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Sex offender loses Mustang involved in crimes

By Joe Beck

FRONT ROYAL -- A Front Royal man convicted of three sex offenses in May gave up his 2003 Mustang to the Warren County Sheriff's Office on Friday after he failed to appear at a trial to determine possession of the car.

Michael Steven Courtemanche, 49, arrived in the courtroom about a half hour after the trial was scheduled to begin.

By then, it was too late. Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp had issued a summary judgment minutes before allowing the Sheriff's Office to seize the car for its own uses.

"You may appeal if you're so inclined," Hupp told Courtemanche.

Courtemanche pleaded guilty in May to using a computer to solicit sex with a minor, taking indecent liberties with a child and carnal knowledge with someone 13 or 14 years old. He served about two months in jail after the plea hearing and is also under a suspended sentence totaling nearly eight years and he is serving several years probation.

The case involved a woman who impersonated her daughter while exchanging cell phone messages with a man later identified by Sheriff's Office investigators as Courtemanche. The girl's mother began texting Courtemanche after discovering sexually suggestive texts from him on her daughter's cell phone, according to court documents.

Laura Nelson-Haas, a Sheriff's Office investigator, also impersonated the girl in text messages and arranged a meeting at the driveway of the girl's residence, where Courtemanche was arrested.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Layton told Hupp that Courtemanche's Mustang "figured very prominently in his efforts to seduce and entice what he believed to be a 14-year-old girl."

"He was arrested while driving this vehicle a short distance from the victim's home," Layton added.

Layton said after the hearing that the Sheriff's Office will eventually sell the car at an auction, with the money going to a statewide literacy organization.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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