Man pleads guilty to abduction, assault

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By John Barnhart

A Moneta man faces at least six years in prison for abducting and assaulting a woman last year.

Robert Edward Bignall, 31, of Moneta pleaded guilty Tuesday in Bedford County Circuit Court to abduction and malicious wounding charges. The abduction charge carries a sentence of between one and 10 years and the malicious wounding charge carries five to 20 years.

According to Commonwealth's Attorney Randy Krantz, Bignall had an on-again, off-again relationship with the victim and had been staying in her home for a week prior to the incident that brought him to court.

Krantz said around 3 a.m., Feb. 27, 2007, Bignall got mad when the victim told him he couldn't stay there any longer. Bignall threw her on a bed and choked her. Then, he dragged her into another room, bent her over a washing machine and tied her hands with an electrical cord. After that, he took her to the living room, put her on the couch and choked her again, threatening to kill her.

Krantz said that Bignall briefly calmed down, then became agitated and began to choke her again. He then ripped a phone out of the wall and forced her into a recliner, tying her arms to the chairs back and her legs to the chairs legs.

Bignall took cash out of her purse and her car keys. The woman told him to take the car and leave, which he did.

The victim remained tied for several hours. By 1 p.m. she had managed to get one hand free and called 911. Sheriff's deputies found her still tied to the chair and, along with freeing her, took evidence photos.

An alert was put out for her car and that led to Bignall's arrest, the next day, in North Carolina. Bignall fought extradition and Krantz got him back here via a governor's warrant. To do this, Krantz had to file paperwork requesting Virginia's governor to ask North Carolina's governor to turn Bignall over to Virginia authorities. Bignall, who has been incarcerated ever since his arrest, got back her on Nov. 1.

Krantz said that Bignall's defense filed motions, in February, asking for a psychiatric evaluation. The evaluation found that Bignall was competent to stand trial and was not insane at the time of the offense. On June 17, the defense filed a motion asking for a second psychiatric opinion, a motion that Krantz said the defense was obligated to do. Krantz opposed this because he felt there was no evidence that the second opinion would be different. Judge James Updike agreed with Krantz. After that, Bignall decided to plead guilty.

"There is no plea agreement in this case, so there will be a contested sentencing hearing," Krantz said.

The sentencing hearing will be held after a presentencing report is completed. Krantz said that Bignall has a prior felony record that includes convictions for burglary and check fraud.

"That will be an important factor in the sentencing guidelines," Krantz commented.

Krantz said that it took persistence in dealing with the procedural steps that it took to get Bignall to the point of his plea. Krantz also said that his willingness to take the case before a jury was also a factor in Bignall's decision to plead guilty.

"I always get concerned when I have somebody tying somebody up," Krantz commented.