A key eyewitness to a Lamoille County homicide has been released from prison after serving five months for a federal felony drug sale conviction.
Samantha Simms, 33, of South Burlington, was sentenced in U.S. District Court on Friday, Sept. 25, to the time she served — 147 days — while awaiting trial in the methamphetamine distribution case.
Judge Christina Reiss also ordered the U.S. Probation Office to monitor Simms for the next three years and assessed $4,100 in fines and court costs.
Simms also has a Jeffersonville homicide case hanging over her head, Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Fuller said in court.
Simms has not been charged by state or federal authorities in that case, but court records maintain she was present when Taylor Ruffin Herrington, 34, of Philadelphia, fatally shot a Lamoille County man about 3 a.m. on March 3.
Michael Haines, 39, was found dead after multiple shots were fired into a duplex at 96 Hillside Drive in Jeffersonville. The shooting was in response to the reported theft of 60-70 bundles of heroin by Haines from Herrington, who had been visiting for a day, court records show.
Simms brought Herrington during the early morning hours to the scene in her truck and later allegedly drove the getaway vehicle as the suspect escaped to Chittenden County, police said.
Herrington fled back to Philadelphia but was arrested March 19.
Hours after the shooting, authorities targeted Simms for a drug sale in the hopes of learning the full name of the shooter, who was only known as “Tee,” police said.
Simms, on the evening of the shooting, sold $100 of methamphetamine to an informant in Winooski and was arrested shortly after by the Vermont Drug Task Force. Police seized a purse with $1,175 dollars, including cash with pre-recorded currency numbers from bills used in the meth deal, a task force detective said.
Reiss said she was concerned that Simms appeared to be “in the middle of a significant criminal element” and didn’t try to extricate herself, instead selling methamphetamines a few hours later to a drug informant.
The Jeffersonville case should have been “a wake-up call for her, but instead, mere hours after,” Simms sold drugs, Fuller said in a sentencing memo.
Simms, a single parent, said she wants to reconnect with her son. She told the judge she had been sober for 125 days — even with plenty of opportunities to get drugs at the correctional center. She maintained she has turned her life around while in prison. Simms said she has worked about 70 hours a week in the kitchen at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility preparing three meals a day.
Herrington has pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Burlington to charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin and possessing a firearm while trafficking drugs. No trial date has been set. Pre-trial motions are due Nov. 6.
If convicted, Herrington faces a possible life sentence in the gun case due to the death of Haines, a prosecutor said.
Haines was on the phone to state police before the shooting and reported the shooter, only known at the time as “Tee” was there with Simms. As Haines was talking with police he reported he had been shot. Haines was subsequently found dead in the kitchen at his residence, police said.
Haines had been struck in the stomach by one bullet, state police said. Haines’ fiancée, Amy Pudvah, who was home with her two children at the time, fled upstairs, police said.