When it comes to resolving the case of Brandon Hinman, widower of the late Jenna Hinman, District Attorney Jon Budelmann has two goals.
One: To get restitution for the more than $46,000 missing from a bank account created to hold donations given to help the young family cover expenses as Jenna battled choriocarcinoma, a rare, pregnancy related cancer. And two: To ensure the nearly 5-month-old Hinman twins can get to know their father.
"The family is asking for our help to turn a bad situation into a better one," Budelmann said. "That's my hope."
Hinman, 31, was arrested Tuesday by the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office and charged with second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. On Thursday, deputies charged the Weedsport man with a second felony — third-degree grand larceny — and accused him of forging his father-in-law's signature to cash 17 checks that were not his.
While he said he did not yet know exactly what Hinman allegedly used the money for, Budelmann said his office hoped to address whatever issues led him to spend nearly $50,000 within two months.
"My goal would be to recover the donations so they're there for the children when they need it and stop whatever is causing him to spend tens of thousands of dollars," he said.
Budelmann also added that even if Hinman believed the money kept in the account created by his father-in-law and sister was his, he should not have obtained it by forging checks.
"If he thinks he should have access to money, there's lawful remedies," Budelmann said. "It's sort of akin to 'This is my house, I'm going to break down the door to it.' No, you call a locksmith."
According to statements made by Jenna's parents, Kimberly and Jeffery Blaisdell, the checks were associated with a First Niagara Bank account opened early in March to cash checks from donors hoping to help Jenna.
Jeffery Blaisdell said he and Lindsey Clark, Hinman's sister, had access to the account.
"The account was not put into Brandon's name because we all knew that he was not good with money," Blaisdell said in his statement. "Brandon did not take part in making this decision."
At the end of April, Blaisdell said he stopped by the Weedsport branch to deposit a few checks into what he believed was an approximately $30,000 account. When he discovered only about $6,000 remained, Blaisdell asked the bank for "an accounting of where the money had gone."
Blaisdell said the bank showed him copies of checks made out to Hinman and purportedly signed by Blaisdell. Knowing he had not written Hinman any checks and believing Hinman had taken some of the account's checks, Blaisdell said he concluded Hinman had taken the missing money.
When his in-laws, sister, mother and stepfather asked him about the missing money, Blaisdell said Hinman asked if they planned to have him arrested.
"We asked him where all the money was and he told us that he had it in a safe place," Blaisdell said in his statement. "He would not say anymore about that."
With Hinman no longer serving in the Army, Blaisdell said the twins — who are in his and his wife's care — do not have insurance. He also stated Hinman had not seen his daughters since June 5.
"The money that has been collected from donations was meant to benefit Jenna and the twins," Blaisdell said. "I want an investigation conducted and the sheriff's office to take whatever legal action against Brandon that they find to be appropriate."
The Hinmans' story made international news and captured the hearts of people across the world as Jenna, a 26-year-old Port Byron native, fought cancer. Along with donating money to help the Hinman family, readers and viewers mourned for Jenna's loved ones when the young mother died on May 5.
Hinman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In one of his last public postings on Facebook — a photograph posted on July 5 showing his twin daughters wearing patriotic garb — Hinman expressed gratitude for his in-laws.
"I'm sure some of you can imagine how much they have helped me but believe when I say you need to times that by 3!" he wrote. "Mom, Dad I love you guys so much."
Hinman was arraigned Tuesday in Weedsport Village Court and later released from the Cayuga County Jail after posting $2,500 bail. He is scheduled to appeared in village court on Aug. 11.
No additional charges are expected to be filed.