Erath Police Chief Gerald Hebert said the news was a shock to people of Erath. Hebert said he knew Stockwell personally and he and his wife were very active in the fire department and in the community.
“Everybody was pretty much in shock,” Hebert said about the discovery. “I knew him personally, but the law is the law.”
Hebert said police started an investigation to look into some missing funds after Stockwell was asked to resign as treasurer at the end of March. Hebert said Stockwell’s replacement, Shawna Bouillon, was preparing for a state audit when she discovered missing funds that dated back to 2004, when Stockwell became treasurer. Bouillon was elected to replace Stockwell as treasurer in November 2008.
Erath police gathered bank statements dating back to 2004 and discovered Stockwell had been withdrawing cash and money orders from the bank to the sum of $30,000. Hebert said he had sufficient evidence to arrest Stockwell on April 1 for 37 counts of felony theft, one misdemeanor count of malfeasance in office. If convicted, Stockwell can face up to five years maximum sentence for each of the 37 felony theft charges.
Stockwell bonded out the same day on a $10,000 bond.
Hebert said the case is still under investigation, but that Stockwell is the only person implicated in the theft. “He confessed once he saw the bank account,” Hebert said. “He said he was the only party involved and that no one else knew about it, not even his wife.”
Hebert added that Stockwell has offered to pay restitution before his court date.
Erath Fire Chief Wayne Mouton said Stockwell had been with the Erath volunteer fire department for the past five years and was shocked and disappointed to hear the news. “All of the members of our fire department are friends,” he said. “When something like this happens, it’s disheartening.”
Mouton said the nature of the firefighter is to watch your partner’s back, and what Stockwell was doing was dishonest and disrespectful to the department.
“It was pretty sad,” he said. “And a shock -- especially because of the amount.” Mouton added “the more we looked into it, the more disappointed we got.”
Mouton said Stockwell turned in all of his gear after he was arrested and he is not sure if Stockwell will be allowed to return to the department in the future.
“I would hope we would be a forgiving society (and) learn to forgive and forget,” Mouton said, adding that he is uncertain what will actually happen.
“Everybody has a place in the department. He was definitely somebody we could count on -- a good hand to have. In a total volunteer fire department, everybody counts.”
Mouton said he hopes this will make other fire departments who weren’t strict in their bookkeeping to keep a close eye on transactions. “We thought we had a good checks and balances system, but apparently we didn’t,” he said.