Bluffton man accused of stealing dog park money stabbed

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comJune 14, 2013 

A Bluffton man charged this week with stealing from a local group raising money for a dog park told police he was stabbed Thursday.

William Grooms, the former president of the Friends of Bluffton Dog Parks, called authorities at 2:09 p.m. Thursday and reported he had been stabbed on the front porch of his home on Ninth Avenue in Bluffton, according to a Bluffton Police Department news release.

Grooms, 42, was treated for a non-life-threatening injury, the release says.

No other information for Grooms’ injuries was released.

Angela McCall-Tanner, the chief of staff for Bluffton police, said authorities canvassed the area in search of an assailant described as “an average white male” but found no witnesses or suspects matching the description.

“At this time, no suspect information is available, but the investigation continues,” the release said.

A police report for the incident was not made available to the public. A Bluffton officer said Friday the report would not be available for several more days.

Grooms was charged Tuesday with breach of trust after Bluffton police said he stole more than $10,000 from a Friends of Bluffton Dog Parks account during the past year. Neither the group’s board members, nor law enforcement officials have said exactly how much Grooms is suspected of stealing.

However, board members said they were near a $40,000 fundraising goal. The account had less than $100 in it when the missing money was discovered, McCall-Tanner said Tuesday. The group wants to build the facility in Buckwalter Regional Park on land leased from the town of Bluffton.

Charles Bumgardner, president of the dog park group, said he had not heard about the reported stabbing and did not want to comment.

Board member Abby Bird said she thought the stabbing was “related to other personal issues (Grooms) had.”

“I can’t believe that anyone would do this about the dog park,” she said.

Grooms became president of the organization in 2011, when members seeking new fundraising ideas voted in an almost entirely new board of directors, Bird said Tuesday. As president, Grooms used his signing authority over the group’s bank account to steal and spend the money, police say.

Friends of Bluffton Dog Parks called an emergency meeting June 6 after discovering the missing funds and voted out Grooms. They also removed his wife, treasurer Amanda Mitchell-Grooms, although members and police do not suspect she was involved in any crime.

The group notified police of the missing money shortly thereafter.

Grooms was released late Tuesday from the Beaufort County Detention Center on a $15,000 personal-recognizance bond, according to the jail log.

The group has worked since 2004 to build a Bluffton dog park, but it’s future is now in doubt.

Board members said Wednesday they were unsure whether the group would continue or fold, but Bluffton mayor Lisa Sulka and town manager Anthony Barrett both said they hoped they would move ahead. Barrett said Wednesday there was “no reason” for the town or county not to honor the $1 yearly lease the group has for the park through 2016.

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