PROVO — A plea deal is in the works for a man accused of stealing funds raised for the family of "Little Addie," a Fountain Green girl whose story of terminal illness spread nationwide.
The girl's mother, Tami Fausett, is on board with finding a deal that will finally close the case while protecting other families.
"I wasn't really into this for the money, I want to know he can't do this to anyone ever again," Fausett said. "So if it's jail or pay back restitution or whatever it may be, I want him to be in trouble, as mean as that sounds. … He knows he lied, he knows he stole, he knows what he did, and I think he should just own up to it."
Addie Fausett, who was 7 years old when she died in July 2016, had stopped growing at the age of 3. Years passed before she was diagnosed with cerebral atrophy.
James Fowlke Richards, 46, of Pleasant Grove, is accused of defrauding one or several charity organizations of more than $20,000 when he requested reimbursements from them claiming he had been paying for Addie's medical bills. In actuality, he only paid a small portion of her bills and pocketed the rest of the money, according to charging documents.
Richards was charged in October 2016 with three counts of communications fraud, a second-degree felony; and forgery, a third-degree felony.
During a hearing Thursday, deputy Utah County attorney Sam Pead said his office has been negotiating a deal with Richards, but when the time came for him to plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges, confusion surfaced over whether the agreement included jail time.
An arraignment for Richards is scheduled for Feb. 22. Until then, Pead said the terms of the deal so far are preserved.
Richards and his attorney did not comment as they left the courtroom Thursday.
Fausett had come to the hearing Thursday expecting the case to be resolved, ending the long drives she has to make from her Fountain Green home to attend hearings and the painful feelings each court appearance dredges up.
"I was hoping it could be done and over with, just because it has been dragging on for so long," Fausett said. "He made us all believe he was a friend and he loved Addie. … I feel betrayed and hurt. He used my child."
Fausett said she is most troubled by the fact that the money Richards is accused of stealing donations from caring strangers, some of whom sent messages saying they were giving the only $10 they could spare that month because they were touched by Addie's story.
Fausett's daughter captured the hearts of thousands in 2014 when her family sought to collect a "lifetime of Christmas cards" for her before she died. Supporters from all around the world sent her more than 300,000 Christmas cards, letters and gifts. That December, Fountain Green held its first Christmas parade, dedicated to Addie.
Fausett has said Richards also set up a GoFundMe account to allegedly raise money for funeral expenses and a headstone for Addie. The account had more than $10,000 in it at one point, according to Fausett, but she never received any of the money. After learning about the case, Heritage Memorial Headstone in Payson donated a butterfly-shaped headstone to mark Addie's resting place in Vine Bluff Cemetery.