published Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Two more Gordon Lee High School employees leave though resignations said not linked to police investigation

This is Gordon Lee High School in Chickamauga, Ga.
This is Gordon Lee High School in Chickamauga, Ga.
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A police investigation into $2,010 missing from the Gordon Lee High School safe resulted in one employee being arrested and later resigning.

Two other employees also left the school after being questioned by police, but school officials say their leaving is unrelated to the investigation.

The missing money -- part of it from a fundraiser in honor of a high school student killed in a car wreck -- sparked controversy in the small high school in downtown Chickamauga, Ga. At first, students were blamed, then allegations of other suspicious behavior came forward, a 26-page police report shows.

Reports of affairs, gambling and previous thefts were brought up, but most of the accusations were unsupported, said Chickamauga Police Chief Micheal Haney.

Secretary Lorrie Edwards was later charged with the theft, authorities said. She resigned after her arrest but has maintained her innocence, claiming she was falsely accused.

"She's being railroaded," said her attorney, David Cunningham.

Police interviewed more than a dozen school employees after Coach Brent Raby complained to Principal Clay Crowder on Nov. 16 that cash was missing from a bank deposit bag he had given Edwards to store in the safe. School officials then discovered that money was missing from other bank bags stored in the safe, the police report shows.

Only four people knew the safe combination, but there was a key hidden in Crowder's office. The principal said no one else knew about the key, the report states.

Janitor Billy Bell and technician Donald Owens were both questioned by police and "left" the school afterwards, according to Superintendent Melody Day. She said neither left because of the police investigation.

On Monday, Owens said he didn't resign, but declined to comment further. Bell didn't return calls seeking comment.

According to the police report, when police questioned Bell, he admitted that, six days after the $2,010 went missing, he paid off $2,000 in gambling debts to a school parent. Police were told Bell paid his debt in small bills, but Bell denied it, the report states.

Police didn't question him further after they discovered his keys didn't open the principal's office, Haney said.

Owens also was questioned after Crowder told police that the technician was found crouching inside the principal's office about 6 a.m. about a month ago. Owens told police he was checking on the principal's computer, but he ended the interview after he was asked to take a polygraph test, the report states.

Raby, the school's wrestling coach, told police he confronted Edwards early on Nov. 16 after she handed him a bank bag that felt thinner than it had when he had given it to her the night before. He later discovered that $1,200 was missing from the bag.

Edwards denied the confrontation, but when she failed a polygraph and was questioned over and over by police, she said she wasn't sure if Raby had asked her about the money, the report states.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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