Former county jail employee on trial for embezzlement

April 14, 2021 | Courts

By SHARON ROWEN | © www.kaynewscow.com

NEWKIRK — A jury is expected to determine the fate of former Kay County Detention Center employee Bambi Lynn Nichols tomorrow in District Court.

Nichols, 40, is on trial and facing four counts of embezzlement. She is accused of embezzling $4,385.25 from the cash bond account at the jail during the month of December in 2017. (see story here)

Kay County Undersheriff Sean Grigsba testified Wednesday that he had a professional work relationship with Nichols.

A video of Grigsba interrogating Nichols was played for the jury, during which she tells Grigsba that she spent the day trying to figure out what happened to the money. “I don’t have a clue,” she states.

Bambi Lynn Nichols

Grigsba tells her that he is investigating four cases and that surveillance video shows that in at least two of the cases, the money never left her office.

Nichols is heard telling Grigsba, “I can’t figure out where it went. If I knew where it was I would give it to you. I worked my entire life to stay out of trouble and not do stupid things.”

She repeatedly denies taking the money and suggests that others had access to the funds.

Grigsba tells her that at least one defendant was jailed on a failure to pay warrant as a result of the missing funds.

During the questioning, Sheriff Steve Kelley walks in and states, “As the sheriff of this county, you tell us where the money is and you will walk out of here.”

Kelley also states, “I can promise you this will all work out. You haven’t seen everything we have seen. Do you think we haven’t been through this before? If you don’t help us it is going to be that much worse.”

Nichols repeatedly states she doesn’t want her kids involved or hurt by the situation. “I’ll do whatever I have to,” she states. “I don’t want to be in trouble.”

Nichols soon confesses and tells Grigsba that she used the money on groceries, a truck payment and that she gave some to her landlord. She indicated that she planned to use her tax refund and or her student loan money to pay it back.

Grigsba asked her to write a statement and left the room. Afterwards she was allowed to leave and Grigsba told her someone would call her when the warrant was issued.

Assistant District Attorney Billie Chrz asked Grigsba about the moment that the sheriff entered the interrogation room. Grigsba said he was caught off guard but that he had no intentions of questioning his boss.

Nichols’ defense attorney Jarrod Stevenson, asked Grigsba if he has received training that indicates law enforcement should not make promises to people during interviews, to which Grigsba replied,”Yes.”

Stevenson asked Grigsba if any videos were provided to him by Matt Ware, who worked at the jail at the time. Grigsba said he believed some were and that others came from the computer technical worker.

“You testified that you saw money come in the lobby and go to the back,” said Stevenson. “You heard testimony that the safe is not pulled every day. So whenever the safe is pulled on Dec. 4 it would have had multiple bonds in it.”

Grigsba agreed with the statement.

Stevenson asked if the surveillance videos show green bond envelopes being handed to Nichols. Grigsba replied, “I did not see any hand to hand transactions.” Stevenson pointed out that Nichols didn’t waiver on her denial until the sheriff left the room. Grigsba called that a fair assessment.

“Do you recall her saying she had to watch her ass around Matt Ware,” asked Stevenson. “Yes,” replied Grigsba.

Stevenson asked Grigsba if it surprised him when the sheriff walked in the room. “It did,” replied Grigsba.

Stevenson asked Grigsba if he thought it was a problem that the sheriff told her that she would walk out of the room if she told authorities where the money is and he replied, No.”

“If I say you give me $5 and I’m going to buy you a burger, is that a promise,” asked Stevenson. “No that is a direct statement,” replied Grigsba.

Stevenson asked Grigsba if he recalled the sheriff stating that this doesn’t leave the room if she confesses and asked if that was a promise. “No that is a direct statement,” replied Grigsba.

“Do you recall the sheriff saying if you don’t help us now and we have to do our job it is going to make it worse,” asked Stevenson. “Yes,” replied Grigsba.

“Do you recall the sheriff saying we just don’t want this going through court,” asked Stevenson. “I do,” replied Grigsba. “If someone said that to you how would you take it,” asked Stevenson. “They don’t want it going to court,” replied Grigsba.

Stevenson asked Grigsba about Nichols stating that she will do whatever to make the situation go away but that she doesn’t want to lie.

“She indicates that she doesn’t want to deal with this and go through the back, (referring to the back of the jail and the booking area), and you said take care of this on your end and it never has to be that way. If you don’t you will go to the back door like everyone.”

Grigsba explained that professional courtesy has occurred and that defendants have been booked in at the sheriff’s office and not the jail. “They are still in custody,” he said.

Stevenson asked what Nichols’ response was after Grigsba told her that the paperwork would be sent to the district attorney’s office and that she could hire a bondsman. “She asked me about what the sheriff said,” replied Grigsba.

“So after she changed her story and gave you a written statement, the gist is she thought this wasn’t going to happen,” said Stevenson. “That is the gist,” replied Grigsba.

Stevenson asked Grigsba if he checked to see if Nichols made cash payments to her landlord, utilities, search her vehicle, house or talked to her spouse. Grigsba replied no to all of the questions.

Stevenson asked Grigsba if he was aware that the maintenance man at the jail has been convicted of robbery and has a key to the safe and Grigsba said yes.

“She told you about a clipboard, did you ask anyone about it,” asked Stevenson. “No,” said Grigsba.. “Once I got the confession I didn’t go any further.”

Chrz asked Grigsba if he tried to be compassionate with Nichols to which he said yes.

Chrz said that when there is a victim in a case, it decreases the ability for law enforcement to do anything and that he never told Nichols this would go away.

Grigsba said Kay County taxpayers were the victims in this case and agreed he did not tell her this would go away. “Did she ask for clarification on what the sheriff said,” asked Chrz. “No,” replied Grigsba. “You stood by your word and didn’t search her house,” said Chrz. “Correct,” replied Grigsba.

Stevenson cross examined.

“You say you think she was talking about her kids because she was trying to distract you.” “I believe that based on training,’ said Grigsba. “You do not know if she was telling the truth or to distract,” asked Stevenson. “Correct,” replied Grigsba.

“She tells you about Ponca Auto World and that she made two payments. That would been remarkable easy to prove,’ said Stevenson. “Could have followed up, yes,” said Grigsba. “When she came to the jail that day, there is a sign that says all vehicles are subject to search. Her car could have been searched,” said Stevenson.

“I had a confession,” said Grigsba. “What if she would have written I did not take this money,” asked Stevenson. “Then we would have started over again,” said Grigsba. “The only way she was going to walk out of that room is if she said she did it,” said Stevenson. “That is a fact,” said Grigsba. “Do you recall the sheriff saying it is as simple as this, you took the money, give it back and we will leave,” asked Stevenson. “I remember that,” said Grigsba. “Do you agree that is a clear statement,” asked Stevenson. “It is a clear statement,” said Grigsba. “Do you believe the sheriff stood by his word,” asked Stevenson. “In my opinion I don’t know what the sheriff meant  by that or what his tactic was. I can’t answer your question,” said Grigsba.

Closing arguments are scheduled for tomorrow.