A South Burlington woman has pleaded guilty to selling methamphetamine hours after she was an eyewitness to a drug-related fatal shooting in Lamoille County.
Samantha L. Simms, 33, changed her plea to admit that she sold nearly a gram of methamphetamine for $100 to a confidential informant in Winooski on March 3. She was arrested minutes later by the Vermont Drug Task Force.
In federal court, Judge Christina Reiss rejected a request by defense lawyers that Simms be released until sentencing so she could enroll again at Valley Vista, a residential drug rehabilitation program.
Reiss noted the U.S. Probation Office opposed the release plan. It included a provision for Simms, after completing rehab, to live in Newark, about 25 miles north of St. Johnsbury.
The residence was initially termed as a “camp,” but later described as a “nice house” by defense lawyer Karen Shingler. She said the family property had been vacant for some time and would need to have electricity and the internet turned on while Simms was at rehab.
Reiss said she might be more inclined to consider a potential sober house, which would provide for some monitoring. After her March arrest, Simms had cocaine, fentanyl, amphetamines and methamphetamines in her system, officials said. She also surrendered a purse containing $1,175, including cash with pre-recorded currency numbers from bills used in the drug deal, a task force detective said.
During the change-of-plea hearing, no mention was made about Simms and the fatal shooting in Lamoille County four months ago.
Simms was present when Michael Haines, 39, was shot at a duplex at 96 Hillside Drive in Jeffersonville on March 3, records show. Officers working the homicide learned Simms had driven the shooter — then known only as “Tee” — to the duplex in her truck at about 3 a.m. and later fled with him after multiple shots were fired into the residence, court records show. Haines was struck in the stomach by one bullet and was found dead in the kitchen, state police said. Haines’ fiancée, Amy Pudvah, and her two children were home at the time.
The shooter was later identified as Taylor Ruffin Herrington, 34, of Philadelphia, court records show. He has pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Burlington to conspiracy to distribute heroin and possessing a firearm while trafficking drugs. Pretrial motions are due Sept. 6.
Herrington, if convicted, faces a possible life sentence, a prosecutor said. The shooting was sparked because Haines stole 60 to 70 bundles of heroin from Herrington, police said in court papers.
Herrington fled Vermont after the shooting and was arrested March 19 in Philadelphia. He has not been charged with the killing.