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Police 'sorting through' theater evidence

Original post made on Feb 1, 2008

Palo Alto police are "still sorting through evidence" from searches of the homes of Children's Theatre staff members, police Chief Lynne Johnson said today.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 1, 2008, 12:37 PM

Comments (19)

Posted by wait?
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Feb 1, 2008 at 7:48 pm

waiti dont get what happened...why are the police searching?

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Did somebody say the cops were snorting through the evidence?

Posted by Shame On Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 1, 2008 at 9:20 pm

A very sad day for this city.
A great man has passed away
and the City of Palo Alto and certain people that work for this city should be deeply ashamed for the grief and pain they were responsible for in this man's final days.
RIP Michael....

Posted by kjljkll
a resident of Southgate
on Feb 1, 2008 at 9:30 pm


Posted by Saddened PACT Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2008 at 7:36 am

How very sad that individuals in city government, hoping to make a political future for themselves killed a man.

Ask yourselves whether the money involved and/or any possible bookeeping errors were worth someone dying for?

Posted by Mary Catherine Blazzard Williams
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 2, 2008 at 9:22 am

Pat and Michael have been mentors and vital forces in the community for decades. As an alum of Wingspread, I am saddened that their years of service are repaid in this way. In the event that the investigators "find" any wrongdoing, the years they devoted to so many of us growing up and coming of age should not be overlooked. We all saw how they lived their lives. There was no extravagance... just hours and hours spent in the theater, directing and supporting kids.

Michael's family is in our thoughts during this time. I mourn his passing.

Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Saddened. How can you believe that good people doing their job in any way caused Mr. Litfin to pass away? Has a doctor issued a statement to that effect? I understood he had serious medical problems and could have died at any time.

Posted by JBG
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2008 at 5:56 pm

You obviously have no understanding about what it means to have the reason you live taken from you.

Were there other health considerations? Yes.

However, once he was placed on leave, told that he could NOT return to his job (while under going treatmeant) I think it can be said that his reason to fight the fight was gone - taken from him.
The theater, the kids -
Without these what reason had he?

Someone said something wonderful the next day - something that I - not a particularly spiritual person - would like to think is true:

The production of "The Giver" started at 7:40 on Fri. evening. Michael passed away at 7:50. He was going to make sure he didn't miss that opening night show and that was the only way to get there.

The truth is - Michael is not really gone. He is - and will always be - in the Children's Theater. In the building itself and the magic within those walls - He is there.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 3, 2008 at 6:59 pm

JBG, Michael waited until the opening night of The Giver for his departure. We will never know if he was watching the kids perform from where he was, but he found strength to stay alive until the curtain call. He wanted the show to go on!

And Bill, I am saddened by the fact that Michael had to face the pain of an investigation and the closure of the theater during his final days.

He was fighting for his life and at the same time he had to be dealing with this entire mess created by who knows who.

The Police says that the City Manager is responsible for the closure of the theater, but in todays' paper the City Manager says that the police has "offered no insight into the matter."

Posted by Saddend Friend
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2008 at 5:44 am

Michael's smile, laugh and enthusiasam lives in my heart as I think of him and the Theatre that made him so happy!

My heart pours for Pat, Alison, Michael's family—including the theatre students and everyone involved in this terrible ghost hunt.

Posted by Leon Kaplan
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2008 at 8:04 am

While I have not been privy to all the information surrounding the alleged “criminal activity” at the Children’s Theatre I do know this much: The only thing of which Michael, Pat, Alison, and Rich could possibly be guilty is that they stole our hearts. They have educated, nurtured, protected, and inspired generations of young people. At the same time they have also provided community leadership in helping to raise more than a million dollars of non-City dollars to expand a facility to accommodate even more children than could be served by the original theatre and to add air conditioning for the comfort of the children who sweltered under the theatre lights during the hot summers. This very same staff also turned out at 2am in the morning to save the theatre’s historic costumes when the theatre basement flooded, as well as deploying themselves immediately to the EOC, minutes after the 1989 earthquake, to lend whatever assistance they could. The true crime here seems to me to be that the reputations of these gifted, loving, creative, and selfless individuals, who have done nothing more than dedicate their lives, literally, to the children of Palo Alto, has been stolen by slander and suspicion. It is fitting to recall Marc Antony’s famous speech on the assassination of Julius Caesar:

For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar's angel.
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar lov'd him!
This was the most unkindest cut of all;
For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
Ingratitude, more strong than traitors' arms,
Quite vanquish'd him: then burst his mighty
heart. . . .
William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar Act 3 scene 2

What has happened to Michael, Pat, Alison, and Rich is most assuredly the unkindest cut of all

Posted by Reality Check
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 4, 2008 at 4:00 pm

For all those who have such blind faith in Michael, Pat, Allison and Rich...ignorance is bliss. Think with your minds, why would these people be put on administrative leave, yet have nothing to do with the financial crimes being investigated? Just because these people have been so helpful to the children of the theater doesn't mean at all that they have not been stealing from the theater and the city!

Please don't get me wrong, I feel sad that Michael has passed on, but I wish he could have lived longer to teach the children one more lesson. When you choose to break the law, you also choose to accept responsibility and punishment when you are caught.

Posted by The Real Reality Check
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 4, 2008 at 4:31 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff].

