Saturday, October 25th, 2014

'Breakfast with the devil' story leaves no crumbs

Del. Anne Crockett-Stark's story about a pistol-wielding constituent who was sued by an intruder is unverifiable.
Del. Anne Crockett-Stark's story about a pistol-wielding constituent who was sued by an intruder is unverifiable.

Del. Anne Crockett-Stark brought legislators to their feet recently with a stunning story about an elderly woman who confronted an intruder in her home and wound up getting sued.

Crockett-Stark, R-Wythe, rose in the House of Delegates on Feb. 9 to speak in favor of a measure to allow Virginians to use force, even lethal means, against intruders in their homes.

She said one of her constituents, who is 82, awoke at 2 a.m. to the sound of someone breaking of a window at the funeral home where she lived. The woman, a sharpshooter, pulled a pistol and confronted the intruder as he was coming in the window, Crockett-Stark said.

"So she grabs him up. She puts the pistol under his chin. She said ‘do you want to eat breakfast with the devil?’" Crockett-Stark said.

The line drew laughter from fellow legislators.

"This is not funny," Crockett-Stark said.

The intruder ran off and the lady fired in the air to scare him, the delegate said.

"Let me tell you the sad part of this story," Crockett-Stark said. "He took her to court for shooting at him, and he won."

The story drew a standing ovation in the chamber, and the measure passed that day on a 70-28 vote. The video of Crockett-Stark’s speech can still be viewed on the delegate’s General Assembly website.

PolitiFact Virginia received a number of requests to examine the story on our Trurth-O-Meter. We tried to get some specifics on the case from Crockett-Stark’s office, but our efforts were unsuccessful.

"I am aware that the delegate has spoken with her, and she is 82, and she has specifically asked not to be involved or to be named," said John Matthews, Crockett-Stark’s legislative aide.

Matthews said his understanding is that the delegate heard the story from the woman, who he said is terminally ill and doesn’t want attention.

"We apologize for not being able to give you any more details," he said.

We weren’t the only ones curious about this story.

Virginia Lawyers Weekly said in a Feb. 27 blog post that they had called around to legal professionals to see if anyone knew of the case, but no one had.

The weekly newspaper noted that Jack Harris, executive director of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, put a query on the group’s listserv to see if anybody had heard of the story.

Harris told us this week that the listserv has 600 to 700 attorneys on it, and none of them has indicated knowledge of the case.

"There was simply no one who knew anything about it," Harris said. "I’m not saying I know that (incident) didn’t happen, because it could have. I just know we wanted to hear about it and learn if it was an accurate description."

We contacted the circuit court clerks in Wythe, Smyth and Carroll counties, which are in Crockett-Stark’s district. They also hadn’t heard of the case.

"I don’t have any recall of this, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there," said Carolyn Honeycutt, the Carroll Circuit Court Clerk.

Mark Sage, an editor at the Wytheville Enterprise and the Smyth County News & Messenger said he doesn’t recall the case. He noted that Crockett-Stark’s district once included parts of Pulaski, Tazewell and Giles County as well as all of Bland County. We were able to reach clerks in the circuit courts in Pulaski, Tazewell and Bland counties. None of them had heard of the case.

The lack of detail, such as when or where the break-in happened and who was involved, leave us with nothing to submit to the Truth-O-Meter. We cannot prove or disprove anything the lawmaker said because no portion of the story is verifiable.