Watauga student returns money spent from donations

A Richland High School student who collected donations to benefit the family of a classmate who was killed in a car wreck spent some of the cash on personal items before returning the money, police said.

Marissa Jones, 18, helped raise funds from classmates of Colin Parks to help defray funeral expenses and help the pregnant girlfriend he left behind. A portion of the money was also going to be used to purchase bracelets in his honor.

But Judith Abbott, a classmate's mother who has helped maintain a memorial bank account for Parks' family, called police Dec. 20 after becoming suspicious that Jones could not account for the cash students had given her.

Police questioned Jones, and she "admitted she had kept some of the money that was given to the fundraiser," Keith Bauman, a North Richland Hills police investigator, said in an e-mail Wednesday.

"Jones had spent a portion of the money on personal items, which she later returned in order to give the money back to Ms. Abbott," Bauman said.

He said the investigation was closed.

In a brief telephone interview Wednesday, Jones declined to comment when asked if she had spent any of the money.

"There's no money missing," said Jones, of Watauga. "Money is not missing anymore. All the money is back. Nobody is out any money."

About $1,200 was returned, and Abbott said "she was satisfied with the return of the money and did not wish to pursue any criminal charges," Bauman said.

Students upset about the incident have voiced their displeasure on a Facebook page.

Parks, 18, a Richland High School senior, died Dec. 14 as he and friend Zach Johnson were leaving a construction technology class at the Birdville school district's Center of Technology and Advanced Learning. Parks was giving Johnson a lift to Birdville High at about 10:30 a.m. when he stopped for a traffic light at Mid-Cities and Davis boulevards.

A Watauga motorist started a chain of collisions when his vehicle rear-ended another car. Police said Tuesday that no criminal charges will be filed in the case because of a medical condition of the driver.

The day after the crash, Jones was collecting donations at a student-led memorial vigil that drew an outpouring of grief from hundreds of teens. She told the Star-Telegram that she was handling a fundraiser for Parks' loved ones and collecting baby supplies, noting that $976 was donated earlier that day.

Abbott said she became suspicious Dec. 20, when Jones came to her home to drop off the cash to be deposited in the bank account. Abbott said the teen handed her about $218 in $1 bills wrapped in rubber bands.

"I never thought this would happen," Abbott said. "A lot of people that heard about it have put money back in to make up for the difference."

Birdville schools spokesman Mark Thomas said the school district is not involved.

"It's unfortunate and sad," Thomas said.

This article contains information from the Star-Telegram archives.

Jessamy Brown, 817-390-7326