Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – The father of a local soldier killed in Afghanistan is facing charges in the theft of money intended to repair his son’s grave stone at Forest Cemetery.
Roger D. Jenkins, 51, of Stoutsville, pleaded not guilty to theft, a fourth-degree felony, on Wednesday in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court. He was indicted on the charge June 3 by the Pickaway County Grand Jury.
A pretrial hearing in the case is set for July 8.
According to the indictment, Jenkins is accused of using deception to take money in excess of $7,500 from 11 individuals and organizations between May 1 and June 9, 2015.
The named victims include Tiffany V. Bjorklund, Kenneth Baldwin, Linda Baldwin, Rose Jamison, Milda Yantis, Thomas Parsons, the Pickaway County Women’s Republican Club, James Johnson, Jacqueline Johnson, LASTBIDonline LLC and Dorothy Drum.
Prosecutors contend the money was donated to help repair the grave stone of Army Spc. Gerald R. “Bub” Jenkins that was damaged by vandalism in April of 2015. No charges have ever been filed in the vandalism case.
Gerald Jenkins, 19, was a combat engineer assigned to the 1st Brigade Special Troop Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division based in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He was killed Oct. 20, 2010, by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol in the Maquan, Zhari district of Afghanistan.
On May 9, 2015, members of the 1st Iron Horse Buckeye Battalion of the USA Brotherhood of Tankers (USABOT) gathered with Jenkins, along with other family and friends, at Forest Cemetery to drape the stone in a black shroud until repairs could be completed.
At that time, Jenkins announced he was seeking donations to help replace the stone, which he estimated would cost about $15,000.
By September of 2015, however, Circleville Police had put out a public call seeking anyone who had donated to the cause while investigating complaints that money had been donated months before but the monument had not yet been repaired.
Investigators said Jenkins had been collecting donations through an account in his name at Huntington Bank in Circleville as well as a post office box in Tarlton.
As the investigation into the original donations continued, other family members worked with Wellman Funeral Home in Circleville to quietly have the stone repaired. The revamped monument was unveiled at a private family ceremony this spring, according to Chuck Wellman.
Wellman said “a couple hundred dollars” was donated to the funeral home to help with the expense, but most of the labor and materials to remove, repair and replace the stone were donated to the cause.
Rather than completely remaking the stone, Wellman said the damaged front of the existing stone was cut off, then repolished and redesigned. He said hiring the crane to remove and replace the stone was the largest expense, as Wellman’s donated its labor and materials at no cost and the etching artist provided her services at a substantial discount.
“He died for our country, and it was just the right thing to do,” Wellman said. “This shouldn’t happen to anyone’s monument, much less a hero.”
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal