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Wise, Va., woman to serve 16 years in fatal crash
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Wise, Va., woman to serve 16 years in fatal crash

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WISE, Va. — A Wise woman will serve 16 years behind bars following a crash last year that resulted in the death of another Southwest Virginia resident.

Laya Maude Belcher, 60, pleaded guilty in June to aggravated involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence. She was charged in connection to the Sept. 23, 2020 crash on U.S Highway 23 in Wise County that killed Sharon Dorton, 62, according to the Virginia State Police.

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At a sentencing hearing Friday, the judge imposed a punishment of 21 years in prison with five years suspended, which means Belcher will serve 16 years in prison. She will be placed on 10 years of probation following her sentence, according to a news release from the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.

Belcher was driving a Ford Explorer northbound in the southbound lanes when she crashed into a southbound Hyundai Santa Fe driven by Dorton.

Belcher told investigators that she was “a little drunk, not a lot drunk, just a little,” the release states. She also said she drank four or five shots of alcohol within the previous hour. She refused field sobriety tests, but officers said an open container of vodka was found in the passenger compartment. Her blood was taken and the blood alcohol content was 0.256, or more than three times the legal limit, the release states.

“This is a tragic and heartbreaking case,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp said. “An innocent life was senselessly taken by the selfish, reckless acts of a repeat offending drunk driver with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.256.”

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