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Charges filed against law office employee who pulls gun

Charges were filed Thursday against a convicted felon who allegedly pulled a gun on her employer at an English law office Dec. 6 and later apparently attempted to commit suicide.
Norma F. Keith, 37, who lives near Marengo in rural Orange County, faces single counts of possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, a Class C felony, and criminal recklessness, a Class D felony. A warrant for her arrest was issued Thursday, with a full-cash bond set at $10,000.
Keith, a secretary at the Brent Welke Law Firm since September 1999, was charged after she allegedly pulled a .38 caliber two-shot Derringer pistol on Welke, after he confronted her about taking extra paychecks, Welke told the Crawford County Sheriff’s Dept. the day of the incident.
In his statement, Welke said he was checking bank records that morning when he noticed money missing. He told Keith he was terminating her employment. Welke said he asked her to gather her belongings and leave. As she was preparing to leave, Keith produced the gun, cocked it and pointed it at Welke’s chest.
Welke said he grabbed her hands in an effort to remove the gun and a struggle ensued. He knocked the gun out of her hands, gained possession of it and ran from the office up the hill to the Crawford County Sheriff’s Dept. with the weapon still cocked, he said.
Welke came into the sheriff’s office about 11:30 a.m. He placed the weapon on the jailer’s desk and informed officers of the situation.
Sheriff Richard Scott sent deputies Tim Wilkerson and Andy Beals to Welke’s office to see if Keith was still there.
According to the case report completed by Wilkerson, the office was empty. Welke said Keith left a glove and keys to his office on her desk and another glove on the kitchen floor. In Welke’s statement, he said she was wearing the gloves when she brandished the gun.
Scott contacted Orange County Sheriff Doyle Cornwell, to tell him of the situation, and Cornwell contacted Keith’s husband, Michael Keith, an Orange County Jail administrator, who went home and later located his wife.
Crawford County Prosecutor Steve Owen said it appeared Norma Keith had shot herself once in the left upper torso, but survived.
“She apparently had attempted to commit suicide,” Owen said.
According to Wilkerson’s report, Keith was airlifted to a Louisville hospital. After she was treated, she was taken to a mental health facility in Bloomington, where she stayed until being released to her home around Dec. 21.
Police determined that Keith’s gun had been issued to Michael Keith by the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept. and had been confiscated during a previous drug investigation in Orange County, Owen said.
Norma Keith is recuperating from her injuries at home, Owen said, adding she has not been interviewed by authorities. He said she has indicated that she would like to make a statement to police through her attorney, Larry Medlock of Paoli.
Welke said he has verified that no client funds were taken. He said he is confident that the money will be recovered from a third party. He added that work in his practice has not been affected by the incident.
This is the second case involving Keith allegedly stealing from a law firm where she worked. She was convicted of forgery, a Class C felony, in Orange County in 1996, after it was discovered that she embezzled more than $70,000 from the Tucker & Tucker Law Firm in Paoli.
Keith received an eight-year sentence with four years suspended, said Owen, who was Orange County prosecutor then and handled the case. Owen said Keith served her term at the Orange County Jail, which houses inmates from the Indiana Dept. of Corrections.
Welke said he did not know of Keith’s criminal history when he hired her. When he learned of it, he said she was doing her job well and he assumed she was rehabilitated and chose to keep her.
Owen said it would be customary to arrange a deal for Keith to surrender herself to police to begin legal proceedings. However, no deal had been made as of Friday afternoon.