Local realtor not guilty of assault

Chester Gap pair found guilty of recklessly shooting neighbor in leg

Local realtor Heidi Lesinski of Washington was found not guilty of assault Tuesday (May 9) in Rappahannock County District Court. Judge J. Gregory Ashwell, presiding over the 2-and-a-half-hour bench trial, ruled that inconsistencies in witness testimony created enough reasonable doubt as to the actual circumstances surrounding the charge.

This was in sharp contrast to Lesinski’s command of dates and events, backed up by phone records.

What was not in dispute was that on March 3, Edmund Kavanagh, 84, a neighbor of Lesinski, filed a criminal complaint with the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office accusing her of punching him “on or about Feb. 20” while at her residence. He then asked that a no-trespass order be served on Lesinski.

After that, details varied. On the stand, Kavanagh was unsure of the date the incident occurred — conceding it might have been Feb. 22, not Feb. 20 — as well as other events before and after that date. Witnesses gave conflicting accounts of what Kavanagh had told them. (The Feb. 22 date was corroborated by Lesinski’s phone records.)

In his opening statement, Prince William County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Curt Baranyk described Kavanagh and Lesinski as “good friends” before the incident. He said that Lesinski, as executor of Kavanagh’s estate, was “given a position of trust” and “played a substantial role in Kavanagh’s life,” but that Lesinski “had betrayed that trust when she and Kavanagh met to discuss financial issues on February 20.”

On that date, he told the court, Lesinski was upset to learn that Kavanagh was sending money to his son, incarcerated in South Carolina.

Baranyk was appointed to represent the Commonwealth on the recusal of Rappahannock County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Art Goff to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Goff is also the county attorney serving the Board of Supervisors. John Lesinski, the supervisor from the Hampton district is married to Heidi Lesinski.

Kavanagh, a retired jewelry designer, testified that he had known the Lesinskis for many years and that they had had a good relationship. The couple had even taken him on vacation with them to Maine on three or four occasions and to spend a week with Heidi Lesinski’s mother in South Dakota.

While his wife was ill before her death, Kavanagh said, Lesinski “proposed taking over handling my expenses and other matters to give me a break. I thought it was wonderful.”

Eventually, “she had control of everything,” he said, including his will, bank accounts, and medical directive, and she had power of attorney to conduct his affairs. They would meet periodically to go over his accounts and pay his bills.

On the February date in question, he told Lesinski that his son’s “lady friend” would send the son’s disability checks to Kavanagh to cash. He would then send the cash back to her to give to the son.

In her testimony later, Lesinski described being upset with the arrangement because “I was afraid for Edmund’s property and my own.” The son had once broken into his father’s house and stolen jewelry worth thousands of dollars and was now in jail for kidnapping.

Lesinski said she feared that the son was saving the money he received from Kavanagh to make bail and return to Rappahannock County.

During a trip to Maine in December of 2016, when Kavanagh accompanied the Lesinskis, she learned that Kavanagh had told his son they would be away. She testified that she then called the Rappahannock Sheriff’s office to ask for neighborhood patrols while the three were out of the county, in case the son got out of jail.

Fuzzy details

On the date of the alleged assault, Kavanagh testified that he had been at Lesinski’s house for 20 or 30 minutes before “everything broke loose. She was hitting me and calling my son a murderer,” he said.

Lesinski “started punching me on the shoulder and everywhere,” he said, and estimated about six or seven blows. He also said that as he ran out of the house, she was throwing items at him.

“Things were flying past my head and shoulders,” he said, but he could not describe what was thrown.

When asked why he did not call law enforcement at that time, he said he was “dazed” and feeling under the weather and subsequently spent two weeks in bed. He said he was not injured during the incident and did not seek medical attention. (The two week period would have been from Feb. 22 to March 8.)

Nikki Marshall, Kavanagh’s attorney from Warrenton, testified that Kavanagh had called her on Feb. 27 for an appointment to review his estate documents and that they met on March 1. At that time, she said, Kavanagh described his alleged assault and told Marshall he had been hit in the face.

Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Epley testified that he first met with Kavanagh on March 3, when Kavanagh described the incident. When Lesinski’s attorney Chris Whelan asked Epley if Kavanagh had said that Lesinski punched him, Epley answered, “not specifically punched,” but said that Kavanagh claimed to have been kicked.

A document Kavanagh filed with the sheriff’s office on March 7 describes his being “pinched” but not punched or kicked.

Lesinski’s account

In January of this year, said Lesinski, she emailed several caregivers and other professionals assisting Kavanagh to express concern about the son and to say that “my husband and I told [Kavanagh] we would help him as long as he did not communicate with his son.”

On Feb. 22, she said, she called Kavanagh because she had time to go over his bills with him and that he could come over. She said she became upset when she saw that his phone bill showed several calls to South Carolina numbers. He admitted that he made the calls to determine where to send money to his son. She asked him to leave, but he refused.

Lesinski’s own Comcast phone bill shows several calls made on that day. The first was to Kavanagh to ask him over.

Next Lesinski called Sheriff Connie Compton “to make clear to Edmund that John and I were done. We would no longer help him if he tried to get his son out of jail. I hoped that the sheriff would help him understand.”

After several seconds, Kavanagh took the phone and spoke with Compton. The called lasted over 13 minutes.

The next call, several minutes later, was to Kavanagh’s niece and nephew in Ireland.

“I initiated the call to let the niece and nephew know they would have to step up,” she said. “I wanted them to understand that we would no longer be helping Edmund” and they would have to provide more help.

After speaking with the nephew for a short time, Lesinski said she gave the phone to Kavanagh and then went outside.

According to Lesinski’s Comcast bill, that call lasted 49 minutes.

Next she called her husband to ask him to convince Kavanagh to leave because “there was no reason for him to stay.”

Lesinski testified that she again asked Kavanagh to leave and that she told him she was severing the relationship.

“I tried to usher him out the door,” she said, “but he held up some papers and asked ‘What do I do with these?’ I helped him this last time.”

A few days later, she said, she dropped by Kavanagh’s house to have one last document signed.

“That was the last time I saw him,” she said.

Reckless handgun use

After a jury trial in circuit court on May 8, Christina A. Hutcherson and Samuel Darnell Wilson were found guilty of reckless handling of a firearm. They were appealing their previous conviction in Rappahannock County District Court last November.

On Aug. 27, Rappahannock Sheriff’s Deputy Cody Dodson, responding to a complaint of gunshots and wounding, found Wilson and Hutcherson doing target practice in the yard of a house owned by Hutcherson’s uncle in Chester Gap.

According to Dodson’s complaint, Wilson, 38, was teaching Hutcherson, 29, how to shoot his pistol. The two were using a piece of plywood against a pile of firewood for target practice, but shooting in the direction of houses and a pasture where livestock graze. Apparently, a shot went astray and hit a neighbor in the leg, leaving a red mark. Wilson did not realize his neighbor had been shot.

Hutcherson was sentenced to pay a $200 fine and over $900 in court costs. Wilson’s sentencing on the firearm charge and another charge for failure to appear on March 13 in district court was continued to July 10.

Grand jury indictments

The grand jury handed down indictments for three individuals in circuit court May 8.

Moses Turner Jones, 51, of Washington was indicted on driving after being declared a habitual user, a felony.

Joshua Shawn McCullough, 19, and Malcolm Lamar Phillips, 20, both of Amissville were each indicted on two felony counts of breaking and entering with intent to commit a misdemeanor.

About Patty Hardee 177 Articles

Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.