The Greenleaf Cemetery Association received a check from a church in Moody to be applied to the restitution that 35th District Judge Stephen Ellis ordered convicted felon Tisha Pruett to pay in addition to the eight year prison sentence she received on Jan. 4 after she was found guilty of stealing funds from the cemetery association.
Pruett, 45, was found guilty of unlawfully acquiring more than $20,000 but less than $100,000 from July 3, 2014 to Dec. 29, 2014 as an employee at Greenleaf Cemetery, according to the indictment.
Pruett admitted in court to stealing the money from the cemetery association while working as the office manager at the historic site. Pruett pleaded guilty to aggregated theft from the cemetery association and was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay restitution for the $23,000 she stole.
While the check for $2,400 received from Moody Leon United Methodist Church is appreciated by the board, it is not nearly enough to cover the damage to the cemetery’s funds which are used to maintain the county’s historical perpetual care cemetery, said board President Steve Harris. Harris has been on the board since February of 2017 and was named president mid 2017.
Harris said he opened the check in the presence of several board members and cemetery staff on Wednesday, Feb. 15. The check was deposited into the cemetery’s account.
“We are appreciative but we would like to see more,” said Harris who noted that the amount was just a little more than 10 percent of what was stolen from the cemetery association. “I expect that during her time in prison, she will continue to work and repay all the restitution. The damage is more than $23,000 and we are in rebuilding mode.”
A note accompanied the check which was made out to the Greenleaf Cemetery Association.
“Please accept this gift of $2,400 to be applied to Tisha Pruett’s restitution,” the handwritten note said. “The county said you would need to contact them, Thank you.”
The note and check were received from Moody Leon United Methodist Church in Moody, where Pruett’s husband Josh is a pastor.
“Our church has a cemetery association and we appreciate the pain and distress you have experienced,” the note read. “You are in our prayers.”
Harris said he notified Brown County Prosecutor Elisha Bird after receiving the check.
Bird said her office is still in the process of determining exactly how to apply the funds, since it came from the church.
“It is unusual for Mrs. Pruett to be ordered to pay restitution and be given prison time,” Bird said. “We asked for the restitution to keep the cemetery functioning.”
Bird said her office is grateful for the payment.
“We are grateful that people care enough about helping the cemetery with this situation,” Bird said.
During the trial, Pruett who with her husband had been on deferred adjudication for stealing $7,000 from the Early Girls Softball Association, told the court that she wanted to pay the restitution in full. Pruett said she’ll find a job — digging ditches if she had to — and she hoped to obtain a loan to use for making repayment.
“I don’t know that I can fix the emotional damage that I’ve done,” Pruett said. “I want to pay the money back. I want to make it right.”
Harris spoke directly to Pruett after the sentence was handed down.
“I hope you will get help where you’re going. I really do,” Harris said. “There have been so many hurt by your actions.”
Harris said in court he hopes Pruett will reach out “to those you are leaving behind out here” and help the cemetery recoup some of the money Pruett stole.
The funds received from the church will immediately be used to fund the removal of two large dead trees at the cemetery and will cover some - not all - of the project.
Plus, a storm last Monday caused several trees to fall, which also has to be addressed.
Since the funds were stolen, the board had to do away with the part time office staff at the cemetery, which now has only three full time employees - Shane Agan, who handles groundskeeping and office duties as well as Jeffrey Watson and Bryan McFarland, who are also groundskeepers.
Meanwhile, Harris, board members and volunteers have been working hard to keep the cemetery running, organizing fundraisers and seeking donations and grants for all types of maintenance and improvement projects.
“We have been in fundraising mode for a year,” said Harris who cited the events like the Mother’s Day Butterfly Release, the Father’s Day Antique Car Show and the Holiday Trail of Lights as fundraisers that will be upcoming again this year.
“They were so successful we will be doing them again this year,” Harris said.
In addition, the GCA is partnering with Keep Brownwood Beautiful on several projects including fundraising, landscaping and the repair and maintenance of the cemetery’s landscaping equipment.
“We are helping them get the maintenance done on their equipment,” said Cary Perrin, program coordinator for KBB.
Perrin has also written two grants on behalf of KBB - one from the Lower Colorado River Authority for an irrigation system and another from the Beadel Foundation to help with the construction costs of a permanent chapel.
Last week, Agan and other staff members were measuring for the chapel.
“A permanent chapel will serve many purposes and will be better for many families,” Agan said.
The permanent chapel has been a goal for years and will allow patrons to hold services at the cemetery rather than graveside. Fundraising efforts for this project will begin soon.
“We are hoping to hear the results from the grant applications soon,” said Perrin who regularly volunteers for fundraising and other projects throughout the cemetery.
In addition, Kohler of Brownwood has recently donated cull from the plant, which is crushed ceramic aggregate, that will be used in landscaping throughout the cemetery around graves, for the parking lot and eventually for a walking trail.
“The Kohler cull is perfect for so many projects,” Harris said. “We are so appreciative of the donation.”
In addition, Harris and the board have reached out to the community to ask for help. They would like for “experts,” who have equipment or expertise in things like landscaping, tree trimming, road work, fencing or road repair, to donate their time and even loan equipment to help maintain the cemetery.
“Anything they can do to help, will be greatly appreciated,” Harris said.
The Greenleaf Cemetery Association was incorporated April 10, 1923. The Greenleaf Cemetery is a perpetual care cemetery. Its governing body consists of seven board members, including Harris, Vice President Jason Roman, Secretary John Blagg, Jeannette Buris, Ben Villapando, Michael Kelly and Marian Thomas elected by members of the Greenleaf Cemetery Association. The cemetery is located off Highway 377 South (Brady Highway) across the railroad tracks within the city limits of Brownwood.
Greenleaf Cemetery Donations
• For non-tax deductible donations:
Make the check payable to Greenleaf Cemetery and indicate on the memo line if you would like your donation earmarked for a specific program.
• For tax deductible donations:
Make check payable to Keep Brownwood Beautiful and write “Greenleaf Project,” on the memo line.
• Mail checks to:
Green leaf Cemetery
P.O. Box 455
Brownwood, Texas 76804-0455
• Donations by credit card are also accepted by calling the office at 325-646-6919.
• For more information go to www.greenleafcemetery.org.