The founder of a Cape Cod charity accused of stealing from families in their darkest hour would say anything to sign up a grieving relative as a client, a prosecutor said in opening statements Wednesday, while the woman's defense attorney told the Barnstable Superior Court jury that her client is not guilty.
Gina Clark set up her charity, Touched by Angels, to raise money for families dealing with tragedies. Many of her clients had seen children die in accidents.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen Adams talked about one mother whose 16-year-old daughter, Crystal Manchuk, died in a car accident. Clark approached her at the wake.
"She spoke with the defendant at the wake of her daughter, and that the defendant told her that her daughter Crystal had died in her arms. And that she had held her, and while Gina Clark held her she told Mrs. Manchuk that Crystal's last words were "Mom." You will learn that this is not true," Adams told the jury during his opening statement.
But Clark has now been charged with stealing from money her charity raised for 16 families.
Trying to blunt the impact of pending testimony from the families Clark allegedly stole from, defense attorney Joan Fund warned the jury not to be swayed by their tragic stories of loss.
"Just because of the Commonwealth is able to produce witnesses that are sympathetic, that have those tragedies, just because of that, as terrible as it may seem, it does not permit the Commonwealth to the leap of faith that lady sitting before you in that chair is guilty," Fund said in her opening statement.
Testimony from witnesses begins Thursday in what is expected to be a three- to four-week trial that will include an in-depth look at Clark's bank records.
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