There was a divorce, or so Jenelle Burke allegedly said.
Thinking he no longer was married, her husband started paying child support for the couple’s three young children and began planning a wedding with his girlfriend.
Then months later, his attorney requested a copy of the divorce papers from the court .
Burke’s husband discovered the papers had never been filed — they were still hitched. Angry he had to pay to file for the divorce himself and postpone his wedding due to the new costs related to the breakup, he reported Burke to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.
Prosecutors on Thursday charged Burke, 34, with first-degree theft and forgery. The charges stem from the $9,000 or so her husband paid in child support from February to August 2013 and from Burke allegedly forging a judge’s signature on paperwork she presented to her husband.
She has not yet entered a plea in the case.
Court documents give this account:
In 2011, the couple separated, and early the next year drew up their own divorce paperwork and had the documents notarized. Burke’s husband, an Army Ranger at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, deployed shortly thereafter and asked his wife to finalize the divorce while he was gone.
When he returned in November 2012, Burke admitted she had not yet taken care of the divorce but agreed to tend to it immediately. Her husband then left on another deployment.
When he returned home in July 2013 and expressed concern about their children living with Burke, she allegedly gave him a packet of papers saying the divorce had gone through. It wasn’t until late August that he discovered the papers he had were forged.
“I did it because he gave me the impression through conversation that if he didn’t have signed paperwork I was not going to get the children back,” Burke wrote in proceedings when the couple again moved to divorce. “This absolutely does not make it right, and I wish I would have used a different route. At the time that was all I could think of.”
Defense attorney Timothy Healy said he expects his client to be vindicated on the theft charges because Burke’s husband was paying child support in the amount he’d agreed to in the couple’s agreement and as set under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“The papers in question did not impact his legal requirement to support his children,” Healy wrote in an email to The News Tribune.
The couple’s divorce was finalized in November.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653