Susan Cummings Case Depicted in Book

"A Woman Scorned," a 238-page nonfiction paperback published recently, gets a pretty good review from Fauquier County Sheriff's Capt. Fred Pfeiff, who has some claim as a critic. After all, he's in it.

The book, by Lisa Pulitzer, centers on the fatal shooting of Argentine polo player Roberto Villegas by millionaire heiress Susan Cummings, the daughter of the late arms mogul Samuel Cummings. Cummings, now 37, said she fired in self-defense, but she was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in May 1998 and served 51 days of a 60-day sentence in the Fauquier County jail.

"There's a certain amount of poetic license," Pfeiff said, "but it's entertainment" and "the photographs are pretty accurately portrayed."

Others also have noticed the license, which extends to turning the standard-issue Stetsons sometimes worn by deputies into "10-gallon hats"; giving the prosecutor's office a secretary named Wanda; promoting Col. John S. Mosby, a local Confederate hero, to general; and dressing Sheriff Joe Higgs in "stylish Italian designer suits."

"There's still no Wanda here," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Kevin Casey, who prosecuted Cummings and was described in the book as "lean" and "impeccably dressed."

Higgs, a Republican seeking reelection, objected to the way Pulitzer portrayed him. "She talked about my designer clothes, which are anything but, unless you call J.C. Penney's and Sears 'designer,' " he said.

More than that, Higgs said he was left with a sour taste by the portrayal of his office. He says the book paints the sheriff's department as a bunch of rustics, even though he and his chief investigators all have decades of experience at big-city departments.

Criticism aside, the book has an audience. On a recent day, copies ordered via the Internet were being sold in the sheriff's department where a deputy had laid in a supply, correctly gauging the demand. They were moving like boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

"I'm really pleased to see that the folks in Fauquier County are reading the book," Pulitzer said last week.

Steven Bancroft, Cummings's attorney, said Cummings could not comment on any aspect of the case while a civil suit is pending against her. He was referring to a wrongful death lawsuit filed in Fauquier County Circuit Court that seeks $103 million on behalf of Villegas's sister and mother.

-- Graeme Zielinski


State Fair Winner in National Cookbook

Betsy Hedeman's pickled pattypan squash, which won a blue ribbon at last year's Maryland State Fair, is headed for the big time. The recipe will be featured in a fall cookbook created by Smith and Hawken, the national chain of gourmet gardening stores.

"I can't believe it," said Hedeman, a 75-year-old Relay, Md., resident who has been cooking for the state fair for 42 years. "I just can't believe it."

Publication of her recipes hitherto was limited to local newspapers.

Hedeman received a $3.50 prize at the fair as well as the ribbon. And she's not getting paid for her part in the cookbook, although she will get a free copy.

Hedeman regards it as a great honor that for the first time she has been asked to judge two cooking contests at the forthcoming state fair: the yeast breads and Spam categories.

But that's not going to distract her from competing. Hedeman plans to enter about 10 contests at this year's fair, from pickled beets to cherry preserves. She hopes this year she finally wins a ribbon for her bread-and-butter pickles, a category in which success has eluded her.

-- Lyndsey Layton