ROCKY MOUNT — A strange and volatile car chase down U.S. 220 South last fall — during which a 68-year-old Roanoke woman fired a pistol at the classic Ford she owned — reached a much calmer resolution Wednesday in Franklin County Circuit Court.
Betty Anderson Wood quietly pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of brandishing a firearm and got two months in jail, with all of that time suspended. She initially had been charged with two felonies — shooting at an occupied vehicle and discharging a firearm from a car — but through her plea, the first count was reduced and the latter dropped.
“You understand you handled this the wrong way,” Judge Clyde Perdue told Wood.
“This has certainly made a big impression on her,” defense attorney Deborah Caldwell-Bono assured him.
The ruckus sprang from an ongoing issue Wood had with a North Carolina man, Levan Laforrest Sanders, whom Caldwell-Bono said had previously written Wood a $47,000 check for a 1950 Ford coupe she was selling.
After the sale, Sanders’ check bounced, Caldwell-Bono said, and Wood eventually regained possession of the car. On Nov. 3, however, Sanders returned to Roanoke with the car keys and drove off with the Ford again, Caldwell-Bono said.
Wood went after him in another vehicle, but not before grabbing a .38-caliber handgun.
According to Franklin County assistant prosecutor Dwight Rudd, Wood pursued the Ford onto U.S. 220, into Roanoke County, through Clearbrook and into Franklin County.
“Somewhere along the way, she did shoot at the tires of the vehicle,” Caldwell-Bono acknowledged, but said the shots caused no damage or injuries.
Eventually Wood got the attention of a Virginia state trooper near Boones Mill, and Franklin County sheriff’s deputies pulled the Ford over further down the highway. Because of the gunplay, Wood was taken into custody for several hours.
“She understands she can’t take the law into her own hands just over a property dispute,” Rudd said at the plea hearing.
“We don’t perceive any criminal behavior coming from her in Franklin County or anywhere else,” he later added.
After her sentencing, Wood had one last question for the judge: “Can I get my gun back?”
Rudd said that would be decided by Franklin County Commonwealth’s Attorney A.J. Dudley.
Soon after the chase occurred, Wood was charged in Roanoke County as well, also with brandishing, but that count was dropped in February.
In Roanoke, assistant prosecutor John McNeil said Wednesday that his office had declined to prosecute Sanders on charges related to the initial sale of the Ford. He also said no decision has been made regarding charges from the car reportedly being taken a second time, but the circumstances will be reviewed now that Wood’s Franklin County case has been finalized.