A former Traverse City Area Public Schools custodian will stand trial after police said video surveillance showed him emptying jugs full of change into a bucket at Eastern Elementary School.
Jason D. Cook, of Traverse City, made off with about $500 in student donations and cash from teachers' purses and wallets, police said. On Friday, Cook was bound over to 13th Circuit Court to face a felony charge of larceny in a building.
Grand Traverse County prosecutors last month charged Cook, 34, following an investigation into missing money from Eastern Elementary School.
School officials in April reported $200 missing from a donation jar. The proceeds were to support Pennies for Patches, a campaign that provides stuffed teddy bears to children of military families. As word spread about the missing money, community members rallied to donate more than $3,500 to replenish the funds.
Authorities found no signs of forced entry into the school following the initial theft and narrowed their search for a suspect to Eastern employees. Traverse City police installed a surveillance camera near separate jugs full of change, put in place to bait the thief. School officials soon found money missing from the water jugs, and surveillance video identified Cook as the apparent culprit.
Cook resigned as a custodian following his arrest. The school district hired him in December 2010 as a substitute custodian, then as a second-shift custodian a month later.
Police are unaware of Cook's alleged motive, but he admitted in court Friday that he used methadone and cocaine prior to his arrest.