Castle Rock police filed a case with the Douglas County district attorney's office against the former preschool director at Faith Lutheran Church. The investigation was handed over to the district attorney's office Oct. 26, at the end of a nearly two-month probe by Castle Rock officials.
The suspect is former preschool director Melissa Miles, said Karen McGrath, Castle Rock police spokeswoman. Miles, who is no longer employed at Faith Lutheran, faces felony charges for allegedly embezzling up to $27,000 from the church, McGrath said.
Church officials brought the case to the attention of the police department in early September by filing a theft report, McGrath said.
Miles had worked for the church for about a year when another employee reported her suspicious conduct to church officials, said Fred Hessler, Faith Lutheran spokesman.
Once the church's internal investigation confirmed suspicions that Miles' conduct merited a police report, the church's executive committee opted to report the matter to authorities, Hessler said.
“The Faith Lutheran congregation council reluctantly decided to make this a criminal matter because we felt an obligation to other churches and schools to prevent (Miles) from engaging in similar misconduct at another institution,” Hessler said. “(Miles') attorney offered a settlement to the Faith Lutheran attorney and the congregation council declined it because we felt it was important to prevent (her) from taking similar advantage of another church or school in the future.”
Miles was released from her duties in early August, Hessler said. By Aug. 31, the church's senior pastor, Mike Knauff, announced his departure. Knauff left the church at the end of a three-month sabbatical.
At the time, Knauff said his decision came after much “prayer and contemplation.” Church officials instructed parishioners to refrain from contacting Knauff, who reportedly asked to route all communications through his attorney.
Knauff was not named as a suspect in the investigation, McGrath said.
Because the amount allegedly embezzled from the church is more than $20,000, the recommended felony charge against Miles rise to a class 3 felony, McGrath said.
At press time, no arrest has been made and no formal charges have been filed by the district attorney's office. The district attorney's office is reviewing the case, will determine a court date and will release the results of its investigation upon completion, said Casimir Spencer, public information officer for the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office.