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Wedding skips a beat and perhaps a year

A couple wants to wed on that special day, but which year? It falls to an insurance company to

By JANEL STEPHENS
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 5, 2003


TIERRA VERDE -- They had their first date on Valentine's Day last year.

Two weeks later, Robert Planthaber asked Krissie Sudol to marry him. They planned the event for this Valentine's Day, only nine days away -- a mere heartbeat for Cupid.

He sold his custom Harley, his boat and his yellow Dodge Viper to buy an expensive diamond, flown in from Israel, to make a jewel that would double as engagement and wedding ring. Retail value: $31,000. The money also helped to buy a nice home in Tierra Verde.

He presented the ring to Krissie at their engagement party in April. Life was good.

Then she lost the ring.

The last time the couple saw it was Dec. 11. They had an appointment for premarital counseling at 3 p.m. that day. They left the office after 5 p.m. and went to dinner at the Moon Under Water, 332 Beach Dr. NE, St. Petersburg. After a few drinks, the two had a spat. That was the last time they both saw the ring.

"I guess I had taken it off at some point," said Sudol, who is 28. "I don't remember taking it off. For some reason I think I might have put it in my pocket in my jacket."

Sudol didn't realize the ring was missing until the next morning. She woke up about 10 a.m. and felt for her ring, which she admits she does often. It was gone.

She searched her jacket and the snug jeans she wore that night. The ring wasn't there. She called Planthaber at work -- he's an arborist who has had his own company for 17 years, Planthaber Trees in Tampa. He cuts trees in the Culbreath Isles and Palma Ceia areas in Tampa, which he says provides a six-figure income. Planthaber immediately came home to help her search their house.

"We've turned this place upside down," Planthaber said from his recently purchased home on 863 Third Ave. S, Tierra Verde.

The couple retraced their steps and revisited the gas station they stopped at that night before heading home along with the restaurant. Planthaber searched his 1999 Cadillac Escalade several times. No luck.

"We've done everything," Planthaber said. "It boils down to one thing: The ring is definitely lost. We can't find it."

They filed a police report on Dec. 12. Because the ring was insured, the insurance adjuster met with them the following week to take their report.

This was the second jewelry claim Planthaber made in 2002. Before losing the ring, he misplaced his $18,000 Rolex watch, which was later found by his car detailer. He called the insurance company and canceled that claim.

Following policy, the insurer wanted to document everything before paying up and to talk to anyone who knew anything about the ring.

The couple wants the ring or the money for a new one in time for a Valentine's Day wedding. That's not likely.

Otherwise, they are planning to postpone their wedding until Valentine's Day next year. "They've basically ruined everything," said Planthaber, 35. "We don't want to get married after that. We wanted to get married on Valentine's Day because it means something to us."

But the insurance company says it's not delaying anything, just checking things carefully and following its policies, said Kathy Thomas, communications specialist with Allstate Insurance Co.

"We want to work with Mr. Planthaber. We're just following the process according to our policy," Thomas said. "We wouldn't want to stand in the way of his wedding. We're doing everything we can to follow our policy and work with him," Thomas said.

As of now, the wedding is off. The insurance company and the couple will sit down with attorneys for a taped deposition on Feb. 21 to sort out what's what.

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