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By Preston Knight -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Until last year, Leah Taite Girard's personal issues, as troubling as they were, seemed not much more than that, mainly inflicting harm on herself and not bystanders.
That changed when, disguised in a hooded sweatshirt, she brought a BB gun, which had the appearance of a real firearm, into the Woodstock Rite-Aid around 8:30 p.m. Dec. 8 and demanded all of the OxyContin in stock. Girard's plan was to leave the following day, or soon after, to sell the drugs she received around Richmond, said Ken Alger, a Shenandoah County assistant commonwealth's attorney.
The armed robbery netted the Woodstock woman 1,097 OxyContin pills valued at $9,800.
"Had she not been apprehended," Alger said, "this is $9,000 of medication out on the street."
Circuit Court Judge Dennis L. Hupp sentenced Girard, 31, Wednesday to serve six years in prison. She received 20 years, with three to serve, for the robbery, and another three years for using a firearm.
The firearm sentence is a mandatory minimum.
The Woodstock Police Department developed Girard as a suspect and caught her at her South Water Street residence the night of the robbery. It was only five months after she had been charged with petty larceny in Chesterfield County, Alger said.
Wednesday's sentencing hearing focused on Girard's troubled life, which has been documented in court files since her arrest. In the records, she has admitted to snorting Ritalin at 13 and also using marijuana, cocaine, heroin and Ecstasy as a teenager.
According to Girard's mother, Midlothian resident Tracy Dehoff, her daughter's problems can be traced to when she was only 18 months old. On Wednesday, Dehoff testified that her husband kidnapped the girl from Anchorage, Alaska -- where they both had lived -- and brought her to Manassas. Girard was away from her mother for more than six months.
It was during this period, Dehoff said, that her daughter started down a road to eventually being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She said she personally diagnosed her daughter about five or six years ago, and Girard was later officially determined to have the disorder following one of four suicide attempts.
There was also a history of sexual abuse in the family, Dehoff said.
Defense attorney Chuck Ramsey told Hupp that his client's actions at Rite-Aid were out of desperation, and he asked that her history of "heartache and pain" be taken into account for her sentencing. Alger countered that, among recent robberies in the county, Girard's was the "worst of the worst" for the use of a gun.
"You look at the people who live through these experiences ... it's a very traumatic experience for these people," he said. "I don't care what hard-luck story you're down on ... you are impacting a lot of people [by using a gun]."
Hupp said his sentence was close to the midpoint of recommended guidelines. Girard faces five years of supervised probation after she is released.
A Stephens City man who robbed the Strasburg Rite-Aid several years ago under similar circumstances -- he sought OxyContin as well -- received five years to serve of a 20-year sentence for robbery and the same firearm charge.