Jury’s verdicts in civil case award over $1 million to Starling Lynch Logging, Inc.

MURFREESBORO—Pam Starling of Delight wept on the stand and admitted to stealing $578,350 over a 10-year period from a logging company she and her husband owned with another family. She admitted to leading a lavish lifestyle that included shopping trips to Boston and New York and buying brand new Harley Davidson motorcycles. She also admitted that she used her position at a local bank to conceal her crime. On Monday, a Pike County jury hearing the civil lawsuit brought by Donnie Perkins Lynch and Starling and Lynch Logging, Inc. vs. Robert Quincy Starling, individually, Pam Starling, individually, and Bank of Delight, handed down a verdict that Pam Starling should repay the company $402,646 plus $1 million in punitive damages.

The jury also found that Starling’s husband, Robert Quincy Starling, had knowledge of the thefts and that he should repay the company $175,064.

The Bank of Delight was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Over the course of the two-day trial, which began last Wednesday but had to be postponed after storms passed through the area Wednesday night and left the courthouse with no electricity, lawyers for all parties poured over the numerous financial statements and audits which have accumulated since the lawsuit was first filed in September of 2002.

Pam Starling also used her position of secretary and treasurer with the logging company to gradually steal the money from the company. The thefts were discovered when the corporate partners were negotiating the dissolution of the firm. After going to the bank of Delight to check on the account balance, Lynch discovered that Starling had been converting the funds of the corporation for her own benefit and using her position at the bank for this.

At the time an internal investigation began at the Bank of Delight, Pam Starling was placed on administrative leave. She testified last week that when she was first approached by bank officials Rusty Silvey and Darwin Hendrix about the misappropriations that she lied. After being asked about possibly taking a lie detector test, she testified that she resigned on her own. At that time, the bank filed a suspicious activity report and Silvey and the Starlings went to the office of Glenn Vasser, attorney for the bank. It was in conference with the attorney that Pam Starling confessed to the thefts.

Upon questioning, Starling admitted to having three lock boxes at the bank where she kept coins, jewelry, proof sets, legal papers and at one time as much as $10,000 “to not have it on my person.” When asked for the reasoning behind stealing the money, she replied that it was “selfish, purely selfish” stating that she believed her husband worked harder for the company than Lynch and this was her way of getting even.

Starling was then asked to outline one way that she was able to take this money using her bank position. She explained that she used the drive-through to take the cash from a business deposit and replace it with a Starling Lynch Logging check. Starling also admitted that she was stealing two to three times a day over a 10-year period.

Starling’s lavish lifestyle was brought to light in the trial and showed that the money had been spent not only on her home and an in-ground swimming pool but also for yearly shopping trips with friends, building bank accounts for her children and grandchildren, buying cars and motorcycles and a $12,000 bedroom suit she bought for her daughter, Mindi Harris.

As Starling got more greedy, more money was taken each year. In 1992 the missing funds totaled $154 by 2001 that amount had grown to $101,542 and by August 2002, when the books were turned over, the amount was $79,253.

Eight witnesses were called during the trial including Robert and Pam Starling, Donnie and Lisa Lynch, accountant Randy Turner, Jerry Russell, Pat Hemby, and Mindi Harris.

Expert witness, Randy Turner, of Taylor, Rogers and Turner Accounting in Arkadelphia, took the stand to explain the audit findings that he had spent 1,500 plus hours working on. He explained that in his findings the misappropriation transactions started small but as the number of transactions went down over the years the amount of money went up. His report shows that the misappropriation began 26 days after the partnership began. His records also showed that $481,070 of the money taken was easier for Starling to take because of her position at the bank. In a three year period from 1999 to August 2002, the amount taken was $310,000. Turner found 1,227 misappropriated transactions ranging from $1.64-$3,400.

After two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of yes to interrogatory 1-5 against Pam and Robert Starling along with finding negligence on the part of Starling and Lynch Logging, Inc. which was a proximate cause of any damages it may have sustained.

Interrogatory number 8 was to use 100 percent to represent the total responsibility between the parties found to be responsible the jury’s verdict was; Pamelia Starling 69 percent, Robert Quincy Starling 30 percent, Starling and Lynch Logging, Inc. one percent.

The jury was then asked to state the amount of damages that they found from a preponderance of the evidence were sustained by Starling and Lynch Logging, Inc. as a result of the occurrence and proximately caused by Pamelia Starling. The jury verdict was $402,646. The amount for Robert Starling under the same interrogatory was $175,064. The final interrogatory before the jury was if they found that Starling and Lynch Logging, Inc. sustained damages caused by Pamelia Starling, state the amount of additional damages in the form of punitive damages that they find in favor of Starling and Lynch Logging, Inc. The jury’s verdict was one million dollars.

As published by the Murfreesboro Diamond Newspaper June 2004