt. Kim Jones confirmed that the group is not affiliated with the school and is now a “community organization.”
From then on, Shutts was the organizer of events and kept track of the money that the group raised, which parents were told was going toward competitions and equipment needed for the group. A $10 fee was charged for each child to join the group, Matusik said.
“(Shutts) kept telling us we needed to do more fundraisers, more fundraisers,” Cochran said.
Matusik and Cochran allege that Shutts called off a number of competitions, raising questions as to where thousands of dollars in fundraising was going.
“Me and another parent went to (Shutts) and said ‘what’s the problem’...’where’s the money,’” Matusik said.
Shutts allegedly declined to provide bank statements to the parents, but showed them typed records she kept herself of the money she said was in the Wee Cats accounts.
In the statements, obtained by The Messenger and confirmed by law enforcement investigators, at least $1,622 in expenses were “questionable.”
Athens County Sheriff’s Office Det. Brice Fick made notes of the expenses and took them to parents for verification.
According to the investigation and bank account statements parents were asked to verify, some of the money they could find linked to the Wee Cats organization was allegedly spent inappropriately by Shutts.
Bank statements and spreadsheets made by investigators and obtained by The Messenger, show payments at Holzer Clinic and expenses paid to Burr Oak State Park, among others. Specific materials or reasons for the expenses were not given in the statements.
“(Investigators) think we raised around $10,000, but we only ever saw close to $3,000 of it,” Matusik told The Messenger.
At fundraisers, parents were not allowed to count the totals, they claim, but had a rough estimate of how much money they should have had. But competitions kept getting cancelled due to a lack of money in the account, parents allege they were told by Shutts.
At the competitions the group did go to, they nearly always won, the parents said.
Shutts resigned from her position as cheerleading coach for the school in March, before charges or an investigation were brought to light. Jones said Shutts did not give a reason as to why she was resigning.
But at a parents meeting for the Wee Cats just before charges were leveled against Shutts, the meeting was interrupted by investigators from the Athens County Sheriff’s Office.
“They said (the Wee Cats) money was being investigated,” Matusik said.
When the parents were forced to tell the cheerleading group that they were no longer Wee Cats, they said the children were “heartbroken.” The parents were just embarrassed.
“Some of the parents still don’t believe it,” Cochran said. “We tell them she’s been charged and some still say ‘no, that can’t be true.’”
The attorney listed under Shutts’ case, Sky Pettey, did not return calls requesting comment.
Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn declined to comment about the case until after a hearing scheduled for July 1.