Traverse City Record-Eagle

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December 12, 2013

Family: Woman pocketed donations meant for funeral

MANCELONA — Tyler Antaya’s death in a November dirt bike crash prompted an outpouring of support for his family.

But the 11-year-old Mancelona boy’s parents said donations worth thousands of dollars never reached them, thanks to a former family friend who they allege preyed on the community’s grief and pocketed cash meant to help them pay funeral expenses.

Tyler’s father, Jamie Seabolt, of Kalkaska, wants authorities to press charges against the woman -- the sooner the better.

“I feel it’s very (unjust) for my family and my son,” he said.

The woman couldn’t be reached for comment. Kalkaska County Prosecutor Mike Perreault said his office is reviewing the case for potential charges.

Tyler died Nov. 3 after he lost control of his bike and crashed into trees while dirt-biking with Seabolt and a stepbrother. Kalkaska County Sheriff Dave Israel said within days of Tyler’s death the woman organized a fundraiser at the Coldsprings Excelsior Taxpayers Association Hall, set up an online donation page and distributed donation buckets.

But most of the money never made it to Tyler’s family, despite the woman’s promises, Israel said.

“Were not sure of exact amount, but it was somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000 total,” Israel said.

Seabolt said the woman at one point gave into pressure and paid the family $300, but doctored a receipt to make it look as if she paid $2,300. He contends the sheriff’s department and prosecutor’s office are dragging their feet on the investigation and “disrespecting” his son’s memory.

Perreault said he requested detectives conduct more investigation before he decides whether to authorize charges. He said, generally speaking, that charges in larceny or theft cases are based on ranges of money, meaning a dollar amount could be the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor.

“It’s very important to lock down a dollar figure,” Perreault said. “In all criminal cases, to charge it I need evidence to support all elements of the charge.”

Seabolt said the whole experience made him wary of asking the community for assistance.

“I hate to ask anybody for any help after what happened to us. It makes us have doubts,” he said.

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