This story was written in two parts. Here is Part 2.
The kidnapping and death of Barbara J. “Bobbie” Bosworth from the Springfield Mall in 2008 was one of the most horrific crimes in this region in recent memory. An innocent woman walking to her car on a Saturday afternoon was abducted at gunpoint, driven to Prince William County, forced into a convenience store to buy beer for her teenage attackers, and then killed when they crashed her car into a tree.
Bosworth’s husband, Tom Bosworth, filed a civil suit in 2010 against the owners of Springfield Mall (Vornado Realty Trust), the security company “guarding” the mall (Securitas Corp.) and the owners of the convenience store (PDQ Mart in Woodbridge), who did nothing to help Bobbie Bosworth while she was in obvious distress. The case presented a number of interesting angles on the issue of whether these businesses truly bore some responsibility for Bobbie’s death, as opposed to the actual kidnappers, 19-year-olds Lutchman Chandler (who also was killed in the crash) and Keith Baskerville, who was already severely mentally ill and is now in a state mental hospital.
The case was set for trial on Monday, but settled out of court late Wednesday.
Before it settled, though, a number of jaw-dropping revelations emerged in the two years of pretrial maneuvering:
■ The fake gun used in the case was stolen from The Sports Authority at the mall minutes earlier, and the mall claimed it was done with the help of an employee who provided a device to remove the gun from its packaging, then high-fived Chandler and Baskerville before they left the store. The lawyer for The Sports Authority declined to comment.
■ Customers in the PDQ Mart in Woodbridge said they pleaded with the store manager to call 911, or let them use his phone to call 911, because Bosworth was clearly in trouble. But during the 14 minutes Bosworth and the two teens were there, the store manager refused. The lawyer for the PDQ Mart did not return a call seeking comment.
■ Securitas argued that simply because they were the security guards for the mall they had no duty to protect Bosworth. And under Virginia law, they were right. They were dismissed as defendants. Twice. The Securitas lawyer declined to comment.
■ The mall’s general manager repeatedly told his superiors of the problems with gang violence there (Chandler and Baskerville were “Bloods” wannabes). In 2007, the manager wrote, “We have the beginnings of a gang war here in Springfield. The mall may easily become the chosen battlefield.” The lawyer for Vornado said he had no comment.
This would’ve been some trial, and forced a Fairfax County jury to balance a lot of outrageous facts with a lot of Virginia law, which says property owners are not responsible for the criminal acts of a third party. The dollar amount of the settlement is not yet public, pending a final filing.
Bobbie Bosworth was 60, a native Northern Virginian who grew up in Arlington and had been married for 24 years to the love of her life. She and Tom Bosworth lived in a carefully decorated townhouse in the Cameron Run area of Alexandria, which is where I met Tom Bosworth two days after his wife was killed. I wrote a story about their lives and their last conversation: Her phone call from the PDQ Mart on Cardinal Drive, calling him “Edward,” alerting him that something was wrong. He figured it out and called police, something the PDQ Mart manager standing in front of Bobbie Bosworth wouldn’t do.
Bobbie Bosworth was at the Springfield Mall on Sept. 13, 2008, a Saturday afternoon, because she and her husband had both lost 25 pounds on a fitness kick, and her jeans no longer fit.
Meanwhile, according to a cross-suit that Vornado filed against The Sports Authority, Chandler and Baskerville entered the mall at 12:50 p.m., walked into The Sports Authority and grabbed a replica BB gun from a front display. Vornado alleged that Fairfax County police earlier had asked the store to move the guns away from the front, but the store declined.
The two teens took the gun to the back of the store, where a video apparently showed a Sports Authority employee who “directed them to a tool or instrument he left on the shelf to open the packaging for the gun,” Vornado’s pleadings claim. The employee then gave one of the teens a high-five and walked away, Vornado alleged, adding that the gun was removed from the packaging “in 12 seconds,” and the teens left the store at 12:59 p.m.
Surveillance video in the Springfield Mall garage showed the teens entering the covered parking lot at 1:05 p.m., Vornado claimed in a separate action against Securitas. The video, including a couple of brief glimpses of the gun — but no sign of any security officers — shows them loitering about until 1:22 p.m., when they see Bosworth and force her into her burgundy Saturn sedan. The exact moment of the abduction was not caught on tape.
By September 2008, Springfield Mall was awash in crime. Its own Web site advised customers to “use caution when using ATM machines...There is safety in numbers...Lock your doors and windows when you get in and keep them locked.” Bosworth’s lawsuit lists page after page of felony assaults in the years prior to Bobbie’s abduction, and there was a gang-related homicide outside the Cerro Grande restaurant in December 2007.
Court records show that Springfield Mall general manager Michael Lowe warned Vornado that a gang war was brewing in Springfield and ”the Mall may easily become the chosen battlefield.” He wrote an e-mail to Vornado telling them that the Cerro Grande homicide was “directly linked to Cerro Grande’s operation as a nightclub catering to gang members, mostly SSL [South Side Locos] and MS 13 [Mara Salvatrucha].” Lowe said the restaurant’s own security guards wore masks “to hide their identify from their own patrons.”
In July 2008, Lowe wrote a memo criticizing Securitas for their poor staffing of the mall, and said they’d been told in November 2007 that their main problems were in the parking lots. In August 2008, a woman was assaulted and robbed in the parking lot outside Macy’s, where Bobbie Bosworth was taken a month later.
Even a week after Bosworth’s death, Lowe was outraged to find that Securitas only had one guard patrolling the exterior of the vast mall, when they were supposed to have four, court filings show.
After Chandler and Baskerville forced Bosworth back into her car and drove away, no one knows what happened in the 90 minutes before they appeared at the PDQ Mart, which is not that far down I-95 from Springfield Mall. But a surveillance video shows that Chandler walked Bosworth into the store at 2:49 p.m., they bought two six-packs of beer, and went back to the car at 2:52 p.m. That three minutes of the well-dressed woman and the shaggy teen buying beer was enough to raise suspicions in the store.
A witness testified in a deposition that she asked the store manager to call 911, but he refused. Bosworth and the teens sat in the car for seven minutes. The witness said she asked to use the manager’s phone to make the call herself. She said the manager again refused.
At 2:59 p.m., Bosworth and Chandler came back into the store to use the ATM. Bosworth called her husband twice, since she didn’t know the PIN, and called him “Edward.”
The woman witness A male customer said he went over and hugged Bosworth as if she were an old friend and quietly asked her if anything was wrong.
“Get the tag number,” Bosworth whispered back.
At 3:01 p.m., Bosworth and Chandler went back to the car. At 3:02 p.m., they drove away. The male customer decided to follow and call 911. The manager finally gave his phone to the woman witness. The male customer called 911 while following the Saturn, but the car sped away, and soon crashed into a grove of trees.
“A simple call to 911,” Bosworth’s lawyers, Peter Everett and Rob Stoney, wrote, “when Chandler first left [the store] would likely have provided sufficient time for police intervention.”
Bosworth died that day. Chandler died two days later. Baskerville survived, severely injured and previously diagnosed with mental illness. Now the courts took over.
Tomorrow: The lawyers take over, Virginia law puts some strange twists in the road, and a late resolution. (Part 2 is now here.)
Note: This post has been updated to reflect that the male customer, not the woman witness, hugged Bosworth and asked if anything was wrong.