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Abandoned boat in bay anchors its owner in jail

Published Sep. 3, 2005

Showing frustration with the lack of progress in removing the Bonner Lee from Kings Bay, a county judge Tuesday refused to free owner Paul Purdum from jail while he awaits a hearing for violating an order to tow the boat away.

Despite pleas from Purdum, who has been in the Citrus County jail since July 12, County Judge Mark Yerman said he would not grant bail.

"I'm not going to let him out unless he moves that boat," Yerman told attorney Jeff Pfister during an afternoon hearing at the jail. "The sooner it's out of there, the sooner he's out of here."

In April 2001, Yerman gave the 47-year-old Leesburg man six months to remove the derelict boat, which has sat in the bay since 1997. By October, when Purdum had failed to do so, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Purdum was arrested by a Lake County sheriff's deputy earlier this month on a charge of marijuana possession and sent to Citrus County as a result of the outstanding warrant.

Pfister did most of the talking Tuesday, explaining that financial obstacles were partly to blame. Purdum had already paid a salvager $7,800 and owes $29,000.

"It's not a crime of violence," Pfister said in asking for bail.

Purdum added that the efforts were stymied by Sept. 11, when the salvager was called to military duty.

Appearing before Yerman in the orange jumpsuit worn by inmates, Purdum said that despite the setbacks, things could happen quickly.

But Yerman seemed in no mood for excuses or promises, saying Purdum had ample time to act, before and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "The effort is good," he said, "but results are better."

The judge said he would consider bail if the boat were removed before the Aug. 20 hearing.

Crystal River City Manager Phil Lilly, who appeared in court to stress the navigational and environmental hazards posed by the Bonner Lee, said it was only through the efforts of salvager Tim Hudson and the city and county that things have happened.

Hudson has done work without being paid, Lilly said, and the city had donated access to a boat ramp and provided trash bins for scrap wood and metal. The county had waived tipping fees at the landfill.

"It wasn't real clear how letting him out would make it happen any faster," Lilly said after the hearing.