Friday, June 14, 2013

Ex-Clearlake pastor's wife turns in self in embezzlement case

A woman accused embezzling from a Clearlake church, just like her ex-pastor husband, made her first court appearance in the case Tuesday.

Shanell Stark voluntarily reported to the Lake County Courthouse Tuesday morning after an arrest warrant was issued back in August following a nearly four-year Clearlake Police investigation.

Shanell Stark, 41, faces one felony count of grand theft and a special allegation that the amount exceeded $50,000 -- the same charges her husband, 62-year-old Bruce Anthony Stark, stands accused of.

Both have formally denied wrongdoing. Shanell Stark pleaded not guilty to the lone count and denied the special allegation during her arraignment by Judge Andrew S. Blum Tuesday, deputy district attorney Sharon Lerman-Hubert said.

Authorities allege the couple stole tens of thousands of dollars in cash and property from the Hilltop Apostolic Church in Clearlake during the time Bruce Stark worked as a pastor there between 2002 and 2007. Shanell Stark reportedly held a secretarial position at the church.

Elk Grove Police arrested Bruce Stark on an outstanding Lake County arrest warrant in March, but his wife was not taken into custody. "For some reason, she wasn't picked up at that same time," Lerman-Hubert said.

After Shanell Stark decided to voluntarily report to court Tuesday, the judge recalled the arrest warrant and released her on her own recognizance, Lerman-Hubert said. Both Starks remain out of custody and now reside in Stockton.

The couple are set to have their preliminary hearing together on Aug. 7. They are due back in court Aug. 2 to assign a courtroom for the pretrial hearing -- during which a judge would decide if there's enough evidence to require the defendants to stand trial for the charges.

Public defenders Thomas Quinn, who represents Bruce Stark, and Barry Melton, who represents Shanell Stark, could not be immediately reached for comment.

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