A South Burlington woman, the key eyewitness in a Lamoille County homicide, has been ordered jailed after she admitted to violating the conditions of release in her federal drug trafficking case.
Samantha L. Simms, 32, was arrested on a felony charge of distribution of methamphetamines March 3 and was held for about a month. Simms was released in early April on conditions, including that she enroll in a residential drug treatment program and abide by other conditions imposed by a judge.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Fuller by early June had petitioned for Simms’ arrest on the grounds she failed to comply with the release order from Magistrate Judge John Conroy.
Simms was arrested again and detained pending a hearing.
The U.S. Pre-Trial Services Office reported Simms had violated at least three court-imposed conditions, Conroy noted at a recent hearing.
The office wrote Simms failed to report to a Pre-Trial Services Officer as directed, failed to follow through on drug rehab and counseling and failed to submit to drug testing as requested by the pre-trial officer, Conroy said.
At the hearing Simms admitted the three violations through one of her retained defense lawyers, Norman Blais.
Simms had initially asked for a defense lawyer at taxpayer expense but was denied when Conroy was told her assets included an estimated $1.5 million in stocks and bonds.
Conroy told Simms her failure to follow court orders meant she would remain in prison to await her drug trafficking trial in Burlington.
Fuller, who serves as the Violent Crime Coordinator in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, has maintained that Simms is a danger to the community, has a drug problem and needs to remain behind bars.
Simms tested positive for cocaine, fentanyl amphetamines and methamphetamines in her system following her March arrest, officials said.
She also is the owner of a high-profile Stonehedge North Condominium that has been the focus of several drug investigations in recent years, South Burlington Police said. The condo, which is just off the South Burlington Recreation Path, was the site of numerous drug-related complaints from neighbors and was eventually damaged by fire. The unit is currently boarded up.
Simms has pleaded not guilty to the federal drug trafficking charge. Authorities targeted Simms immediately after the homicide in Jeffersonville when investigators learned she had driven the shooter – then known only as “Tee” – to the scene.
State court records show Simms was present when then shooter, later identified as Taylor Ruffin Herrington, 34, of Philadelphia, fired multiple shots into a duplex at 96 Hillside Drive in Jeffersonville about 3 a.m. on March 3.
Michael Haines, 39, died in the kitchen after one bullet struck his stomach, state police said. His fiancée Amy Pudvah and her two children were home at the time.
The shooting was over the theft of about 60-to-70- bundles of heroin by Haines from Herrington, who had been visiting for a day, police said in court papers.
Herrington is facing federal charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin and possessing a firearm while trafficking drugs. He has denied both counts and faces a possible life sentence in the gun case due to the death of Haines, a prosecutor said.
Herrington fled Vermont after the shooting and was arrested March 19 in Philadelphia.
An unidentified person – classified in court papers as a “source of information (SOI)” – reported Herrington admitted the fatal shooting, Fuller said in court papers.
“Herrington also told the SOI that Herrington had recently solicited several of his associates from Philadelphia to travel to Vermont to kill the witnesses involved in the case,” Fuller said in a detention motion.
The reported death threats were after his arrest, officials said.
Herrington is the lone suspect in the shooting, but no charges have been filed by state authorities, court records show.
Simms, who has pleaded not guilty to the drug trafficking charge, was last self-employed by running a horse barn for several years. Simms has said she has a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Vermont.
The Vermont Drug Task Force, along with the FBI, focused on Simms in an effort to identify the out-of-state shooter.
Simms agreed to meet with a confidential informant March 3 in a parking lot on East Allen Street in Winooski for a controlled buy of methamphetamines, records show. Simms arrived driving her truck and the drug deal later went down near an apartment complex, an investigator said.
After the sale, Simms was later stopped as the sole occupant of the truck and arrested on the drug distribution charge, officials said.
She surrendered a purse containing $1,175 dollars, including cash with pre-recorded currency numbers from bills used in the drug deal, a task force detective said.