- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006

BEDFORD, Va. (AP) — A Lynchburg woman will spend the rest of this month in jail for failing to remove her sunken houseboat from Smith Mountain Lake, a judge has ruled.

Karen Foster Cunningham then will get a one-month furlough, and if the vessel still hasn’t been removed, she will be sent back to jail to serve the remainder of a one-year sentence.

“Within the parameters of my sentence, as long as that boat sits in the water, you’ll stay in jail,” Bedford County Circuit Judge James Updike told Miss Cunningham at a hearing Tuesday.

Game warden Greg Funkhouser gave Miss Cunningham several warnings about removing the boat from the lake before charging her with illegal dumping in February 2005.

Judge Updike found her guilty in July and sentenced her to a year in jail, suspended on the condition that by August she could prove she had removed the boat.

She couldn’t, and Judge Updike revoked 10 days of the suspended sentence on Aug. 18.

Steven Solomon of Bedford County heard about Miss Cunningham’s plight on television and offered to help.

He bought the boat and signed a contract to remove it before Tuesday’s court date.

Joseph Sanzone, Miss Cunningham’s attorney, said that Mr. Solomon’s plan was stymied when the owner of the lot closest to the boat refused to give him access to the property.

Mr. Sanzone said that if Mr. Solomon hadn’t been denied access, the boat would have been removed by Tuesday.

Wes Nance, assistant commonwealth’s attorney, argued that Miss Cunningham remains responsible for the boat’s removal despite the change of ownership, and the judge agreed.

Despite the obstacles, Mr. Sanzone told the court, Mr. Solomon recently inserted flotation devices in the houseboat and successfully raised the stern of the craft.

“I would imagine within seven days the boat would be out of the water,” Mr. Sanzone said.

That prediction carried little weight with the judge, who indicated his patience was wearing thin.

“This has been going on a long, long time,” Judge Updike said.

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