Posted by Jacob
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 4, 2008 at 8:38 pm

Very Sad,
I usually read through these things and just laugh. But this comment I could not pass up. You are blaming the City of Palo Alto for a man's death? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff]. People at the beloved Children's Theatre are suspected a committing crimes. The police are investigating. You see Very Sad, when someone calls the police or the police observe a crime, they do this thing called investigate. They are trained and paid to do that. That is why you and I pay taxes. We pay them to keep our families and homes safe. It is a shame that this man died and as a life time resident of Palo Alto, I am thankful for his service. But the City of Palo Alto did not cause this man's death. I am hopeful that this investigation ends soon and I would love for these people to be cleared of charges but to blame the City of Palo Alto [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff].

Posted by Jacob
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 4, 2008 at 8:41 pm


My last comment should have been directed towards Shame on Palo Alto.

Posted by Shame On Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2008 at 10:19 pm

May you never have the main reason for you to live removed from you as it was from Michael - at a time he needed it more than anything.
His livly-hood was taken from him, his will to live went taken at that same time.
I stand by what I said and I believe that many others stand close by and understand my reasoning for saying it.

Shame On Palo Alto (and in particular the City Manager and the Police Chief)

They say the "may" widen their investigation. Does this mean that they found nothing under the main stones and have to try and find something elsewhere?
And if so, then - claim some reason..... (oh,wait, it's hard to find a reason - I get it now.....)

Posted by Pam Brewer
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2008 at 1:28 pm

First, I would like to send my condolences to Michael's family and those of the Palo Alto Children's theatre, as well as Pat and the staff. Michael will be deeply missed by many, many people. My son is a former participant/actor of the Children's theatre and has been in many plays there during his younger years. He was involved with the theatre from age 9 to age 18, and has come away with many wonderful memories, as well as I, that these hard working, dedicated and wonderful human beings (AKA Pat, Michael and Allison) have brought to his life. They not only taught him discipline, but how to accept rejection, be a better person, how to work hard, and at the same time have fun and make friends. He has come away from there a better person in many ways and I, as a parent, am thankful for all their countless hours and energy that they put in to teach and mentor these children. They have helped bring out the creativeness in him over the years and gave him confidence to believe in himself. Because of the Childrens' theatre, he has had many people, as well as teachers, notice and admire his work. I thank them all, as a parent who has enjoyed many years watching my son act as well as other kids grow and become better people in this world. Thanks Pat, Michael (in spirit), Allison, Rich and staff of the Children's theatre.

Posted by James T.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2008 at 9:30 pm

I understand that the theater and the staff were a great asset to our community and i am deeply saddened by the loss of Michael. My heart goes out to his family, the staff, and the children. But I question many responses on this and many other blogs. Why would we not want the police to investigate potential financial crimes of city money? If there was something that indicated that there may be "financial crimes" then as a resident I would expect them to investigate. If they didn't, i would immediately think that they were covering up something. When did we change the rules to allow some people to potentially commit crimes while others we would chastise. Don't get me wrong, I hope that they are cleared and that the investigation is done promptly, but as residents we should expect it to be thorough before they go public with conclusions about what was going on. Just don't quite understand some views.

Posted by Katie Christman
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 7, 2008 at 11:19 am

To Michael's family,

We can never express to you our thankfulness to have known and worked with Michael. We know you will miss him, probably more than we will, which seems impossible.

Dear James T,

Of course we want the police to investigate. However, they have not offered sufficient cause to us, the community, to justify the investigation. I am not aware of any formal charges or court dates, but that does not mean they do not exist. Aren't charges a matter of public record? I could be wrong on this one. Everyone seems to be confused at this point, including the police, if we believe everything we read in the weekly.

I read initially in the weekly that the Friend's organization was not implicated. Now we understand that they have been included in the investigation. The curious point to me seems that no one has been cleared of suspicion, that no clear idea of what is suspected has been communicated to the public, and that the employees of the theater are not allowed to do the jobs WE ARE PAYING THEM to do.

I must contend that the likelihood of moneys being stolen is doubtful, but possible, where the likelihood of moneys being wasted is frankly impossible, given what our community has received in return.

I am hearing from the press and from word-of-mouth that of concern are STOLEN travelers checks, and the donations made to the theater for their annual garage sale.

I suspect the amount of money 'missing' is less than we are spending on the investigation, the amount of money we are paying the employees placed on leave (now we are paying them to NOT do their jobs, which is better than not paying them, but a WASTE of money since all they want to do is what they live for, to help our children.)

The reason the outcry is so loud is that a vital community service that keeps countless kids engaged and learning has been interrupted. No 'substitutes' could be found or have been offered for the staff who are on leave. The outcry is so loud because our city is suffering as a result of the course of this investigation, the lack of communication, and the failure of the police department and city manager to realize what is at stake. The impact of the children's theater on my life and on the lives of my siblings and on the lives of most of my friends and of my daughter's friends' lives is unmeasurable.

I spoke this morning with a fellow CT allum out in Pennsylvania, and he was saying was what was so amazing about Michael and the theater was the preparation for life he received; "Michael said, 'I don't expect you to be famous, and I'm not sure I even want you to, but you need to be comfortable speaking in front of people'". My friend is now a Minister and Chaplain at a college out in PA.

I want to apologize for any errors in my writings; this is an emotional and difficult time for my family and for my extended theater 'family'. But as I look around I see that we seem pretty comfortable speaking in front of people! (I actually used to be shy).

Lots of love to all who love the theater,

Katie Long Christman

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