By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 13, 2009; B01
A fourth person, a 20-year-old Falls Church woman, died from a heroin overdose that has been linked to a Centreville-based drug ring, according to records unsealed yesterday in federal court.
Matthew F. Greenlee, 23, was charged in the Sept. 7 death of Carmen Somers, who took the heroin during a gathering the night before, authorities said. Greenlee appeared yesterday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria as two more young Fairfax County women pleaded guilty to being part of the heroin distribution operation.
Ashleigh L. Shade, 19, and Anna L. Richter, 20, admitted that they distributed and used the drug, which investigators say has become increasingly popular among Washington area youths. The women pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin, and each faces as much as 40 years in prison.
The court hearings yesterday brought to 14 the number of people who have been charged in the heroin ring. Six people have pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute heroin in the Centreville area, part of a larger heroin problem that authorities say had gone undetected until recently.
Most of those charged were 19 or 20 and were part of what investigators said was a tightknit group of former and current students at Westfield High School in western Fairfax.
Authorities earlier linked three fatal overdoses to the drug ring, including the death in March of Alicia Lannes, 19. Two Fairfax men have pleaded guilty to supplying the heroin that killed her, and a third man, 20-year-old Skylar M. Schnippel, is also charged in her death.
Greenlee, of Fairfax City, provided Somers with heroin during a gathering at his home, according to an affidavit filed Friday in federal court. The affidavit said Greenlee did so "even though he knew that she was under the influence of other narcotics."
When her friends realized that Somers was not feeling well, Greenlee did not want police or paramedics called to the home "due to the presence of heroin," the affidavit said. Greenlee's girlfriend took Somers to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where she died of heroin poisoning, court records said.
A lawyer had not been appointed for Greenlee, who was ordered held pending a detention hearing Thursday. His mother, Denise Kirkpatrick, said that she knew her son, who grew up in North Carolina, had a drug problem but that "he had been clean" in recent months after going through a treatment program.
"You try and get him to go to rehab and try to keep him straight, but once they reach a certain age, you can only do so much," Kirkpatrick said. Somers's family members could not be located.
Shade, of Fairfax, told U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema yesterday that she had obtained heroin from suppliers in the District and began selling it when another defendant, who had been her supplier, was arrested. Brinkema then revoked Shade's bail and sent her to prison because she was riding in a car that was stopped by police Thursday -- and subsequently tested positive for opiates.
"This is a sad case," Brinkema told Shade. "You are going to have to decide in the next few weeks and months what you want to do with your life." Shade then calmly walked out, in the custody of court security officers.
Richter, of Centreville, told the judge that she repeatedly went to Baltimore to get heroin from a supplier there and would use it intravenously. "I would sometimes ingest it as well," she said in a steady voice.
Greg Lannes, father of Alicia, said the federal-state crackdown has slowed what had been a steady infiltration of heroin among youths in the Centreville area. "This dragnet that has come down on our community has affected the young people," said Lannes, who attended yesterday's plea hearings. "It's basically paralyzed their efforts to continue this nonsense."
Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.