HAYSVILLE, Kan. (KWCH) A former Haysville man who stole more than $7,000 in charitable donations for a young burn victim was sentenced last Thursday in Sedgwick County District Court.
Martin Kerr, 39 of Wellington, pleaded guilty in March to one count of felony theft for his part in diverting the charitable funds to his personal use.
Kerr was accused of taking the money from an online account called GoFundMe that was set up for an 11-year-old Haysville girl who was burned in September 2015.
Judge Eric Commer granted Kerr probation and ordered him to make minimum monthly payments of $150 over the next five years. The total loss in the case was $7,463.95.
Under Kansas law and Kerr’s lack of criminal history, the crime was a “presumptive probation”, but he could serve six months in prison if he does not follow the requirements of probation
More than 100 people donated to the account, and the money was supposed to be used to help the girl and her family with expenses related to her injuries.
A co-defendant was also charged in the case. Her jury trial is set for June.
GoFundMe provided the following statement regarding the case:
"The GoFundMe platform is backed by the GoFundMe Guarantee, which means that in the rare case that GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds campaigns are misused, donors are fully protected and will get refunded.
In this case, the campaign was removed from our platform and the campaign organizer has been banned from the platform. Donors can receive a refund here: https://www.gofundme.com/mvc.php?route=contact/form&pid=3349
The stolen donations were meant for Haley Cooper. She's been through a lot over the past three years, but now wears her scars proudly.
A horrible memory for her began about three years ago when she was playing in a ditch with neighbors.
"The oldest boy lit my dress from the back, and then he was all laughing at me and kicking me," she says. "Supposedly, he was kicking me to "get the fire out," but it obviously wasn't working."
At this point, Haley says she had no idea what was coming. She says she grabbed the back of her dress and all she could see was fire. She run up to the street as flames engulfed her dress.
"I was just running around like a maniac, just screaming bloody murder because I did not know what to do," she says.
Haley is doing well now, but it's taken thousands of dollars of skin graphs and treatment to get to this point.