Woman accused of stealing from blind lawyer surrenders

A woman suspected of embezzling more than $15,000 from a blind attorney in Ashland turned herself in to police Thursday and is set to appear in court next month, more than two years after she was first accused.

Melissa Renee Wren, 25, faces charges of first-degree aggravated theft, fraudulent use of a credit card and second-degree forgery, along with seven counts of first-degree forgery.

Ashland police detectives said she was hired as a clerk for Ashland attorney Bruce Harrell in May 2004 and soon started a pattern of thefts that continued until October 2005. She presented him with checks to sign that were made out to her, telling him they were for other expenses. Because Harrell is blind, he couldn't confirm what the checks said, police said.

When a credit card company contacted Harrell about bills he didn't have records for, he hired a bookkeeper and discovered that Wren cashed numerous checks for $1,000 and one for $2,200 and used Harrell's credit card for at least $5,000 in cash advances, prosecutors said. Harrell went to police in January 2006 to report the thefts, and Wren was charged.

Prosecutors worked out a plea deal with Wren, but she failed to appear in Jackson County Circuit Court in October 2006 to accept the deal. She subsequently missed or postponed several trial dates and a warrant charging her with failure to appear was issued in March 2007.

Ashland police Detective Bon Stewart visited her former addresses in Ashland and tracked down cell phone numbers she was using in Washington this spring. With the help of police in Kelso, Wash., where Wren now lives, Stewart found her and she called him. She stayed in contact through the summer and arranged to turn herself in. She is now required to stay in Oregon until her next court appearance, set for Oct. 14, authorities said.

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