Witnesses testify in accused Eastern Shore arsonist’s 2nd trial

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A jury was selected and witnesses began taking the stand Monday in accused Eastern Shore arsonist Tonya Bundick’s second trial.

Prosecutors say Bundick set fire to dozens of abandoned buildings across the Eastern Shore in 2012 and 2013. Bundick’s attorney previously asked for separate jury trials for each of the fires, which the judge allowed. She was arraigned on 61 of the counts on May 16, and pleaded not guilty to them all.

In January, Bundick was convicted of one count of arson and one count of conspiracy in connection to a different case.

Seven witnesses testified during her trial Monday, including Rick Hall, who said he owns the company that owns a building that Bundick is accused of burning on March 3, 2013. Hall estimated the building was worth at least $20,000.

“It’s not there any more,” Hall said.

Gary Brown, the first fireman on the scene, said the fire had fully engulfed the building by the time he arrived: “It was a pile of rubble. There was nothing left, but the foundation.”

Virginia State Police Special Agent Robert Barnes took the stand and talked about what he found when he got to the fire. He showed pictures he took and said he found footprints leading to and from the burned building. He said he did not take pictures of the footprints, although he made casts of some of them.

Barnes mentioned he is a distant cousin of Bundick’s former fiance, Charles Smith III.

Smith took the stand late Monday and described the day of the fire. He said he and Bundick left her kids at home and went to McDonald’s and Walmart before they “rode around looking for a place to burn.” He testified that Bundick dropped him off and he lit a cardboard box in the building, then called for her to pick him up.

Defense attorneys will lay out their case Tuesday. So far, they have argued that Smith’s testimony is not credible and said prosecutors had “nothing, but the word of a convicted felon” against Bundick.

Smith has already pleaded guilty to more than 60 acts of arson and could face more than 500 years in prison.

The last witness of the day was a character witness for Bundick, Reverend Frank Dickerson, who claimed he is Bundick’s boyfriend and visits her in jail.

Bundick’s case is in Accomack County, but her jury trial is in Virginia Beach Circuit Court. Her attorney requested the change of location because the fires affected so many people in Accomack County. In April, a judge issued an order in Accomack County denying the Commonwealth’s motion to join all 62 counts of arson into one trial.

The judge expects the trial to last two days.

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