CHRISTIANSBURG — A plea agreement will let Shannon Marie Winters leave jail long enough to deliver her baby – then return to serve an eight-year sentence for methamphetamine distribution and child neglect, a judge said last week.
Winters, 42, of Christiansburg, was among 30 people arrested last year in the Icy Roads investigation, in which the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, with police from Christiansburg and Radford, broke up a Georgia-to-the-New-River-Valley methamphetamine pipeline.
On Thursday, a tearful Winters pleaded guilty in Montgomery County Circuit Court to conspiring to distribute more than 10 grams of meth, transporting a Schedule II substance into Virginia, and child neglect. Another seven charges were dropped.
Judge Mike Fleenor noted that Winters’ plea agreement included arrangements for her to temporarily leave the Western Virginia Regional Jail after she begins labor and go to a hospital to give birth.
Defense attorney Hyatt Shirkey said that this will let the baby’s father be present and take custody of the child.
Winters is to return to jail as soon as she is released from the hospital, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jennifer Wolz said.
Told that Winters’ due date is Oct. 13, Fleenor set a sentencing hearing for Oct. 20, where he said he would consider the sentence recommended in the plea agreement: 50 years in prison, to be suspended after serving eight years.
Wolz said that Winters’ role in the Icy Roads network included traveling to Georgia twice with Thomas George Belcher Jr., 47, of Elliston. Between November 2018 and January 2020, Belcher was buying meth in Georgia and selling it in the New River Valley, Wolz said.
Another defendant in the case said that Belcher made trips to Georgia two to three times per week and obtained from four ounces to a half pound of the drug each time, Wolz said.
At Belcher’s own plea hearing last month, where he pleaded guilty to an assortment of charges and was sentenced to serve 20 years, a prosecutor said Belcher told officers that made 16 trips in all and picked up one to three ounces of meth during each journey.
On Thursday, Wolz said that investigators encountered Winters at the Ironto home of another Icy Roads defendant, Kenneth Wayne Raines, 66, who in March was sentenced to serve a year in jail for Icy Roads charges. Raines’ home was one of several where Belcher sold meth, prosecutors have said.
At Raines’ home, Winters told the officers that she was a meth user, Wolz said.
Winters’ child neglect charge came from her treatment of her daughter, a juvenile. The girl was allowed to be present when meth was divided and packaged for sale, Wolz said. Winters also took the girl along on one of the trips to Georgia with Belcher, Wolz said.
And Winters made her daughter live in an outbuilding without electricity or water, Wolz said.
Winters told the judge that Wolz had accurately summarized the evidence against her.
Winters broke into tears as she said that she no longer used drugs and thought she had turned her life around.
“I ruined my life. … I made very bad judgement,” Winters said.