The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

April 2, 2013

Woman charged for 70 Virginia arsons

woman arrested near arson scene

NORFOLK, Va. —

A woman has been charged in connection with the latest of more than 70 arsons on Virginia's rural Eastern Shore, an official said Tuesday.

Tonya S. Bundick was arrested early Tuesday following a traffic stop near a vacant residence that had been set on fire in the town of Melfa, said state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

Bundick, 40, was being held Tuesday at the Accomack County Jail without bond on arson and conspiracy charges. It was unclear if she had an attorney.

Bundick is a resident of Parksley, a small community where the first of 77 arsons state police have been investigating since Nov. 12 was lit. Of those, 16 were set in Parksley.

Geller said it was too early to say if the latest arson is linked to the others or if Bundick is a suspect in the others. Authorities scheduled a news conference for Tuesday afternoon.

All of the arsons have been set in Accomack County, which borders Maryland and encompasses more than half of Virginia's Eastern Shore.

The county doesn't have an arson investigator, so state police have taken the lead and have spent thousands of man-hours working on the case since Dec. 1.

Sometimes multiple fires miles apart were set on a single night, and state police have previously said they believed at least two people were working together to set them. Police have also said there was no discernible pattern about where they were set, although each fire was set at night. During the evenings, the county is dependent on volunteer firefighters who typically have day jobs to respond to the fires.

Nearly all of the structures that were set on fire were abandoned or unused buildings, and there have been no reports of injuries.

The fire Bundick was charged in connection with was reported at 11:40 p.m. Monday. It was quickly extinguished and damage was minimal, Geller said.

"I'm glad they caught her if she really set the fire at the house last night," said Donald Varney, who runs a fishing tackle shop in Wachapreague, a town on the Eastern Shore about six miles northwest of Melfa.

But the arrest did not ease Varney's mind about the string of arsons.

"I'm expecting tonight to see another one go up somewhere," he said.

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