After more than three hours of negotiations, no agreement was reached Thursday about how to divvy up more than $1 million recovered in a Macon embezzlement-and-murder scheme.
Lawyers representing Florida-based Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Co. and Macons Pinkston & Associates law firm attended a hearing in Bibb County Superior Court. The negotiations were held privately behind closed doors.
Commonwealth has requested an injunction against the firm and has asked a judge to freeze lawyer Calder Pinkstons trust account, where money to cover real estate transactions is temporarily held.
Proceeds from four loan closings totaling $1.4 million were stolen from Pinkstons firm shortly after the Oct. 5 suffocation slaying of Gail Spencer, his office manager. One of Spencers co-workers and three other people have been indicted in the case.
Due to the insurance companys concerns, the firm, in essence, shut down shortly after Spencers death, said Pinkstons lawyer, Randall Harrison.
All but about $69,000 of the missing money was recovered and returned to Pinkstons account, said Harrison, who also works as a local real estate lawyer.
Funds needed to settle the four loan closings handled by Pinkstons office have not been sent to lenders. As a result of the money not being paid out, at least one couple still must make payments on their old mortgage although they sold their home in October and moved to Athens.
Pinkston participated by telephone in the Thursday negotiations although he wasnt present at the courthouse. Harrison said the absence was based on his advice.
After the hearing, Harrison said he and lawyers for Commonwealth made progress toward reaching an agreement, and he anticipates full payoff of the owed accounts shortly.
The parties agreed the case should be moved to Jones County where Pinkston resides.
The dispute necessitating the negotiations lies in whether Pinkston should pay off the loans. Commonwealth wants Pinkstons trust fund frozen until the missing $69,000 is recovered, Harrison said.
That doesnt look like its going to happen quickly, he said. We dont know if theyre going to recover all the funds.
Harrison said rules prohibit lawyers from using money from one person in a trust fund to pay another persons loan -- and theres money from more than just the four loans in the account.
He said hes negotiating with Commonwealth in hopes the insurance company will provide the missing $69,000 even though no claim has been filed with the company.
During the hearing, Commonwealths attorney argued it isnt his clients responsibility to come up with the missing money.
At the recess, he said his client wouldnt allow him to comment about the case.
Harrison said theres never been any unwillingness on Pinkstons part to pay off the loans.
The question is, what funds are available right now and how we can facilitate that to happen? he said.
He described Pinkston as a premier real estate attorney who has an impeccable record.
Harrison said the embezzlement and Spencers murder as the worst scenario imaginable for a small law firm.
Its been devastating to him, both from a personal standpoint and a professional standpoint, he said.
Tracy Michelle Jones, Spencers 38-year-old co-worker who has been indicted, worked as a closing attorney. Between 2005 and 2007, she worked for Harrison.
It could have happened to any of us, Harrison said of the embezzlement. It could have been me instead of him.
He said the most trouble he had with Jones was she was too liberal with her use of e-mail and was sometimes late for work.
I never thought she would steal, and I certainly never thought she would hurt anybody, Harrison said.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this story.