Prosecutors are investigating whether a phony obituary was placed in a newspaper in an attempt to keep a convicted forger out of prison.

The obituary reporting the supposed death and cremation of Shawnda K. Hatfield was faxed to Delaware Circuit Court Judge Robert Barnet Jr.

But Hatfield, 41, was later found at her home in nearby Dunkirk and arrested. Barnet sentenced her Thursday to four years in prison for altering a check drawn on the account of White Feather Farms, where she formerly worked.

Hatfield said she had no idea how her obituary ended up in The Star Press.

Kathy Whittenburg, an employee in the newspaper's classified advertising department, said the obituary appeared after a caller purporting to be Hatfield's niece phoned The Star Press and later provided a telephone number she said belonged to a Florida crematory.

Deputy Prosecutor Joe Orick told Hatfield that if an investigation showed her relatives were involved in the fake obituary, "You can have a family reunion upstairs" — in jail.