Community shocked over charges involving teacher and former police officer
Posted at: 04/03/2013 6:08 PM
| Updated at: 04/03/2013 6:13 PM
By: Ray Levato | WHEC.com
A former police officer in Clifton Springs is accused of forging his chief's signature to avoid being deployed to the war zone in Iraq with his military police unit in 2003. Investigators say they uncovered the officer's scheme to avoid serving in Iraq while looking into a house fire.
Steven Eagley and his wife, Melissa, who is a special education teacher, are charged in connection with two fires at their home. The first was in 2010. She is also accused of deliberately setting a second fire at their home 18 months later.
The first fire at the Eagley home was determined to be accidental, but investigators say the second fire was arson. And as they began looking into it deeper, they discovered that Eagley had used his police chief's stationery to write a hardship letter to his New York Army National Guard Unit nine years earlier.
Michael Tantillo, Ontario County District Attorney said, “A couple of things are obviously disturbing. Anytime a police officer is charged with a crime, it's very disappointing to those of us in law enforcement.”
Eagley was a member of the 105th Military Police Company, which deployed to Iraq in 2003. For some reason, he didn't want to go. The indictment accuses Eagley of forging his chief's signature on the police department's letterhead to say he was needed as a police officer in Clifton Springs.
Tantillo said, “Evidence indicates that he did approach the chief of police in Clifton Springs in 2003 asking for a hardship letter to avoid being deployed to Iraq. His chief refused to provide that letter to him and told him, 'You signed up for this job, now do your duty and your job here will be waiting for you upon your return.'”
Scott Upchurch is chief of the tiny village police department.
Scott Upchurch, Clifton Springs Police Chief, said, “I won't answer questions. The only statement I can make publicly is that Steven Eagley Jr. worked for our office from March 25, 2002 until February 26, 2013.”
News10NBC asked the chief about Eagley's work as a police officer.
Chief Upchurch said, “I did enjoy working with Steven Eagley Jr. while he was employed here.”
News10NBC talked to people at the Talk of the Town restaurant.
J.R. Lincoln said, “Small town. Everybody knows everybody. Everyone's in everybody's business.”
Kathy Gutberle said, “I was shocked really. I didn't think he would ever do anything like that.”
Investigators say Steven Eagley is charged with defrauding his insurance company for $12,000 in rent living expenses they didn't incur because they were actually staying with relatives.
His wife, Melissa, has been removed as a teacher in the Phelps-Clifton Springs School District and was reassigned. They now live in Palmyra. News10NBC knocked on their door Wednesday, but there was no answer.
Steven Eagley joined the U.S. Army in 1995 and served on active duty until 2000 when he transferred to the National Guard. He was a member of the 105th Military Police Company and was discharged in May 2003. His unit was the first New York Military Police Unit deployed to Iraq and was the last to return in 2011 after a second deployment. They suffered two casualties in 2003 including 29-year-old Sgt. Heath McMillan, who graduated from Midlakes High School.