Paula Deen: Jewel Theft 'Like a Death in the Family'

06/15/2010 at 04:15 PM EDT

Paula Deen: Jewel Theft 'Like a Death in the Family'
Paula Deen
Brian Killian/WireImage
Food Network chef Paula Deen says she is "disappointed" in a former housekeeper, who is charged with stealing more than $100,000 in jewelry from Deen's Savannah home – but she still tries to see the best in people.

"It was kind of like a death in the family," Deen tells PEOPLE. "I was so sad and upset because I loved this person and told them every day that I loved them. So it's always sad when someone disappoints you."

According to a police report filed with the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police, Deen's husband Michael Groover said that the men's and women's jewelry started vanishing last August.

Deen and Groover suspected that their housekeeper, Mary Alice White, had taken the items. Then, according to the police report, White was "recently found to be in possession of a portion of said jewelry."



White was arrested on May 5 after she tried to pawn an $18,000 pair of earrings. She has been charged with theft by taking, a felony.

For her part, Deen tells PEOPLE that the alleged theft won't change how she lives her life.

"You just can't be hardened," says the famously upbeat chef. "You can't stop trusting people or giving your love. Or at least I'm not interested in living that way. There's all kind of risk in life and you take chances. Sometimes you're thrilled and sometimes you're disappointed."

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