Thief busted after stealing from retired officer’s cancer fundraiser

Posted at 9:30 PM, Dec 09, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-10 02:00:35-05

HASTINGS, Mich. -- A retired Hastings police officer became the victim of a theft last week after a woman stole a donation jar that was set up in his honor.

Clifford Morse was diagnosed with leukemia almost 12 years ago, and a couple dozen donation bins were placed around town in November to help with his ongoing medical expenses.

Last week, it was discovered that cash was swiped from inside one of those bins, and now a suspect has been identified.

"Just the fact that people cared and that they got mad about it and that they were willing to turn this person in," said Morse.

After his diagnosis in 2003, Morse said that he continued to work on the Hasting police force, despite dealing with his own health emergency.

"Tuesday morning I'd go in and get an IV of chemo, which would last an hour, hour and a half, and then I would go to work," said Morse.

During that time, Morse worked as a Liaison and D.A.R.E. officer in Hastings. Morse said that he put on a brave face in front of his students.

"A lot of the students I don't think even realized what was going on. I had a few that would ask me what happened to my arm, why it was wrapped up. Then I'd explain that I was doing some chemo," said Morse.

When the Christian Police Officers Association asked Morse if he’d let them raise money to help him with medical expenses, he was hesitant. After serving his whole life helping others, he said that he wasn’t used to being on the other end of the giving.

Last month, about two dozen donation jars were passed out at local businesses.

Then, this past weekend his daughter came to him with some startling news.

"She said, 'Did you hear what happened to the donation jar?' No. She said, 'Well, on Facebook someone is posting that someone stole one of the jars,' and I thought, you know that's pretty sad," said Morse.

Caught on camera, police said that a 30-year-old Hastings woman grabbed the donation jar full of cash and hid it under her coat.

A gas station worker at the Phillips 66 on State Street in Hastings posted the pictures on Facebook, where they quickly spread.

Hastings Police Chief Jeff Pratt said that officers were tipped off to the identify of the mystery woman in the pictures after relatives turned her in when law enforcement paid a visit to her home for an unrelated issue.  He said her own family was upset with what she did.

"People have to understand that there are cameras everywhere. Somebody is either taking a picture or you are on video. No matter what you do," said Chief Pratt. "I'm very happy that this person is going to be held responsible for it."

Chief Pratt said that the woman admitted to stealing the cash.

Morse said that he doesn't hold a grudge against the woman, and said that he'd have helped her if she asked.

"If you think that your problem's that serious, talk to somebody because in a town like Hastings, there are dozens of people that would gladly help. Myself included," said Morse.

Morse said that his health has improved since a bone marrow transplant from his sister last year.

Police have not released the suspect’s name and that is why FOX 17 has chosen to blur her face in the images.

As for the bin, workers said that they are keeping an extra eye on it to keep it away from sticky hands.