By MATT SURTEL
PUBLISHED: TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 2019 AT 6:14 PM
WARSAW — The mother of a little girl who was murdered in 1997 is facing felony charges after allegedly defrauding Wyoming County of $23,779.73.
Rachel S. (Stra) Hare, 48, of Gainesville was the mother of 7-year-old Samantha Zaldivar, who was found dead after being reported missing from their home in February 1997. Hare — who was still known as Rachel Stra at the time — pleaded guilty in 1998 to one count of hindering prosecution in connection with the case, and was sentenced to a 12-month conditional discharge as part of a plea deal.
Hare was charged Monday in connection with an unrelated and more recent welfare fraud investigation. She had allegedly failed to report she had been married since 2014.
By failing to report the marriage and exceeding the resource limit for a married couple, Hare received a total of $23,779.73 in county taxpayer and Social Security Administration benefits to which she was not entitled, said Wyoming County Sheriff’s Investigator Ken Tisdale.
Hare was charged with felony fourth-degree welfare fraud, fourth-degree grand larceny, and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. She is to appear March 25 in Warsaw Town Court.
The investigation was conducted by the sheriff’s office, the county Department of Social Services and the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General.
The Samantha Zaldivar case was arguably Wyoming County’s most-infamous and generated intensive media attention at the time.
Samantha was reported missing from her Wethersfield home by Angel Colon, Hare’s fiance at the time. He had called deputies to say Samantha hadn’t gotten off the school bus at the usual time, and he’d been looking for her unsuccessfully.
A massive search by about 1,000 police and volunteers ensued, but the little girl remained missing until her remains were discovered three months later in a shallow grave by a farmer plowing a field near the residence.
Colon was eventually arrested and ultimately pleaded guilty to murder in what was initially a death penalty case. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.