Wise, Va. woman pleads guilty to aggravated involuntary manslaughter, DUI in traffic death

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WISE, Va. (WJHL) – A Wise, Virginia woman pleaded guilty Monday to charges stemming from the death of a driver killed in a wrong-way crash on September 23, 2020.

According to a release from the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp, Laya Maude Belcher, 60, was convicted of aggravated involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence.

The release states that since she pleaded guilty without a plea agreement, her punishment will be determined by a judge at a sentencing hearing on October 8, 2021.

“She faces a total maximum possible punishment of twenty-one years in prison,” the release states.

Belcher’s charges stem from a crash that occurred on U.S. Highway 23 in Wise County. The release states that around 8:13 p.m. on September 23, 2020 officers were called to the scene of a crash.

According to the release, officers found a Hyundai SUV facing south and Ford Explorer facing north in the southbound lane. Both vehicles had sustained “heavy front end damage.”

Witness statements and the placement of the vehicles led investigators to believe Belcher was the driver of the Ford and had been driving in the wrong direction on the divided highway.

“The driver of the Hyundai suffered severe injuries and was pronounced deceased as a result of her injuries at approximately 9:02 p.m.,” the release states.

According to Slemp’s office, Belcher told officers at the scene she was “a little drunk, not a lot drunk, just a little.” Belcher also said she had drunk four or five shots of alcohol in the last hour before the crash.

The release states Belcher refused sobriety tests, but an open container of vodka was found in the front passenger compartment of the Ford.

“Blood taken from Belcher following the incident was later analyzed by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and revealed that Belcher’s Blood Alcohol Content was 0.256, more than three times over the legal limit,” the release states.

The case was investigated by the Virginia State Police. The Norton City Police Department and Wise County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office assisted in the investigation.

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