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The Times
  • Second woman accused of cashing dead Little Falls man’s checks

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  • HERKIMER — State police have made a second arrest involving the discovery of human remains behind a Little Falls house.
    Shannon Marie Hardy-Sekel, 27, of 541 E. Jefferson St., Little Falls, was charged with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, a class D felony, on Monday. State police said in a news release Hardy-Sekel allegedly “possessed and cashed checks belonging to Donald Wichelns.”
    State police said they made the arrest after a “lengthy investigation into the access and theft of several years worth of Wichelns’ Social Security benefits and the forging and cashing of checks from his personal bank account.”
    Hardy-Sekel was arraigned in German Flatts Town Court and was sent to the Herkimer County jail in lieu of $10,000 cash bail or $20,000 bail bond.
    Wichelns’ body was found inside a dog crate behind a house at 59 Flint Ave. in the city of Little Falls on May 1. An individual working at the property discovered the remains and alerted police.
    No one has been arrested in connection to Wichelns’ death.
    State Police Senior Investigator Timothy Blaise described the financial part of the case as “complicated” in a Nov. 13 article.
    Blaise also said at the time it was still an active “death investigation,” and the body was “so badly decomposed” when it was discovered, it maybe delaying a report on the toxicology results from Albany. Police were able to identify the body through dental records weeks after it was discovered.
    Tammy Lynn Sterling-Barthelmess, Wichelns’ former caretaker, was charged with felony second-degree forgery a week after the discovery of the remains. She allegedly faked Wichelns’ name on a number of checks to withdraw his monthly Social Security payments.
    The house was unoccupied since about 2000, with people living there on and off. Herkimer County records reportedly showed Sterling-Barthelmess was the current owner of the property, who purchased the house in 2006 for $1.
    The last time police reportedly have any record of anyone encountering Wichelns was in 2004. Police are still investigating exactly how and when Wilchens died.
    Blaise was unavailable for further comment Monday. Police said the investigation is ongoing and other arrests will be forthcoming.

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