A woman with past convictions for dogfighting and biting a police officer will go to prison for 30 years for selling fentanyl that caused a fatal overdose.
Michelle Best, 44, was trafficking wholesale opioids into Virginia Beach and selling them through various drug dealers. Fentanyl she distributed caused several overdoses and one young woman’s death.
When she learned of that death, according to court documents, she told a lower-level dealer to keep the news to himself and continue “business as usual.”
From jail, according to court documents, she told relatives one of her dealers must be “gotten to” before he talked to police.
“The callousness of Michelle Best is hard to overstate,” G. Zachary Terwilliger, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement. “The sentence in this case should serve as a reminder of what can happen to those who make it their business to exploit and profit by spreading poison in our communities.”
When they raided Best’s beachfront home, police said that they found $42,000 in cash, 1.85 kilograms of cocaine, 1.12 kilograms of marijuana, 382 grams of heroin laced with fentanyl, 207 pieces of jewelry, and four firearms, including an AR-15.
Best was prohibited from possessing guns because of a 2000 animal cruelty conviction for running a dogfighting ring. According to court records, she owned nine adult pit bulls, all of whom had to be killed because they were deemed too dangerous to release. In 2017, she was convicted of assaulting a law enforcement officer after biting an officer who tried to arrest her after a traffic stop turned violent.
Prosecutors noted that Best was also accused in 2005 of killing her first husband, who disappeared 18 years ago, although the charges were ultimately not pursued.
According to prosecutors, Best told probation officers that her first husband was still alive and in touch with her children. In a jail call to her sister, according to court documents, Best said, “Don’t talk to Homicide, they want to bring back an old case.”
“This defendant knows full well Mr. Smith is not meeting with her children,” prosecutors wrote. “She knows because his body has been missing for over 18 years.”
Defense attorneys said in court filings that Best’s life has been shaped by domestic violence from the men in her life. While she was not a heroin addict she has been abusing alcohol since she was 13, her attorney wrote, which is when she had her first child.
“The defendant has been exposed to and the victim of psychological and physical abuse almost since she was born,” Lawrence Woodward wrote.
She pleaded guilty to a drug distribution charge that carries a 20-year mandatory minimum, Woodward wrote, to keep prosecutors from pursuing a case against her daughter. The case is in federal court in Norfolk.
“There seems, at this point, to be an insatiable appetite for opioids in our society,” he wrote. “Ms. Best is not the cause of this problem.”