PULASKI — It was last Halloween when Roberta Marie Edwards got the scare that made her call for help — and that on Tuesday brought her two months in jail.
Edwards, 54, of Pulaski, was at her home on Oct. 31 with two children, girls ages 9 and 5, of whom she was the custodian, Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor said Tuesday. The 9-year-old told Edwards that the younger girl had just swallowed an orange pill she had found in the kitchen.
Edwards knew at once that it was her Suboxone, Fleenor said in Pulaski County Circuit Court. Suboxone is a prescription medication often used in treatment of opioid addiction. It contains both an opioid medication and a chemical to block the euphoric effects of the opioid.
Edwards called an emergency dispatcher. When a law enforcement officer arrived at her door, a “visibly upset” Edwards said that she had a prescription for the drug and cut each pill in half, taking one half in the morning and saving the other in a cup in the kitchen until she took it later in the day, Fleenor said.
It was the second half of that day’s Suboxone dose that the 5-year-old had ingested, Edwards said, according to Fleenor’s account.
Emergency crews quickly whisked the child to the hospital, where an exam found she was unhurt. “Though the child tested positive” for Suboxone, “there was no adverse effect,” Fleenor said.
Still, Edwards was charged with felony child neglect. On Tuesday, Edwards pleaded guilty.
After Edwards and her attorney, Kathleen Shell of the public defender’s office, agreed that the prosecution had enough evidence to win a conviction, Judge Brad Finch imposed a sentence of three years behind bars, then suspended two years and 10 months of the term.
The suspension will last for three years and the suspended prison time can be reimposed if Edwards gets into further trouble, the judge said. Finch ordered that Edwards be supervised by the probation office for two years and that she obey all instructions from the Virginia Department of Social Services regarding visitation with the children.
Fleenor did not specify Edwards’ relationship to the two children but said their mother was incarcerated. After the Suboxone scare, custody of the girls was awarded to their father. However, there were further incidents of abuse and neglect and the social services department placed the children with an Amish family in Wythe or Bland counties, Fleenor said.
When Finch asked Edwards if she had anything to say before being sentenced, she expressed no regrets about summoning the officers that ultimately arrested her.
“I’m just glad I did take immediate action,” Edwards said.