A Berryville woman has been charged with two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor related to the drunk-driving accident that killed seventeen year old Aaron Shirley. Virginia State Police say that the woman has admitted to allowing children to drink alcohol in her home. However, the indictment stops short of charging the woman with providing alcohol to the minors involved in the accident.
According to court documents, 46-year-old Stephaney LaFave Scott of Berryville, Virginia, told Virginia State Trooper Eric Deel that she allows her two underage children to drink alcohol in her home. Scott, reportedly, also admitted that she allows her children’s underage friends to drink alcohol in her home as well.
Scott is charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor for violating Virginia Code Section 18.2-371; “while being eighteen years of age or older, willfully contribute to, encourage, or cause any act or omission, or condition which rendered a child under the age of eighteen delinquent, in need of services, in need of supervision, abused, or neglected as defined in Section 16.1-228.”
The charges stem from evidence collected at the scene of a June 18, 2010 accident that claimed the life of Aaron Shirley. Shirley was riding in the open bed of a pickup truck driven by then 16-year-old Amir Banks. Several underage teens were passengers in the truck’s cab when Banks lost control of the vehicle and it left the roadway. Shirley was ejected from the pickup’s bed and pronounced dead a short time later at Winchester Medical Center. Several of the teen passengers were injured. Banks and the several juvenile passengers had allegedly just left a party where alcohol had been consumed. State Police records indicated that Banks’s blood alcohol reading on a breath test administered after the crash was 0.07.
The legal blood alcohol limit for anyone under the age of 21 is 0.02.
In the criminal complaint used for the arrest, Virginia State Trooper Eric Deel states that shortly after the crash, photos and statements from the juveniles were collected by Virginia State Police investigators. The photos and statements led Deel to interview Scott on charges related to contributing to the delinquency of a minor. According to Deel, his subsequent investigation revealed that Scott has allowed underage people to drink alcoholic beverages in her home when she was present. Deel said that photos obtained by Virginia State Police show Scott with her daughter and other children as they consumed alcohol.
Deel said that the evidentiary photos also show underage drinking parties at Scott’s home and that Stephaney Scott, “admits that she turned a blind eye to this activity.” According to Deel, Scott was able to identify the names and ages of children in the evidentiary photos.
Scott did not appear today at the 10:30 a.m. hearing in Clarke County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in which she was scheduled to enter a plea to the charges. Judge Ronald L. Napier granted Scott a continuance until February 11th.
Napier is the same judge that remanded Amir Banks to six months custody in the Northwest Juvenile Detention Center in Winchester on December 10, 2010.
The accident and death of Aaron Shirley has forced the Clarke County community to acknowledge the terrible consequences that underage drinking can deliver. Many citizens believe that more needs to be done by county and schools to help young people make better decisions when it comes to damaging behaviors like teen sex, alcohol abuse, and illicit drug use. One community member with close ties to the juveniles involved in the accident said that he/she believes the Virginia State Police and Clarke County Commonwealth Attorney have taken necessary steps to curb the culture of underage drinking in Clarke County, but warned against complacency.
“We as parents and relatives should add to the momentum and broadcast any information that will stop the parties that dot the county most every week,” the person said. “Seeking charges against anyone providing alcohol or condoning underage drinking is an important step in preventing additional tragedies.”
“Parents hold the key to the solution. Don’t be a friend to your kids, be a parent. Pry into their life, you may save it by doing so. We lost Aaron Shirley, an outstanding young man, this past June not for the lack of his parents teaching him well, but because of another parent that was teaching him and other children that drinking is okay.”
The same community member emphasized the importance of the Clarke County Public School system as a partner to parents in the effort to curb substance abuse and other dangerous habits among young people.
“The SADD program (Students Against Destructive Decisions) in the school system is a good thing. I am sure that education about what destructive decisions can do to a young person’s life has had positive affect. But the SADD program should also back the school system for drug and alcohol testing for every athlete during the school year, not just a few. Sadly, some school athletes will avoid the parties during their sport season and be on the party wagon at all other times,” the person said. “Technology has enabled children today to avoid detection of wrong doing. Parents should use the same technology and communicate more with other parents. If we all would have been more alert and aware of the forces affecting our children’s lives, we may have prevented the permanent scarring of the children in the accident and saved Aaron’s life.”
“There are enough of us out here that are interested in saving our children from underage drinking and stopping irresponsible parents.”
If convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor, Scott could face confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.
Scott’s February 11th hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.