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Monroe: Plans call for building new scenic trail

Monroe: Plans call for building new scenic trail

Former President James Monroe’s birthday was Tuesday, April 28.
Westmoreland County is honoring its n...

Early morning drug raids net 11 suspects in Westmoreland

A six-month undercover investigation by the Tri-County Drug Task Force resulted in two recent early ...

Westmoreland State Park becoming a go-to destination

Westmoreland State Park becoming a go-to destination

Majestic Westmoreland State Park, located on the Potomac River between George Washington’s birthplac...

Westmoreland County School Board searching for new superintendent

The Westmoreland County School Board recently held a public hearing to collect residents’  comments ...

Alpacas flourishing in Montross

Alpacas flourishing in Montross

When Ken Chatham first talked with his wife, Gwynne, about his idea of raising alpacas, she was skep...

W&L’s forensics stars head to VHSL state competition

Four Washngton & Lee forensics team members are heading to the Virginia High School League’s Mar...

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Good Eats Cafe owner found liable in death

A four-man, three-woman Westmoreland County Circuit Court jury has found Stephen Andersen, the owner of the popular Good Eats Cafe, liable for the death of his wife during a snowstorm in 2010 and awarded an $8,000,000 judgement to his daughter and his step-daughter.

After a three-day trial, jurors were looking at a case where various experts and even the two daughters disagreed on whether or not Andersen was responsible for Sally Rumsey, 42, freezing to death in a snowbank on Feb. 5, 2010. Then the final witness, Andersen himself, took the stand.  

The 62-year-old chef and restaurant owner appeared arrogant and unfeeling in more than an hour of testimony during which he appeared unconcerned that his wife was missing during a blizzard. “I didn’t think she was missing,” he said. “I just didn’t know where she was,” Andersen said to the jury.

Despite the fact that his wife was outside during a blinding snowstorm, apparently with no coat, hat or gloves, Andersen waited two days to contact authorities and referred to his wife in the past tense when interviewed by Westmoreland County Sheriff C.O. Balderson even before Rumsey’s snow covered body was found

The lawsuit was filed in the case by by Sarah Thrift, Rumsey’s 28-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. The suit, which sought $10 million, also asked that the Kinsale area restaurant and other properties he and his late wife co-owned be distributed to Rumsey’s daughters.

The jury, which was unanimous in its verdict, awarded Thrift $6 million and her younger sister, Schuyler Anderson, 21, $2 million. Schuyler Anderson was not a party to the lawsuit and testified in her father’s behalf.

Rumsey’s frozen body was found covered in snow 40 yards from the house on Feb. 9 by a Virginia state trooper. The cause of death was listed as exposure by the state medical examiner but he and an expert for the defense differed on the manner of death.

A defense forensic expert testified during the trial the death site was suspicious: a partially empty bottle of red wine was several feet away, Rumsey’s body was not in a fetal position but lying in a somewhat prone position. Rumsey had alcohol and Ambien, a prescription sleep aid, in her system at the time of death. Dr. Kevin Whaley of the Virginia Medical Examiner’s office ruled the death a suicide in 2010.

Rumsey’s daughters disagreed on the suicide finding. “My mom would never do that,” said Thrift. “I could see my mom hurting herself,” said Schuyler. The daughters did agree that there was tension and frequent arguments in the house between Rumsey and Andersen.

Andersen’s lawyer, John P. Harris III, of Fredericksburg said he will appeal the verdict, but he may have a difficult task. Legal experts said the Virginia Court of Appeals rarely overturns a jury verdict in the Commonwealth.

An additional problem for Andersen could come from Westmoreland County Commonwealth’s Attorney Julia Sichol, who could still prosecute him for the death. Sheriff’s investigator Fred Mitchell said the Rumsey death is still listed as an open case and investigators during the trial testified they disagreed with the ruling of suicide from the beginning of the case.

— Richard Leggitt

 

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