A 38-year-old Webster woman is facing two felony charges for allegedly stealing money from a dead man while she was doing a death investigation in her role as a Burnett County deputy medical examiner late last year, according to criminal charges filed in Burnett County Circuit Court.
Sara J. Stadler, 38, Webster, was charged with felony Misconduct in Office and felony Theft From a Corpse after an investigation by the Burnett County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO). If convicted on both counts, she could face over 13 years in prison and up to/or including a $35,000 fine.
According to the criminal complaint, Stadler was seen on a BCSO deputy’s body camera handling a wallet that had several hundred dollars in it while doing a death investigation on Dec. 14, 2020 at a private residence in the Town of Swiss.
The charges revolve around the death of a male, identified only by his initials, and the complaint cites body camera footage showing the deputy removing a wallet from the deceased male’s rear pocket, pulling out a state ID and a Social Security card, as well as several hundred dollars in large bills. The deputy does not take the money fully from the wallet and instead puts it back inside and places the wallet on the table in the home.
Deputy Medical Examiner Sara J. Stadler arrives on scene just under an hour later, and is seen on the same deputy’s body camera photographing the scene and opening the wallet, laying the money on the table and taking a photo of the wallet, and apparently of the cash.
The detective investigating the incident stated that Stadler “has the money visible in her hand” and then puts it back in the wallet, while on camera. The body camera audio was muted during the procedure.
The wallet is later never accounted for and is never shown in photos released in the case, but the two pieces of identification are logged and returned. The cash and wallet are never accounted for, which led to the initial investigation after a family member of the deceased man repeatedly questioned the funeral home and sheriff’s office about the man’s missing wallet and any cash that it might have contained. The queries led to the investigation that eventually ends at Stadler and resulted in the felony charges.
According to the complaint, a funeral home employee who arrived on the scene at the time had offered to return the wallet to the family, but Stadler said no, she would do it. When the funeral director later asked Stadler if she could come down and drop it off, Stadler says she is too busy with her other job and cannot make it, offering to instead mail the wallet back to the family.
Two weeks pass and the family members start to inquire about the wallet, but Stadler’s logging of personal items never listed the wallet, only the ID cards.
Repeated queries lead them to a manila envelope in the Medical Examiner’s office, where the wallet is later found, but there is no cash at all in the wallet, only ID cards. It had never been logged in with other personal affects belonging to the deceased man.
The complaint never cited any comments from Stadler on the allegations, but multiple other parties followed up on the investigation and noted the procedures that a deputy medical examiner is supposed to follow, which is how the investigator used the BCSO body camera footage to trace the wallet’s initial discovery on the scene at the deceased man’s home.
Burnett County prosecutor James Rennicke charged Stadler with felony Misconduct in Office and felony Theft From a Corpse. The two charges carry possible prison sentenced of up to 3.5-years and 10-years, respectively. Stadler is slated to make an initial court appearance on Oct. 13 before Judge Melissia Mogen.
Stadler does not appear to be employed by Burnett County as a deputy medical examiner any longer. There are five other deputy medical examiners listed, and Stadler is no longer among them.