MONTROSS, Va. — A jury has ordered a Northern Neck restaurant owner to pay $8 million to the two daughters of his wife, who froze to death on their property in 2010.
According to media outlets, the jury deliberated just more than two hours Thursday before returning a verdict against Stephen Andersen, 62. Defense attorney John P. Harris III said he will appeal.
The jury awarded the damages to the estate of Sally Rumsey, 42, whose body was found partially covered with snow about 80 yards from the couple’s home near Haynesville. Andersen did not report Rumsey’s disappearance for 48 hours. The jury’s foreman said jurors believed Rumsey’s death could have been prevented had Andersen done more to find her after she left the home during a heavy snowstorm.
No criminal charges have been filed in Rumsey’s death.
In a 75-minute appearance on the witness stand Thursday, Andersen at one point paused for more than a minute before answering a question about his belief of how his wife died. In a sworn affidavit, he had said that Rumsey didn’t commit suicide but “may have.” Thursday, after struggling uncomfortably, he said, “It’s the wrong answer because I believe she did commit suicide.”
At another point, Andersen told the jury the reason he waited so long to report Rumsey’s absence to police.
“I didn’t think she was missing,” he said. “I just didn’t know where she was.”
Rumsey had returned days before her disappearance from a three-week bicycling trip to Asia, was exhausted and almost immediately Rumsey and Andersen began sniping at each another, according to Andersen.
Andersen told police he left the home to walk the dogs, only to return home and find his wife gone but key personal items still at the home, including car keys, credit cards and personal identification.