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BY ROBIN KNEPPER
An Orange County woman is scheduled to go on trial May 3 in the deaths of a Charlottesville couple killed in an automobile crash on State Route 20.
Mildred Ferguson, 59, was arraigned Friday on two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the 2010 deaths of Dale Ray Parrott, 64, and his 58-year-old wife, Shirley Ann Parrott.
Ferguson was also arraigned on nine other felony charges: five counts of welfare fraud and single counts each of criminal solicitation, conspiracy to commit a felony and attempting to obtain money by false pretenses--all having to do with an insurance claim--and selling or distributing a Schedule IV drug.
Substitute Circuit Judge William H. Shaw refused to allow bail for Ferguson, who pleaded not guilty and waived her right to a jury trial.
The judge set March 29 for a bench trial on the three insurance-related charges and the five welfare-fraud charges. He set a May 3 trial on the two involuntary-manslaughter cases and the drug charge.
On July 31, 2010, Ferguson was traveling north on Route 20 in the Somerset area of Orange County when her 1995 Jeep Cherokee crossed the center line and ran off the road to the left.
Authorities say this action caused the Parrotts' vehicle to spin sideways from the southbound lane of Route 20 into the northbound lane, where it was struck in the passenger side by another vehicle.
Shirley Parrott died at the scene. Dale Parrott died while being transported to the U.Va. Medical Center in Charlottesville.
Ferguson and two people in the third car were treated at U.Va. Medical Center.
On Jan. 24, 2011, Ferguson was indicted on two counts of involuntary manslaughter and five counts of welfare fraud. She was released by a magistrate on a personal-recognizance bond.
She was arraigned on April 29, pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and requested a jury trial.
On May 23, she was arrested on the other four charges and her bond was revoked.
She was deemed not competent to stand trial and was ordered to Western State Hospital for mental evaluation. She was released at the end of January and returned to Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange.
Commonwealth's Attorney Diana Wheeler opposed bond for Ferguson on Friday, citing public safety and Ferguson's own wellbeing. Wheeler said numerous friends and family members of Ferguson and law enforcement personnel had contacted her office with concerns about Ferguson's medical condition while the defendant was free on bond.
"She takes lots of medications that need to be dispersed," Wheeler said. "She's already had two or three hospitalizations for attempted suicide and drug-overdose problems."
Wheeler said laboratory tests after the fatal crash showed an elevated level of Xanax in Ferguson's blood, but no alcohol. The drug distribution charge alleges that Ferguson tried to sell Xanax to an undercover officer working with the Blue Ridge Narcotics Task Force.
Ferguson also faces two wrongful death civil suits in Orange County Circuit Court.
Robin Knepper: 540/972-5701