WISE — After more than a year, a Virginia State Police investigation into the town of Pound has ended after one former town employee was convicted of embezzlement earlier this year.
Wise County Common- wealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp III and special prosecutor/Scott County Common- wealth’s Attorney Dan Fellhauer announced the close of the investigation on Thursday.
Slemp recused himself from the investigation after referring allegations by Mayor Stacey Carson to the State Police in August 2020. Former town hall cashier Tamari Hayes pleaded guilty in July after a May seven-count indictment for embezzling $1,177 of public funds. stemming from the investigation.
Slemp and Fellhauer called the investigation the “latest review” of seven years of “multiple claims and accusations from a number of parties and different factions within the Town of Pound.”
Fellhauer cited “countless hours and resources” in the investigation to deal with multiple claims, allegations and accusations about malfeasance by various town officials, but Hayes was the only person charged.
“However, after a full and complete review of the evidence, this office has found nothing that would justify additional criminal charges,” Fellhauer said.” As the Wise County/Norton Commonwealth’s Attorney noted, while there may have been negligence on the part of various town officials, “we have uncovered no evidence of any malicious or criminal intent. For this office to act ethically in pursuing criminal charges, we have to believe that we can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The available evidence here does not rise to that level.”
Slemp said investigators found no evidence of malicious or criminal intent, adding that “there may have been negligence on the part of various town officials in Pound.”
“As we are all aware, mere neglect and disorganization does not rise to the high level required to prove a criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt,” Slemp said. “It is my sincere hope that the citizens of the Town of Pound can move forward by putting aside their differences and working together to serve the community that we all know and love.”
“Pound has a long and notable history, from Napoleon Hill to Glenn Roberts to Francis Gary Powers, and beyond,” Fellhauer added. “It too is my sincere hope that the residents of the Town of Pound can move forward by putting aside their differences and working together to serve their community and regain a sense of pride in one of our most valuable local communities.”
Slemp and Fellhauer did not mention the status of the town’s police evidence room, which has been under the supervision of interim Police Chief Chris Wilcox since May after town council disbanded the police department and fired chief Tony Baker and part-time police officer Tim McAfee.
Wilcox was hired under the terms of an order by Circuit Court Judge John Kilgore to have a qualified law enforcement officer take custody of the evidence room and contents.
Slemp on Wednesday said the town is in arrears for a $2,229.52 bill from the Virginia Association of the Chiefs of Police for an evidence specialist who came to the town in May to video the evidence room and inventory contents.
After that inventory, Wilcox reported to council other issues with the police department, including an AK-47-family weapon found outside the evidence room, unpaid invoices for police uniforms and equipment, missing police badges and a missing K-9 dog.
In September, council member Danny Stanley pressured Wilcox to release a painted wooden wildcat from the evidence room. Wilcox told him that items in the evidence room were still subject to State Police and court control pending final disposition.