Gunther GassScam

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Retold Thursday in a Roanoke courtroom, the eventful end of Shannon M. Boyd's tenancy in Gunther Gass' rental duplex in Southeast was a tale of landlord-tenant relations gone awfully wrong.

"It's way over the top. It's the sort of thing you just don't hear about even in fiction very much, " said Henry Woodward of the Legal Aid Society of the Roanoke Valley, who represented Boyd in a lawsuit she filed to accuse Gass of trespass, malicious prosecution and violations of Virginia housing regulations.

Consider just the events of Dec. 30, none of which Gass disputed.

First, Boyd testified, she discovered via a home test that she was pregnant with her third child.

Later that morning, Gass, who owned Boyd's apartment and who a day earlier had cut off the water because she was two weeks late with her rent, showed up with a city building inspector. The inspector condemned the building, telling Gass he had two days to restore water service or no one could live there.

Then, after Gass and the inspector left, a child protective services worker arrived to look into a complaint -- filed by Gass -- that Boyd was keeping her 1-year-old and 4-year-old in an unsafe home. Eventually satisfied that Boyd was not causing the problem, and that she was taking her children to stay at her parents' home in Bedford County, the social worker advised her to get an attorney, Boyd said.

That eventually led to Thursday's hearing.

Boyd said she, her boyfriend and her children had moved into the duplex in September and paid the first couple of months rent on time. She was a few days late in November, and Gass charged a $175 late fee.

Then about Dec. 10, five days before her rent was due, Boyd lost her job at Hotel Roanoke. She said she tried to do the right thing, calling Gass to say that she would not be able to pay until she received her last paycheck. Her boyfriend, who had worked nights for her father's cleaning business, had already lost his job because of a decline in cleaning contracts, she said.

Gass told her to find the money, and said he'd kicked people out in 48 hours before.

Boyd said she heard nothing more until Dec. 30.

The final blow came on New Year's Day. Boyd had gone to her parents' home and spent New Year's Eve caring for all her family's kids while the adults attended a pray-in-the-new-year church service. Late on Jan. 1, she came back to the duplex to retrieve some of her belongings.

She, her boyfriend and her 4-year-old daughter -- her other child had remained with her parents -- went to sleep soon after their 10 p.m. arrival. About midnight, Boyd said, she was awakened by Roanoke police who Gass had let into the apartment. Officers held their lights on her while she got dressed, Boyd said, then kicked her out after giving her a summons for trespassing -- a charge that was thrown out when it came to court in February.

With Gass not challenging the sequence of events, Thursday's hearing really revolved around how much he would have to pay Boyd, who asked for just under $15, 000, plus about $5, 000 in attorney fees.

Gass, who lives in Elliston and said he had been a landlord for 15 years or more, apologized, saying he should have followed legal eviction steps if he wanted his tenants out. He said he panicked after getting numerous reports about possible drug use and fights from Elizabeth Dudley, who described herself on the witness stand as the neighborhood watch leader.

Dudley testified that she called Gass the night of Jan. 1 after seeing Boyd return. She said that over the months, her eight security cameras caught a variety of unsavory behavior at her neighbors' home, including footage of a partially unclad Boyd that Boyd said had to have been taken through the window of Boyd's apartment.

Judge Frederick King asked Dudley if she had actually seen Boyd or her boyfriend with drugs and Dudley said she had not.

"Did you consider her to be a busybody?" the judge asked Gass when the landlord returned to the stand. "She threw the bait in the water and you bit on it."

King said he would make no ruling Thursday other than to declare Boyd's lease terminated. But he said he would issue an overall decision soon.

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