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Judge dismisses charges in $144K water works theft

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Officials say a judge's decision to dismiss a theft charge against a woman accused in the theft of $144,000 from the Birmingham Water Works would likely end the case without additional charges.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Clyde Jones dismissed the felony theft case against Elizabeth Kay Wood, who was accused of taking cash and checks from a payment center in 2005.

Prosecutor Shanta Owens said Monday she doubted there would be any further investigation.

"I think the case was wrapped up," she said. "Once Wood was charged, that was pretty much the case."

The money was discovered missing when an armored car service arrived to pick up deposits at the Water Works headquarters. A week after the money was discovered missing, $20,000 in cash was returned in a plastic bag placed outside a manager's office.

Defense lawyer David Luker said Wood admitted being the person who left the bag, which she said was sealed and given to her in an elevator by a man wearing a Water Works shirt. The man asked her to drop off the bag at the office for him, Luker said, and she did — not knowing its contents.

Police never tried to identify the person who Wood said gave her the bag, Luker said.

The judge ended Wood's trial early on March 6, granting a defense motion for acquittal without it ever being considered by jurors.

"They didn't have enough evidence to go to a jury," Luker said. "There was no reason to believe she was guilty of anything. She's been exonerated."

The agency in September 2005 fired Wood, then 25, shortly after police accused her of theft.

Owens said the case against Wood was purely circumstantial, but said she believed there was enough evidence presented for the case to go to the jury. The state didn't have any witnesses who could testify that they saw Wood take the money, she said.

"I understand the judge is duty bound to follow the law," said Owens. "I have to accept the decision."

More than $120,000 in missing checks have never been found, Luker said, and another $1,000 in cash remains missing.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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