A South Dakota woman grieving the loss of her beloved daughter and mother-in-law in a serious collision was met with more heartbreak as she learned a so-called friend allegedly stole thousands from a GoFundMe page created to offset funeral costs, officials said.
Cynthia Mathis’ world was forever changed with a phone call last September informing her that her loved ones had been in a devastating car wreck on Highway 14.
“I don’t know how they got my number, I can’t remember,” she told InsideEdition.com, recalling what became the worst day of her life. “They said Cheryl Hartman, my mother-in-law, was in an accident. And I knew my kids were with her. I said, ‘Are they okay?’ and they said, ‘You need to get down here now.'"
Mathis and her husband raced to a local hospital, where they met their youngest child Jasmine, 4, as she was rushed in.
“We get there just in time to give Jas a kiss goodnight,” she said, struggling to find the words. “They needed to fly her to the Sioux Falls Children’s Hospital, they knew there was bleeding in the belly, because her belly was getting bigger. So we gave her a kiss, and told her that we love her...”
After checking on their oldest daughter, who was suffering from a bad concussion, a broken collar bone and a compression fracture on her ankle and needed to be airlifted to Sioux Falls as well, Mathis, 32, and her husband received news that Hartman, 62, had died at the scene.
Reeling from the loss of Hartman, the pair made their way to Sioux Falls, where they were met with more devastating news.
“They had done surgery on [Jasmine’s] belly, they did what they could and they were planning on doing more... For the time being, they were done. It was about that time they started to realize that there was no brain activity,” Mathis said, choking back tears.
Jasmine never woke up.
Helping one daughter recover while mourning the loss of their other daughter and mother, the Mathis family was once again hit hard when they realized they had to come up with the money for funerals and burials.
That's when Stephanie Lea Blaine, 33, a woman Mathis had known for years in a professional capacity, said she would create a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for the little girl’s funeral, Mathis said.
“It was her idea,” she told InsideEdition.com. “What she was supposed to do was let me put my [bank information] into it, because that’s how you do it when you set it up for somebody else — but she went and set it up in her bank account.”
Mathis watched as the funds rose to $3,905, but every time she asked Blaine for the money, she allegedly came up with an excuse preventing the transfer.
All the while, Mathis delayed the joint funeral she planned for her daughter and mother-in-law as she waited for the money.
“She [said] she didn’t know how. That it was technology and she didn’t know what she was doing,” Mathis said. “I got tired of being given the run-around and I went and contacted GoFundMe myself.”
After showing proof of identification to verify that the money was meant to go to her, Mathis said officials at GoFundMe informed her that Blaine had withdrawn funds totaling about $3,500 from the fundraising page to be deposited into her bank account.
Mathis was stunned.
“[I thought] are you kidding me? I have enough that I’m trying to deal with and now I have to deal with this on top of everything else?” she said. “But it did give me a focus point to put all my anger about everything on.”
Blaine allegedly told investigators that she didn’t want Mathis to spend the money the way she wanted, saying of Mathis: “Maybe she was being a jerk... f*** you I didn’t have to do this,” according to an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant filed by the Sioux Falls Police Department.
While Blaine allegedly said Mathis was trying to pay for “her mother’s funeral” with the money and that that was not what it was intended for, Mathis told InsideEdition.com that the memorials were linked.
“There was only one — we had a big one,” she said, adding: “We’re still trying to pay off the funeral.”
Still working their way through dark times, Mathis continues on by carrying her daughter and mother-in-law’s stories.
“My child was a beautiful person,” Mathis said.
Rambunctious and determined, Jasmine never let a diagnosis of cerebral palsy slow her down, her mother said.
“She was always so positive and she could light up a room,” Mathis said. “She was energetic; she was an angel. We miss her dearly.
“One time, we were on vacation [and] out to dinner and my husband was using some hot sauce. A lady at the table next to us asked to use it. He gave it to her … and Jasmine said, ‘Well, say thank you to my daddy!’” Mathis said, laughing. “That’s who my daughter was.”
Speaking of her mother-in-law, Mathis remembered Hartman as a caring woman and doting grandmother who would do anything to be with her family.
“She loved her grandkids,” she said. “She’d spend as much time with them as she could; she was a great person.”
GoFundMe shuttered the fundraising page and reimbursed Mathis the money allegedly taken by Blaine.
Blaine was charged with grand theft, a felony, and could face five years in prison if convicted. She is due in court on May 25.
Calls to both Blaine and her attorney by InsideEdition.com were not immediately returned Wednesday.
Mathis plans to be in court to face Blaine, saying: “she has to look at me and know what she’s done.
“I want her to serve time,” Mathis continued. “I want justice. I don’t want her to walk away scot-free. I want people to know so she can’t take advantage of any more people. She’s a vulture and she needs to be known for it so she can’t do this to anybody else.”